David's Blog

Dolphin Hey - Everything You Wanted to Know, and Then Some!

Dance historian Allison Thompson and I had been independently researching the "dolphin hey," a figure that in recent decades migrated from Scottish country dance to English country dance and thence into contras. We combined our articles and came up with what is almost certainly the definitive story, including more than most mortals will care about. Seriously, it's a look at how these three related dance forms borrow from each other, a development with a long history but here recent enough that we have been able to track a very specific path. Read all about it on the CD+S Online website: The Dolphin Hey: The Evolution and Transmission of a Dance Figure

Becoming a Better Dancer

Becoming a Better Dancer

(This post is aimed articularly at English country dancers, but contra and square dance enthusiasts may also find food for thought.)

One of the challenges that callers face is that of teaching style to dancers. Note: by “style” I'm not talking about the over-the-top mannerisms that some dancers affect. Rather I'm thinking of moving gracefully, with ease and flow, connecting one figure to another, interacting with the other dancers. Style is as simple as the way we carry ourselves when standing still, and it also involves moving with intentionality, with precision, with energy.

In most dance settings, people are there to move and they resist (appropriately, in my mind) standing around listening to a caller natter on and on. But country dancing—and I include contras and squares along with English in this category—is more than just plodding through a series of prescribed figures.

Indeed, when I first was introduced to English country dancing, I resented the excessive time callers spent on imparting style points. In time, though, as I grew comfortable with the basic figures, I noticed how certain dancers moved on the floor and tried to emulate them. At that point, I was also more interested in what the callers had to say about how to move.

So, is there anything that interested dancers can do off the dance floor to improve their skill and style? Indeed. A series of six articles, Pills to Purge Mediocrity, provides a detailed set of ideas and exercises (both mental and physical) for dancers to consider, all wrapped in the notion of Personal Responsibility. He starts with the basics, how to stand and how to take the first step! A second essays looks at “developing a heightened sense of consciousness to dancing figures. Every figure consists of timing and shape, brought to life with expression.” Here, he focuses on one simple figure, the cast. Subsequent essays look at circles (connections, giving and releasing hands, timing), heys, preparing the step and working in ensemble, and the relationship between music and dance.

The six essays are a lot to read and to ponder, but I encourage serious dancers to make that effort, one at a time.

Old Movie Stars Dance to Uptown Funk

Looking for something to put you in a good mood? A contemporary mashup that combines dance scenes from classic movies set to a more recent funk soundtrack? Here you are! It's called "Movie Stars Dance to Uptown Funk," brought to you on YouTube. Great dancing, from a diverse cast including short clips of the Nicholas Brothers, Whitey's Lindy Hoppers, Bill Robinson, Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Laurel and Hardy, Eleanor Powell, Judy Garland... you get the idea. The editing is *superb* and the notes indicate that no speed adjustment was applied to the clips. Editors and dancers, sit back and enjoy five minutes of fun.

The Sleepwalker

Midwinter blues or post-holiday blahs got you feeling down? Here's a cure that'll bring you back from the doldrums. This short piece of colorful animation is based on a poem by Federico García Lorca; the images are what might result if Salvador Dali, Joan Miró and Paul Klee collaborated after a wild night of dancing to tribal fusion music. Enjoy Sonámbulo / The Sleepwalker by Theodore Ushev.

International Money Musk Moment - 2009

In sorting through some old files recently, I found this account of the International Money Musk Moment that David Smukler and I instigated in 2009. It just might be of interest. Here's the tune:

David Millstone, Dance Caller

Lebanon, NH


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