Mike Schuh's Contra Dances

Here are some dances that I have written: Christian's Jig  Contrarian Corners  Meg and Alan Swing

"Christian's Jig" (Becket, single progression left)

A1 circle left 3/4 (6), swing opposite (10)
A2 ladies 1/2 chain (8)
   ladies allemende right 1 (4), allemende left 1 with trail buddy (4)
OR: ladies allemende right 2 (8) (this is easier, less critical timing)
B1 balance and swing partner on side (16)
B2 with right hand, balance with neighbor (opposite gender) across (4)
   pull through (2) and EVERYBODY turn right 1/4 to face up or down
   walk up/down two steps (2) and turn right 1/4 to face across
   with right hand, balance with neighbor across (4)
   pull through (2) and turn right 1/4 to face up or down
   walk up/down two steps (2) and slide along line to new neighbors

Debut January 15, 1996, Tractor Tavern, Ballard.

Comments: Potent end effects! A couple who initially is out comes in ever so briefly (with lady leading) on the first "walk along the line" (which itself is pretty quick) and then slides into a new circle left a moment later. A couple that has just started into the end of the line will cycle out again ever so briefly after the first "balance across" and should be encouraged to balance across with a virtual couple lest they reenter in reversed positions. Other than that, it's a pretty neat dance (but then I'm biased). Probably not for dancers who are inexperienced or callers who are faint of heart.

Good tunes: "Fair Jenny", "Sailor's Wife", both really good; also OK are "Mad House Rumble" and "Fitro's Folly".

Adapted from the first dance I wrote, "Christian's Reel", which attempted the same signature move, but from an "improper" starting line up. This earlier dance debuted August 1, 1994, also at the Tractor Tavern. Both dances named in memory of a friendship that is no more...

"Contrarian Corners" (Becket, single progression left) (hmm, a pattern...)

Note: Before starting, identify "left side" and "right side", which are the lines towards the left/right side of the hall as the dancers face up.
A1 ladies 1/2 chain (8), turn away from this neighbor to face new neighbor
   with this new neighbor, do-si-do (8)
A2 with same neighbors, star right 1 1/4 (10)
   near the end of the star, gents reach under their right arm with
   left hand, take partners left hand in "skater's hold",
   cast around in place (6), end facing across (see comments below)
B1 LEFT side gent and RIGHT side lady turn contra corners (16),
   turning right hands in the middle as usual,
   turning left hands with same gender neighbor on other side,
   end by crossing by left shoulders and ...
B2 (optionally balance and...) swing partner (16)

Debut December 24, 1999, at Anita Anderson's house party.

Comments: The cast around with partner can go in either direction. If the left side couple goes clockwise and the right side couple counter-clockwise (making a gating effect), then the respective "contra corners" members are walking forward, which propels them into the start of contra corners. Other than that, there's nothing special or tricky about the dance, once everyone figures out that in the contra corners part they DO NOT turn with their partners.

The last half of A1 could be:

   with new neighbor, allemende right (4),
   with old neighbor, allemende left (4)
which is zestier, has more critical timing, and has not been dance tested.

Meg and Alan Swing (duple improper, single progression)

A1 balance the ring (4) and pass through to next couple
   do-si-do this new neighbor (8)
A2 ladies start a full hey (pass RIGHT shoulder to start) (16)
B1 ladies cross (pass RIGHT shoulder), swing partner
B2 ladies two hand turn once around (4)
   gents step in on their partner's left to make a basket thusly:
   gents hold their arms behind the ladies' backs and duck under
   ladies's arms, basket swing, end swing facing original direction

Debut February 21, 2003, at Emerald City Contra (then at All That Dance in Wedgewood) with music by Jay Finkelstein, Miche Baker-Harvey, and Gene Silverberg.

Dance was inspired by (and named after) Meg Wilkinson and Alan Cheetam, who like to - well, fool around during contra dances. In particular, they seem to enjoy basket swings. Oh, and joining in a hey that's not theirs...

My thanks to Adam Carlson, Phil Katz, and the dancers at the premiere for their suggestions.

A comment on the basket swing: the second time I called this dance was a particularly warm evening in June. Describing how to create the basket, I suggested the traditional: gents duck under the ladies' arms, raise their arms over the ladies' heads, and hold hands with the other gent behind the ladies' backs. However, after the dance some of the women pointed out to me that when the gents raised their arms... well, think warm dance hall, sweaty guys, and arm pits...

The name sakes weren't at the dance where I first called this (they were at a dance weekend/camp in B.C.) but were at the aforementioned June dance.

Comments and suggestions welcomed!


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