What I've Learned This Summer

This summer has been the summer of new dancing, something I can't complain about in the slightest.

In Square Dancing, I have begun to learn the Advanced level1. We just finished A1 last week, and presumably in a couple weeks will start A2. Huzzah for us! There are new difficult calls, and some really really interesting concepts that I don't get to enjoy in the regular Tech Squares group, which runs strictly mainstream/plus.

The most useful of these is the "As couples" signifier, which the caller can use to preface any call which is normally done in groups of four or fewer2. The dancers will then perform the call as though each couple were a single person dancing --no problem at all for someone who's spent a lot of time dancing gemini3, and is used to being half a dancer, and a lot of fun as people pivot around each other frantically.

And in Scottish Country Dancing, I spent a week at a delightful dance camp called Pinewoods, where I had four classes in Highland step dancing. Highland is a performance dance, the first kind I've learned (discounting the ballet classes I took when I was six and seven), and involves bouncing. LOTS of bouncing, with very precise footwork, and intricate flailing of the arms.

I'm sure there must be a proper Highland class somewhere in the Boston area, I just need to find the beast, and see if there is time in my tight schedule to participate. I'm already dancing three nights a week, every week, and I'm hopefully about to get a job in the real world, and lose a bunch of time there.

At any rate, it's nice to be back to the beginning level, sometimes. While I love the joy of dancing and knowing just how to go, there is a particularly delicious challenge to learning new things --and a particularly satisfying smugness when you get them right. Perhaps I'll have to keep my eyes peeled for more opportunities to broaden my dance repertoire. You know. In my copious amounts of free time.

1: MWSD levels run thusly: Mainstream; Plus; Advanced: A1, A2; Challenge: C1, C2, C3

2: I assume. Someone can feel free to correct me if I am wrong.

3: Gemini is when two people stand tight together, each with their outside arm available, and behave as one dancer --the left person being the left hand, and the right person being the right hand. I really need to create a glossary. And/or a post talking specifically about this.

Beaus and Belles

It's always disconcerting to hear that you've been using terminology incorrectly.

Especially when the terminology references role in a form of dance you enjoy, and you write passionately on the subject of dance and role and gender on a regular basis. Then it's both disconcerting and a little embarrassing, and means you have to go off and revise your opinion of certain terms.

To wit, I have been using the Modern Western Square Dancing terms "beau" and "belle" incorrectly for almost a year now, a fact which only came to my attention now that I'm learning the A1 level, and there are calls where the correct definition becomes relevant. See, when I first heard the terms, it was as "beau is the person on the left (typically male), and belle is the person on the right (typically female)". I assumed that they were referring to the roles --whether you had the left role or the right role.

I was wrong. The terms beau and belle specifically mean person standing on the left at that moment, and person standing on the right at that moment. Meaning if you have a gender typical couple, who then sashays (switches positions), the woman will be the beau, and the man the belle.

I've spent a little bit of time thinking about it since then, and I've come to decide that this is actually totally brilliant and acceptable, especially if you dance in a group as devoted to queer dancing as Tech Squares. It's a little frustrating to have one more thing to keep track of --in a square dance, you need to know whether you are a boy or girl1, whether you are a head or a side, and now whether you are a beau or a belle-- but it opens up opportunity for more complicated strings of calls, as it simplifies the calling from "person on the left, do this" to "beaus do this".

Also, looking back to my previous entry (four months ago in April, gak!), it seems like Pi-nerd has already explained this to me, and I just completely put it out of my head. Oh well. Now that it's something I have to worry about, it'll be easier to learn the concept. I would love to see it called more often in the Tech Squares mainstream/plus group though, both to give everybody more practise in keeping track of what identity the are right this instance, and because I think the terminology is elegant.

1: Starting-beau or starting-belle? It's not completely gender-free, and god is it clunky, but it's at least trying.