What if there were no allemandes?

It was one of those nights. I’m calling “Pearls of Wisdom” and I see the wrist-twisting allemandes of death straight down the line. I give a quick demo, tell them to talk to each other, and see no change in behavior, including the person I demoed it with. And at times like this I wonder, what if I just didn’t call dances with allemandes?

(Ralph Page did something similar. In Boston he got so sick of people balancing ‘the wrong way’ that he finally stopped calling dances without balances ever again at that venue. But in my case it’s merely an academic exercise. I’m not seriously planning on doing this.)

There’s some major choreographic hits here. Amongst the losers:

  • Contra corners.
  • Orbits.
  • Almost all star promenades.
  • Grand right and left, either in a contra line, or in a square preceded by allemande left.
  • Allemande to allemande to allemande transitions.
  • Hands-across stars to allemandes, or verse vica.
  • (Wo)men allemande 1 & 1/2, neighbor swing
  • Wave entries.

The final damage is heavy: 57% of my active repertoire would be lost. (65% of the circle mixers, and 80% of the wave dances.) But 43% of the repertoire still is a lot of dances to work with.

This all assumes the lost dances couldn’t be modified. That, of course, is a lie.

Take the biggest loss, for instance, the swing/men allemande left 1 & 1/2/swing combination. This one is already changing. At one time (early 1990’s??) it was

A2 Men allemande left 1/2 to wave of four
Balance wave of four
Neighbor swing

Nowadays, this is

A2 Men allemande left 1 & 1/2
Neighbor swing

And some present-day folk are changing this to

A2 Men pass right/pull by left
Neighbor swing

presumably to maximize swing time.

Making this change means I’d keep another 15% of my collection, up to 58%. That’s a much better number.

But wait, there’s more:

  • A loose allemande (say 1 & 1/4 in eight beats) changed to a gypsy.
  • Allemandes that trade places with an opposite-sex person replaced with box the gnats/swat the fleas, perhaps preceded by balances to fit the timing.
  • Wave entery with do-si-dos, circles, heys, or single-circle to a wave.
  • Direction changes in grand right and lefts on the side tweaked into swat the fleas and pull by. (See “333“.)
  • Star promenades directly out of swings, or through other more obscure methods.
  • The central orbit could be replaced with a gypsy once around in the middle.
  • The men allemande left 1/2 / half hey swing connector could mutate into a full hey with a single ricochet.
  • Allemande left shadow to swing partner has the simple fix of making the shadow action a gypsy or do-si-do.
  • The resolution of walking forward to a new wave (say as in “Summer of ’84“) would be harder without introducing the curlique. (A curlique is to a box the gnat as a star through is to a california twirl.)
  • Allemande 1 & 1/2 on the side can get translated into balances and twirls to swap. (Box the gnat/swat the flea)
  • And half allemandes get cheated into pull-bys.

Swapping from long waves to waves of four is still very difficult, without creating new moves.

In the end only 20% of my repertoire would be gone. It’d still be contra dancing, seen slightly askance through a mirror. The result would be more complex, and less connected. And a lot more gypsies, do-si-dos, pull-bys, and twirl to swaps.

Not that I’m planning on actually pulling the trigger on this.

At least not on a regular basis…


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