Favorite dances: The Nice Combination

Back when I was first building my site, I was looking for some quick and dirty content beyond the generic dump of new contra dances. Not many people discussed contra dances written by others. Which led me to create my reviews page:

http://chrispagecontra.awardspace.us/choreography/reviews.htm

I’ve since wantonly neglected these pages. It’s time to add some fresh material, which I’ll preview here. But first, an apology and amends. When I did “Nice Combination“, I just wrote “One could argue that this dance needs no review. And I will, at least till I have time to expand upon this entry. Stay tuned.” It’s been over five years of broken promises. It’s well past time to fix that.


The Nice Combination

by Gene Hubert

This is one of the most commonly called contra dances, with good reason.  Each figure makes natural sense from the previous one, without glitches or flaws. Good flow is its middle name. (And first, and last.)

Except…

  • The A1 balance is right hand to right, requiring a quick hand change to enter the swing.
  • The swings must be different speeds. Man one and woman two need to rotate another 180 degrees more or less than the other couple, so all can face down.
  • The down-the-hall timing. Four beats to turn as a couple in the first half of the A2 and only two beats to bend the line in the second half of the A2 should mean the whole set drifts up the hall and crashes into the band.
  • In the bend the line to circle left, man one and woman two have to shift from counterclockwise to clockwise flow. (MWSD callers view this as terrible choreography.)
  • Coming out of the partner swing, women are moving backwards. They need to go forwards for the ladies chain.
  • After the star, men are facing the wrong way to find their new neighbor.

Yet the dancers seem to ignore all that. *[1] Why?

Thanks to constant exposure to these specific transition challenges, we’ve learned how to tweak and smooth them out. The contra community has adjusted to make this choreography work, with small momentum/body positions shifts and anticipations. For many, these have become instinctive, like the men assisting the women forward into the chain.

Consider the following B2 from “Sweet Music“:

B2 Right and left through
   Men roll away partner
   Star right 3/4

This has major hand change issues from courtesy turn to roll to star right. And the timing’s fuzzy. But in a community regularly exposed to this fragment, they would learn to adjust.

This only works with sequences that are done regularly. And some sequences are easier to work through than others. *[2]The Nice Combination” is only a nice combination because we say it is.


[1] Not exactly. Try calling it and watching the brand-new male dancers, and seeing which way they face out of the B2 star.

[2] For instance, swing one neighbor on the side, then next neighbor allemande left. If the swing ends early and the women do an assisted free clockwise spin out of the swing, it can work. But that’s a lot of adjusting for a dance that could just be rewritten.

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