Category Archives: Fun

Contra dance: Salute to Richard Wilson, spirals

Salute to Richard Wilson, spirals Erik Erhardt Type: Contra Formation: Duple-Improper Level: Easy-Int A1 ———– (8) Neighbor Left-hand Gypsy (8) Next Neighbor Right-hand Gypsy A2 ———– (8) Original Neighbor Courtesy turn 1-1/4 in place (8) Ladies Chain to partner B1 ———– (8) Ladies allemande Right 1-1/2, WHILE Gents orbit CCW 1/2 (gents keep ladies on their left) (8) Partner swing B2 ———– (8) Balance the ring and spin to the right (petronella) (8) Balance the ring and Partner California turn Notes: A1 – Left-hand gypsy has left hand at your waist, palm facing your own hip, and linked palm-to-palm with your neighbor as you gypsy. Other Notes: The handed-gypsy comes from Richard Wilson’s “Right hand Gypsy”
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Dance: 2012 spring newsletter for Friends of the Guiding Star Grange

I was touched to be invited by Val LaBelle to write the article below appearing in the 2012 Spring newsletter for the Friends of the Guiding Star Grange. It was almost 15 years ago that I became a dancer on the Guiding Star’s floor. Old-time contra dancing, tradition and modernity in New Mexico by Erik Erhardt, a New England transplant At first glance, walking into a contra dance in New Mexico will have the look and feel of dances we experience all over the country: groups people in brightly colored clothing laughingly catching up since the last dance, a table with a small cashbox and dance fliers, a stage with musicians and technicians preparing the sound, and a buzz of anticipation for a fun evening of dance (and sometimes song). But if you’re from New England, as I am, you’ll start to notice little differences reflecting the culture, music, and style of the southwest. Cue harp strumming as we go back in time… What Albuquerque-based 50-year caller William “Doc” Litchman calls “Rocky Mountain Square Dancing” has been around the Rocky Mountain West — Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming, western Montana, Eastern Nevada, and the western half of Texas — at least from the 1820s or so, brought by the people migrating westward. The music is almost always reels played with a lead fiddle or banjo in the southern style. Figures are simple and can be learned quickly. From the late 1940s, as communication and transportation became easier, square dancing integrated figures from other places, such as the quadrille-style figures from the northeast. A decade later, standardization and creativity in choreography and style has resulted in Modern Western (or club) square dancing. In Lloyd Shaw’s “Cowboy Dances”, first published in 1939, he discusses the two main sources of Western dances as the New England Quadrille and the Kentucky Running Set (head to Berea, KY, in the last week of the year for some of the best), with additional credits to old European folk dances as well as dances from Mexico. In the preface he credits Henry Ford, of automobile fame, for permission to adapt a singing quadrille from one of Ford’s dance publications, and opens with this poem, by James Barton Adams, “At a Cowboy Dance” (first of five stanzas):
Git yo’ little stagehens ready; Trot ‘em out upon the floor— Line up there, you critters! Steady! Lively, now! One couple more. Shorty, shed that ol’ sombrero; Broncho, douse that cigaret; Stop yer cussin’, Casimero, ‘Fore the ladies. Now, all set:
While callers aren’t reminding us to shed our sombreros and stop our cussin’, our long history of cowboy dance culture remains present in today’s New Mexico contra dance community through the dances we dance and the music we play. Also, local dance flavor continues to change as people move to the area and bring their dance traditions with them, or travel and bring back their experiences. Wendy Graham will include Kentucky Running Sets brought back from Berea, KY, in a program in Santa Fe, Doc Litchman will call square figures from teaching in Denmark, and I’ll call an all-Rick Mohr contra set or teach Scandinavian dance that I originally learned from David Kaynor at the Montague Grange (who brought them from the source). New Mexico dancing has a fondness and tradition of the western-style squares described in Shaw’s and Litchman’s books, which are well-accompanied by that driving southern old-time sound. The popular and vibrant old-time music colors our dances, giving them more of a barn dance feel. Old-time house party jams are as popular as the dancing, and often at a house jam there’ll be a circle of musicians in the living room, in the kitchen, and on the porch all playing different tunes. For the hundreds of tunes they know, many don’t have jigs in their repertoire. The old-time music festival is as big as our large annual dance festival. Albuquerque and Santa Fe each developed open megabands that play for the dances each month. Anyone can start playing an instrument, go to weekly practices, and then play monthly at a dance. We have a few strong leaders on microphone in the front row with up to 20 musicians behind. Curiously, the Albuquerque megaband has members who primarily play by ear, while the Santa Fe megaband members are primarily paper-trained. The New Mexico dances are shaped by our spacious, mountainous, desert environment. There are four regular dances in New Mexico: Albuquerque (1st/3rd Sat), Santa Fe (2nd/4th Sat) north of Albuquerque by 65 miles, Taos (3rd Sat) north of Santa Fe by 70 miles, and Las Cruces (3rd Fri) south of Albuquerque by 225 miles. The dance in Durango, CO, (1st Sat) is about 215 miles northwest from either Albuquerque or Santa Fe. In most parts of NM you’re closer to a hot spring than to a contra dance! The dances alternate between Albuquerque and Santa Fe every other week, and Taos, Las Cruces, and Durango have monthly dances. Most people pick one “local” dance and stick to it, dancing once or twice per month; I drive between Albuquerque and Santa Fe to maximize my dancing each week. In contrast, as you know, in New England, more and more it seems that neighboring towns have dances, and sometimes more than one per week. Want to dance 3-5 times a week? Not a problem in New England! The southwestern environment affects us. For example, caller Wendy Graham in Durango, has tried for five years to have a June dance, but finally gave up because everyone heads outside for summer river rafting, climbing, hiking, biking, etc. — face it, they don’t want to come inside and dance. On the other hand, head to the swampy Glen Echo dance in Maryland even when it’s 100 degrees Fahrenheit with 90% humidity and there’s over a hundred dancers in the Spanish ballroom! Our weekly dances are smaller, between twenty and sixty at a dance. In southwest culture, salsa dancing is extremely popular, as is swing and international, and there are many other dancing options. In Greenfield, MA, I recall booking ahead up to five dances when I was young, but in the southwest no one books ahead, it’s not part of our culture. Our community is multigenerational, like most, though our twenty-somethings are currently underrepresented, even with our large university. We have several young leaders, including an eleven year-old caller and a dynamic brother/sister duo in high school each playing a handful of instruments and calling. At festivals a few guys bring out their skirts, some shorter than others… We are really into socializing! If you’re a New England caller invited to call a dance in New Mexico, don’t be surprised if it takes some time after the break to bring people back to dance in the second half — we need another 5 minutes of socializing. In California, my experience is that guys want the break to end quickly to get back to dancing with their favorite partners. In addition to our weekly/monthly dances, New Mexico has five festivals each year: Memorial Day weekend’s FolkMADness, Halloween weekend’s Fall Harvest (Boo!) camp, January’s Fantasy English Country Dance Ball, June’s Albuquerque Folk Festival, and August’s Santa Fe Bluegrass and Old-Time Music Festival. It’s at the festivals that we revisit with our large extended dance and music family who come from Arizona, Colorado, California, and even New England (e.g., Nils Fredland). Travelling dancers and musicians comment to me regularly at camps about how friendly their camp experiences are, that the local dancers engage them, bring them in, and make them feel part of our community. Learn more about New Mexico dancing at Erik Erhardt, assistant professor of statistics at the University of New Mexico, danced regularly at Greenfield’s Guiding Star Grange from 1998-2004. He now calls contras, English, and squares, and teaches couples dancing around the country; for more see Thanks to Wendy Graham and Jane Phillips whose ideas and comments improved this article.
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American Week 2011

My AmWeek 2011 calling and teaching highlights: Karina and I leading couples dancing with Crowfoot, calling a techno contra, calling for camper open mic, free-form calling in evenings with Will Mentor. (I’ll be teaching couples dance again at AmWeek 2012!) Eric Black and Diane Zingale with many other organizers created an amazing AmWeek 2011. Visit the website and fb page and join us for AmWeek 2012! See Photos. Mary Wesley and I attended morning calling session for squares with Will Mentor and contra with Erik Weburg. Will gave me the opportunity to mimic his freeform squares from the first night. Erik suggested that I be a little more assertive in my calling (rather than saying things in a question-sounding way). In the afternoons, Karina Wilson and I lead couples dance workshops with the moving music of Crowfoot (Jaige, Adam, and Nickolas). The first day was waltz and moves from uncrossed-hands position, including the cuddle. The second day we did Scandinavian dance, including the Snoa and the Hambo. The last day we continued waltz with moves from crossed-hands position, including cape and skaters. In an additional “waltz-swap” session, dancers “traded licks”, which is such a great idea at dance camps with so many talented dancers. Dance teaching handouts: waltz hambo I got picked to call the techno contra, too. What a great surprise! I called a medley of 3 dances to music that Katie Hepp brought to camp, and Will djed (clicked “play”) from his Mac. Because the music is loud and it’s a medley, I found it helped to call most of the calls all the way through each turn of the dance, only dropping calls for “hook” moves, and having additional prompts like, “something new” or “listen up”, before transitioning to the next dance in the medley. It was more challenging to call because I was behind the speakers and couldn’t hear the music as well as I can with a live band; a monitor with the same mix as the floor would be helpful to hear both the music and my voice. And some exciting news for me from the BACDS newsletter Winter 2012 about “American Dance & Music Week 2012”:
“Couple dancing including waltzes and other styles will be taught by returning teacher Erik Erhardt. Erik was very well received last July, and we’ve asked him to come back and do it again.”
To be invited back is the biggest complement! The previous year, 2010, Joyce Miller and Joyce Cooper made sure we were well taken care of! Joyce Cooper, especially, went way out of her way to have a van at the airport parking lot for me and my five wonderful Santa Fe girls. Then, on the way home, Eric Black saved us by giving us (me, Karina, Laurel, Lauren, Mia, Zoe, Chelsea, Tank, Andrew) an emergency place to slumber and threw in an extra “Get out of Hell, free” card, which I hope I don’t have to use with him again… Eric and Diane’s thoughtful caring really makes life wonderful for those around them.
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Contra dance: Breaking through the brozone layer

Breaking through the brozone layer Erik Erhardt Type: Contra Formation: Becket-CW Level: Int A1 ———– (4) Pass the ocean (4) Balance the wave (8) Partner swing A2 ———– (4) Gents forward into a long wavy line of gents (4) Gents balance the wave (8) Gents allemande right 1-1/2 WHILE Ladies orbit CCW to cross the set (keeping Gents to their left) B1 ———– (8) Neighbor Left-hand gypsy (8) Neighbor Right-shoulder swing B2 ———– (8) Gents chain, Gents pull by left, Lady courtesy turn partner Gent (8) Long lines, forward and back on Left diagonal Notes: B2 – Teach the courtesy turn first. Ladies will turn their Gent partner in place. Gent puts his right hand in front of the lady and his left hand on his left hip. Lady takes his hands in hers and courtesy turn him once around to feel that scooping motion. A1 – Pass the ocean has Ladies turn an allemande left 1/4 while Gents pass through and turn a quarter right to take right hands with their partner. B1 – Left-hand gypsy has left hand at your waist, palm facing your own hip, and linked palm-to-palm with your neighbor as you gypsy. Turn this into a swing by pulling the joined left hand up into an allemande position, put right hand on partner’s right shoulder, and reverse body momentum to swing in the usual direction. B2 – Long lines towards same-gender new neighbor, back on left diagonal to end across from new opposite-gender neighbor. Other Notes: Written for Noah Segal 10/25/2011. Posted today (11/22) for his birthday!
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Eri-Eri-Eri-Erik, the fastest, smoothest, dreamiest swinger

A personalized song? for me? Artist: Katherine Sanden Music: Eri-Eri-Eri-Erik (lyrics), March 2010 Interview (June 2010) with Katherine Sanden about music and song writing.  Kat studied mathematics at Princeton University.  She now tutors in mathematics, teaches music and piano, and writes sublime rhymes and beats. For contra dance weekend Stellar Days & Nights, in Buena Vista, Colorado, February 18-21, 2010, I drove up with Richard, Laurel, and Karina Wilson, Lauren Lamont, and Della O’Keefe. During the silent auction CDSS‘s Max Newman and I got into a fierce bidding war over a custom song written and performed by Katherine Sanden. I had every intention to win, and when the bell rang, I had. In the spirit of the “new sincerity” I requested a “monster ego explosion” (after all, how many chances will I have for someone to write a song about ME!?). What I got was much, much more! I still flush with embarrassment each time I hear it. Quality headphones are recommended for a dynamic experience of the full audial range. Everyone needs a steamy power jam — lucky me!
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Youth dancing, spring 2011

I’m happy to write about two touching events consistent with my vision that I helped organize the last few months: teaching middle schoolers folk dance, and organizing a youth-led contra in Santa Fe. Rob Campbell invited me into his 4th-5th-6th grade class at the Montessori of the Rio Grande Charter School to teach folk dance.  As a dance leader, I’m still pretty green, but I have a real passion for bringing dance to the next generation.  So without any preparation, other than thinking about how to help kids dance together, I went in with my headset mic, my battery-powered amplifier, a few index cards, and my enthusiasm and positive attitude.  Rob had already done some great preparation with the kids, letting them know about calls that are in 8 beats and so on.  He’s a long-time dancer and does the sound at many of the Albuquerque dances.  His wife, Deb, has been a pivotal figure, too, organizing “Boo camp” and many other things in our community.  When I arrived, the kids were ready to dance.  I talked a bit about music and the structure of a dance, but got them moving pretty quickly.  I wasn’t expecting some of the challenges, such as reluctance to hold hands between selected people and social structure (friends, not friends, etc.) that would be a powerful force for who was willing to dance with whom.  However, calling dances where the kids kept their partners (reels, circle mixers without the “mix”) usually worked just fine, and having the partner anchor I think was helpful for beginners.  Oh, and the word “partner” — I quickly starting saying “pair” because they didn’t want it to sound like they were dating or anything.  Rob reported back, “The children loved it, and I even got some feedback from parents because their children are talking about how fun it was at home.  A few children were even practicing some of the moves yesterday at school!” We had several weeks together in school, but we both wanted the kids to dance to live music out in the world.  On March 5th we had a 6-7pm pre-contra dance in Albuquerque with his class, and some of the parents danced, too.  The McPapenhagen’s played for us (Gary Papenhagen, Scott Mathis, and Linda Mathis).  The kids loved, loved, loved the live music!  We danced several dances, concluding with a donut dance one of the kids wrote!

Donut formation dance Anastasia and Erik Erhardt Type: Reel Formation: Donut (longways set, bent into a circle) Level: Beginner

A1 ———– (8) Partner allemande Right 1X (8) Partner allemande Left 1X A2 ———– (8) Right-diagonal Do-si-do (8) Left-diagonal Do-si-do B1 ———– (8) Partner two-hand turn 1X or 2X (8) Right-diagonal right-elbow turn 1X B2 ———– (8) Left-diagonal right-elbow turn 1X (8) Partner Do-si-do C ———– (32) Sashay the donut

Notes: C: Sashay the donut – choose a couple, they sashay between the lines, each subsequent couple following them, backing out when they return home.  It effectively turns the donut inside out.
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Richard Wilson: All join hands, thirty years of community dance

“All join hands” by Richard Wilson

with Erik Erhardt and Lauren Lamont

This book tells the story of Richard Wilson’s start and many contributions as a dance leader in the country dance community. Included are dances, stories, pictures, and poems, all bringing to life the many ways Richard has touched our lives. If you would like to make a contribution to the book, there are three ways.  (1) Tell us a specific way Richard has enriched the community, and enriched your life and made it more wonderful.  Stories may be written (1-4 pages) or be a short audio recording (4-10 minutes) which we will transcribe and give to you to edit.  (2) Do you have good pictures you’d be willing to share?  We can take physical pictures to scan. With each photo please provide photo credits, location, date, event, and an anecdote for the photo caption.  (3) Who else should I contact who might like to contribute a story? Contact Lauren Lamont for more information, or to provide a contribution. March: There is still time to contribute… Richard Wilson demonstrates an example of his drumming/dancing healing rhythms. Jim Boros has these videos of Richard:
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Contra dance: Left-hand Gypsy

Left-hand Gypsy Erik Erhardt Type: Contra Formation: Duple-Indecent Level: Easy-Int A1 ———– (4) Partner Swat the Flea, (left-hand box-the-gnat) (4) Partner Swat the Flea back (8) Star Left 3/4 with same neighbors (partners on lady’s home side) A2 ———– (8) Partner left-hand gypsy (8) Partner right-shoulder swing B1 ———– (4) Gents forward (4) Gents balance a long wavy line of gents, stay in wavy line (4) Ladies cast over their right shoulder, then forward (to the left of their partner) (4) Ladies balance a long wavy lines of ladies B2 ———– (8) New neighbors, Gypsy star 3/4, Gents drop right back up, Ladies drop left walk forward (8) Neighbor swing (on everyone’s home side) Notes: A2 – Left-hand gypsy (like a right-hand gypsy) has left hand at your waist, palm facing your own hip, and linked with your partner as you gypsy.  Turn this into a swing by pulling the joined left hand into an allemande position, put right hand on partner’s right shoulder, and reverse body momentum to swing in usual direction. Other Notes: The handed-gypsy comes from Richard Wilson’s “Right hand Gypsy”, the sexiest move in contra.  Written for Katherine Sanden.
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Contra dance: Sashay, Sassy Kat

Written for Katherine Sanden, who wrote me a song.  She likes the traditional “reel” dances that have a couple down the center with all the attention.  I ruin that by having the other folks swing during the sashay down, but redeem myself with the leapfrog move (that Heather Carmichael came up with).  And if you like a hay, there’s two of them! Sashay, Sassy Kat Erik Erhardt Type: Contra Formation: Four Facing Four Level: Int A1 ———– (16) Partner balance and swing, end facing original direction A2 ———– Outsides (16) Corner balance and swing WHILE Insides (4) Corner balance (4) Sashay down 4 slides (4) Leapfrog (tops arch, bottoms dive up through) (4) Sashay up 4 slides to progressed place B1 ———– (8) 1/2 Hey ACROSS the set with 4-some, centers passing right shoulders (8) In groups of 4, circle RIGHT 1X B2 ———– (16) Full Hay UP AND DOWN set with neighbors, Ladies passing left shoulder Notes: A1 – start and end in same place A2 – facing lines of four end progressed up and down set B1 – each line of four has reversed their order across the hall B2 – start and end in same place
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Contra dance: Voyager

Voyager Erik Erhardt Type: Contra Formation: 4-facing-4 Becket-CW Level: Int A1 ———– (8) Right hands-across star (8) Gents drop out, ladies turn 1/2 to chain to partner A2 ———– (16) Grand Hay, ladies start by right shoulders and continue across to neighboring set. B1 ———– (4) Balance the ring (4) Pass through across the set (8) Partner swing (couples are at “home” position in other set) B2 ———– (8) Long lines, forward and back (8) Right hands-across star, gents lead partner up/down set to progress into new star Notes: Start as a 4-facing-4 dance, then in small circles of 4, turn a quarter to left to be in Becket formation.  Your couple and your “same 4-some” couple are in neighboring sets facing in the same direction across the set. A2 – maybe teach grand hay with hands to help clarify where everyone is going. A2 – Couples are in original positions facing in to their own sets.  If you are an “outside” couple, you will end as an outside couple in the neighboring set, same for an “inside” couple.  The hey starts like a normal hay, but instead of turning around on the “inside” side, you keep going weaving all the way over to the other set. Other Notes: Adapted from “Star Trek” by Mike Richardson.
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