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June 02, 2008


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This sounds like fun.

A touch tricky to work out without instruction -- but still, fun!

Conveniently enough, I'll be teaching it at the August 3rd Ragtime class for the Elegant Arts Society in NYC!

If women were so much less able than the men, how come the instructions are always given for men with just a note that the women do opposite? You'd think they'd give the women one-syllable instructions and tell the men to do opposite.

On the dance floor, women on average are more able than men, and I suspect that was true for most of the last couple hundred years, at least.

But leaving that aside, one reason to direct the instructions toward the man is that he'd be leading the woman. She doesn't need instructions, she just needs to be able to follow his lead. And yes, that works with experienced, well-paired dancers, if the moves are leadable and generally within the dancers' repertoire. When I was working out this sequence, Irene (my regular practice and teaching partner) patiently followed me this way and that, letting me spin her back and forth while I tried to parse out the (less clear in the original) instructions. She has no particular interest in written dance directions, and since what I want is to be able to lead her through the moves, it serves me much better if she doesn't even look at them - I don't want her to move independently, since that proves nothing about whether the move is leadable by me or in general.

I do have one late 19thc dance manual in which all the instructions are directed at the woman with "the man dances opposite". It was written by (or at least attributed to) a woman. Interestingly, someone was plagiarizing - much of it matches word for word with another manual by a different (male) author, except for those dance descriptions, where all of the directions have been carefully reversed. I was most amused by this, but it actually made it harder for me to reconstruct from it, since I had to rethink or rewrite the instructions to figure out how to lead the moves.

This may be slightly off topic, but I'm not sure where to post other q's. In the BBC series "The House of Elliott" set in the 20's, there is a dance instruction scene where the housegirl teaches one of the Elliott sisters a dance. It's 1920 and she mentions it might be the "jog-trot" or the "twinkle" which led me to your site. It doesn't seem to be the twinkle as the dancers were doing a sideways step-together(1,2), step-together(3-4), step-together(5-6), kick back/side and down (7-8) to very early jazz. Do you know of this series and might you know what the dance is? The series is fairly 'spot on' with most of their historical research, so I think this may be an actual dance.
I listen to a lot of late ragtime, early jazz and try to recreate the dances, vintage dancers seem to drop off around 1920 so it's harder to find info.

Bridget, I'm not a dancer, much less Susan, but she has a Question Thread permanently at the top of the home page for this kind of thing.

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