Starting in spring of 2020 I began writing purpose-built dances for socially-distanced “virtual” (a.k.a. “Zoom”) dancing. This work in progress post is intended to help folks considering one of my virtual dances understand my general approach to them and provide interpretation guidance for the same.
Unless explicitly stated otherwise, all my virtual compositions adhere to existing contra or ECD terminology for figures and roles in the dances. Some personal adjustment by the dancer(s) for their situation is allowed and expected – the goal is for distanced dancers to have fun with something that “feels as close to normal dancing as possible” in the very not-normal situation we find ourselves in.
- My virtual dances are typically designed around the common shared experience in pre-COVID-19 days: one would ask/agree to dance with a Partner. So, in general, my virtual dances are designed around you having a real or imagined Partner to dance with. I strive to minimize your need to keep track of/imagine any other dancers’ positions in the pattern. There are other choreographers currently aiming compositions at solo dancers (a design point of 1 dancer) but so far I’ve done very little along those lines. (Note that a Solo dance is not typically a dance formation in itself but rather a focus away from any Partner role/interaction within the context of an otherwise specified formation.)
- Partner Fungibility. Unless specified otherwise in the choreography, I typically don’t care who finishes in which of the Partner Couple’s two places (what’s been known as Men/Women, Ladies/Gents, Larks/Robins, etc.). Unless the dance has a (very rare) Neighbor Swing, you can generally swap role positions with your Partner anywhere in the dance pattern without significant consequence. Instructions given to do something with a Neighbor generally apply to any/everyone equally at the same time. However, if the move is for one Partner plus their Neighbor then either one of the Partners may do the action with the (imagined or real) Neighbor dancer without detriment to the success of the dance. A move may flow better for a specifically placed Partner to do but must not break down when done by either.
- Singlet Formation. The dances I label as Singlet work with no modification for a Solo Dancer or a Couple. Singlets assume any Neighbors or Shadows are not real physical dancers but rather placeholders who appear solely when you need them – in just the right spot for your purpose – and for no longer than required (never in your way). One or more actions in my Singlet dances will not work for a 3+ dancer set without an adjustment by the dancers. For example, in a Singlet, “everyone” can start a Hey across passing their Partner in the center – which is impossible in the real world!
- Doublet Formation. Dances I label as Doublet should work with no modification for Solo dancers up to 2 real Couples, akin to a traditional hands-4 contra or ECD. Any Neighbors or Shadows keep their place within the pattern at all times as one would expect a real dancer to do. All moves will work with actual physical bodies performing any specified role/figure in the dance on time. As a principle, I try to avoid any need to specify a Partner role in my Doublets unless absolutely necessary and stick to positional language for that purpose when avoidance isn’t possible.
- Set Dance Formation. This is an “other” category which may accommodate a unique number of dancers or otherwise not fit a typical “longways” or “in lines” formation. Only applies when specified but most Singlets and Doublets can be adapted to fit other size “pods” as a Set Dance with adjustments made by the caller or dancers. As a caller I strive to provide such guidance when it might be uniquely helpful – it can easily be overdone given the relative rarity of 3+ dancer pods.
- “Hall” and Set Orientation/Dancer Positioning. For my purposes, I expect the “Up & Down” directions in the dance to be along the longest axis in the room and optimize for that. Ideally, the camera of the device dancers use to connect with the event would point along this longest axis, so they’d face the camera “up & down” as if “taking hands 4” for a typical Proper or Improper, etc. longways dance. In general, I expect solo dancers or a single couple to assume the “Couple 1” place(s) like for a typical contra or ECD such that they “face down” to the camera. I may take advantage of that in a dance’s story line to play off remote dancers on screen. Solo dancers can take and swap into any position in the dance. Note that Singlets and Doublets may also be “Becket” dances, beginning facing across the long axis of the room.
- Figure Customs. By default, figures are used just as they are normally defined for contra, squares or ECD. However, because there’s variability in remote pod sizes, some figures could be interpreted more than one way. For example, in a Singlet, a Circle Left can either be done as if with a ring of 4 dancers or as a Two-Hand Turn. If it’s important, I will specify one or the other – otherwise do as you wish. A Star may be adjusted to a low-hand Allemande (a la ECD hand turn) instead (with caution about the speed/ending position of the figure). And so on. Bottom line, I will specify when it’s important to use one over an equivalent for flow but dancers may/should adjust as they see fit for their enjoyment!
- Progression. On principle & unless stated otherwise, my virtual dances do not progress dancers to another minor set – you’ll stay with your original group of dancers throughout the composition. Some specific dances may progress one role or the active couple to some index around the original formation but will always return to the original minor set’s boundaries. For instance, a dance may progress one couple to the opposite couple’s position each cycle or to some other fractional place around the minor set.
- More to come as I compose and enter more dances!