William Watson's Contra Dance Compositions

I don't often compose dances. So many good ones exist that there's little need to do so. The ones I offer here resulted from either the desire for a simple dance that did something specific (Less is More), a mistaken recollection of an existing dance called by someone else (Dog Branch Reel Variations, Sweet Music Variation), an attempt to eliminate what seemed a glitch in an otherwise wonderful dance (Erik's Second Date), a choreography session (Fort Flagler Fling, Pinewoods Crossing) in which I was a participant, or a "cool" move that insisted on a new setting (The Devil's Backbone). Note that I do NOT claim my variations are "better" than the original dances in any absolute sense. They fit my needs in some way. Perhaps they will fit yours.

All compositions © 1998-2011 by William Watson. Permission freely granted to callers for use at dances. Please contact me if you would like to publish any of these dances. I will almost certainly agree.

The Devil's Backbone

Formation:Four face four
Difficulty:Advanced
Music:Flowing or driving 32-bar AABB tunes
A1 (8) Lines of four go foward and back
(8) Ladies chain with the couple you're facing
A2 (8) Left hand star with the same couple
(8) Lead ladies (the lady on the outside in the original line of four)unroll the star, passing the other lead lady in your set of eight by the right, cross the set and form a circle with the original set of four.
B1 (8) Circle left one time around
(8) Neighbor swing
B2 (8) Men allemande left 1 1/2
(8) Partner swing

NOTES: My original explanation of the dance.

I composed this dance while driving I-10 across Louisiana on my way to Florida Rhapsody in December, 1998. I brought it out at a caller's workshop there run by Robert Cromartie. He was so taken by the dance that he called it that evening, with much fanfare. Thanks to this promotion, the dance swept the country in record time. It was called in Boston and Seattle within the month, and seemed to become the "ooh!" dance of 1999. It appears to have even made its way Down Under to Australia by 2004.

As captured on You Tube at May Madness in Arizona, May 2006. Merri Rudd called the dance, and The Privvy Tippers played (the tune Growling Old Man, Grumbling Old Woman).

Dog Branch Reel Variation 1

Formation:duple, improper contra
Difficulty:Intermediate
Music:Flowing or driving 32-bar AABB tunes
A1 (4) Lines of Four Go Down the Hall
(4) Centers Arch, and Roll Back-to-Back
(4) Come Back Cozy
(4) Actives Duck to Form a Cloverleaf
A2 (8) "Circle" Left
(8) Neighbor Swing
B1 (8) Promenade Across the Set
(8) Right & Left Through
B2 (8) Long Lines Dance Forward & Back
(8) Actives Swing

A variation of Bob Dalsemer's dance The Dog Branch Reel. I danced the dance in San Francisco to the calling of Leda Shapiro, and goofed around with my partner. We started to "come back cozy", and decided that we liked the transitions better that way. The next day I wrote down this version of the dance, which actually doesn't really resemble the original very closely.

Dog Branch Reel Variation 2

Formation:duple, improper contra
Difficulty:Intermediate
Music:Flowing or driving 32-bar AABB tunes
B1 (8) Neighbor Do-si-do
(8) Actives Swing
A1 (4) Lines of Four Go Down the Hall
(4) Centers Arch, and Roll Back-to-Back
(4) Come Back Cozy
(4) Actives Duck to Form a Cloverleaf
A2 (8) "Circle" Left
(8) Neighbor Swing
B2 (8) Long Lines Dance Forward & Back
(8) Twos Swing

A variation of Bob Dalsemer's dance The Dog Branch Reel. This one is much closer to the original, and came about after I finally compared the above dance to Bob's.

Erik's Second Date

Formation:Becket contra, Left/CW
Difficulty:Intermediate
Music:Flowing or driving 32-bar AABB tunes
A1 (8) Circle Left 3/4, Pass Through Along the Set
(8) New Neighbor Swing
A2 (8) Circle Left 3/4
(8) Partner Allemande Right 1 1/2
B1 (16) Men Pass Left to Start a Full Hey for Four
B2 (16) Partner Swing

A variation of Eric's Date on the Bay, by Charlie Fenton. I hadn't realized until pulling together this web page that I'd changed the C to a K in Eric.

Fort Flagler Fling

Formation:Duple, improper contra
Difficulty:Advanced
Music:Flowing or driving 32-bar AABB tunes
A1 (8) Long Lines Dance Forward & Back
(8) Women Pass Left Shoulders to Gypsy their Partners [1x]
A2 (8) These Four Star by the Right [1x], Face New Folks
(8) New Folks Star Left [1x], Men Reach Right Hands Under and
B1 (8) Shadow Box the Gnat, Pull By
(8) Partner Swing
B2 (8) Circle Left 3/4
(8) Neighbor Swing

NOTES: Composed at Camp Wannadance, 22 March 2003 in the contra dance choreography session run by Rick Mohr. Participants included: Rick Mohr, Ann Mason, Chris Quin-Britnall, Christine Fry (now Appleberry), Jane Srivastava, John Gallagher, John Lawson, Kim Appleberry, Sandy Strand, Steve Sutlief, Vern Tator, Vicky Marron, and William Watson.

McKenzie River

Formation:Duple, improper contra
Difficulty:Intermediate
Music:32-bar jigs, with bouncy As and smooth Bs
A1 (4) In Long Wavy Lines, Balance Right & Left
(4) Drop Hands, Slide Right
(4) In Long Wavy Lines, Balance Left & Right
(4) Drop Hands, Slide Left
A2 (4) Long Wavy Lines Balance Right & Left
(12) Neighbor Swing
B1 (8) Men Allemande Left 1 1/2
(8) Partner Swing
B2 (8) Ladies Chain
(8) Hey for Four, Halfway

Notes: I was quite taken by the "hey into long wavy lines" transition in another dance (which then transitions into a square circulate), and thought it'd make a good way to get into long Rory O'More waves.
First called May, 2005.

Variation (by Lynn Ackerson)

At the start of the dance, make short wavy lines of four across the set. For the last move, instead of the half-hey-for-four, pass through across the set and cross trails to meet new neighbors.

Pinewoods Crossing

Formation:Duple, improper contra
Difficulty:Intermediate
Music:32-bar jigs, with bouncy As and smooth Bs
A1 (8) Neighbor Gypsy 1 1/2
(8) Circle Left [1x]
A2 (8) Ladies Chain
(8) Hey Halfway
B1 (4) Partner Balance
(12) Partner Swing
B2 (6) Circle Left 3/4
(2) Neighbor Roll Away with a Half Sashay [Ladies Left to Right]
(8) Pass Through Across the Set, Cross Trails

Notes: Composed at Pinewoods American Week, 29 August 1996, in a contra dance choreography session run by Jim Kitch. Participants included: Jim Kitch, Alan Gedance, Alisa Garman, Diane Brill, Gloria Krusmeyer, Jill Allen, Joe Garman, Mary Devlin, Robert Cromartie, Steve Gester, Sue Rosen, Susie Kendig, and William Watson. As I recall, Sue Rosen was interested in having a dance with a "pass through across and cross trails." Other participants offered up a list of moves. Jim Kitch quickly assembled them into order, lacking only moves for the first half of B2.

Sweet Music Variation

Formation:Duple, Becket contra
Difficulty:Intermediate
Music:32-bar driving reels
A1 (8) Circle Left 3/4, Pass Through Along the Set
(8) New Neighbor Swing
A2 (8) Men Allemande Left 1 1/2, Pick up Partners
(8) Star Promenade with a Butterfly Twirl
B1 (16) Ladies Pass Right to Start a Full Hey for Four
B2 (16) Partner Balance & Swing

Notes: A mistaken recollection of the dance Sweet Music, by Amy Kahn. Called for the first time February, 2002, in Costa Rica.
Note that this is an example of independent creation, as covered by copyright law. Cary Ravitz Composed a dance _Heart of Glass_ in October 2000 with the exact same sequence of moves. His dance was unknown to me at the time I created and called this dance.

Venus and Mars Variation

Formation:Duple, improper contra
Difficulty:Intermediate
Music:smooth, flowing 32-bar jigs or reels
A1 (8) Neighbor Do-si-Do
(8) Neighbor Swing
A2 (8) Circle Left 3/4, Roll Away Partners (Ladies Left to Right)
(8) Men Allemande Lft 1 1/2 WHILE Women Orbit Clockwise 1/2
B1 (8) Partner Gypsy
(8) Partner Swing
B2 (8) As Couples, Promenade Across the Set
Circle Left 3/4, Pass Through to the Next Neighbors

Notes: This dance is a variation of the dance Venus and Mars, composed by Martin Sirk. (You can find a copy of the original on page 52 of the PDF syllabus of the 2004 Ralph Page Legacy Weekend.) I wanted a completely smooth version, without any balances.


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