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Brimmer and May Reel

by Dan Pearl

Flipping through 1983's Zesty Contras reveals an entirely different compositional style. Ones and twos have their unique roles, even if the twos are typically typecasted into posts. Instead of rotational symmetry, you often have mirror symmetries of casts, do-si-dos, lead downs, mirror allemandes, up the outside, and such, giving the dances a whole different feel.

Unfortunately, this was also a period when people were still figuring out what works best within a contra dance. Hence many sequences also have the style of unpleasant transitions, choreographic glitches, swings ending in the middle of the phrase, uncomfortable timing of figures, or dangerously crowded actions in the center of the set. And they predate the demand for all-partner-swings-all-the-time. Meaning most of the dances from this period are not very usable.

The tragedy is these two attributes are separable. It's quite possible to write dances that take the unique charms of the first paragraph, yet avoid the pitfalls of the second. All while keeping everyone reasonably active. It's just hard to get into that choreographic frame of mind when all you're absorbing are your fish bowl's symmetric dances.

In the meantime, there's already some dances from this earlier era that work wonderfully and that we should use more often. In my mind, Brimmer and May Reel exemplifies this the best. (Technically, it's the revised version of Brimmer and May Reel, as the original had the neighbor swing in the middle of the phrase. But since the updated version is also in Zesty Contras, my point still holds.) Despite the B section being a flurry of mostly 4-count moves, they all flow together with a solid storyline. And you're mostly interacting with your neighbor, so you can help each other through the transition between being a one and a two.

Instructions for this dance can be found here. (Or try page 33 of the 1997 Ralph Page Legacy Dance Weekend syllabus.)
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