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Hey Man

by Paul Balliet

Yes, it's a great dance, but that's entirely besides the point. This is the contra that feels most like a square. (Sorry, "Grand Square Contra.") The key cultural difference between contras and squares is that in squares the caller doesn't shut up.

Now the dancers are relying on your words rather than their memories of the walkthrough. This introduces surprise and discovery. For instance, in "First Night Quadrille" you teach the head couples doing the main figure, and then the side couples. Then when the dance gets going, you pull a fast one by having calling for the men do the main figure, and just the women. (It's possible to go beyond even that.) The choreography of that sequence plus the traditions of square dance let the caller keep the dancers on their toes by continually tweaking things to provide new surprises to react to, and have the dancers experience this on the fly.

All this is an anathema to the contra dance experience, where the caller must drop out. This let the dancers lose themselves in a mindless trance of the people and the music without worrying about having the metaphorical rug being pulled out from under them. Plus contra dances are typically so tightly choreographed that it's hard to tweak things slightly without either requiring a new sequence to memorize, or just making an unpleasant mess out of things. Those "fixes" make the dancers spend too much time thinking rather than dancing.

But "Hey Man" has some very clever attributes. The A1 starts in a neutral position of being on the side with your partner after a forward and back. The B1 also begins in a neutral position, facing your partner on the same side, ready for a balance and swing. In between, either you or your partner could go forward and do the exact same figures with a neighbor, ending in the exact same place. (This could be men, women, first corners, second corners, or dealer's/dancer's choice.) And the caller need only interrupt with a single word after the first few times of the switcheroo.

(This is unlike dances like "Sun Dance and Moon Dance," where there are different sequences for men and women, requiring a higher attention level from the dancers.)

We need more dances like "Hey Man." And it's a very solid dance even if you don't alternate the roles.

Right now I enjoy calling this to three-tune medleys. First tune is for the men, second is for the women, and third it starts alternating. And there's other patterns out there...

Instructions for this dance can be found here or here.
A video of this dance can be found here.
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