Friday, September 21, 2012

Dancing in Sweden, pt. 1

Last week I went to my first Modern Western Square Dance (mwsd, for those in the know).

Last week I went to my first mwsd, while in Sweden.

Somehow, this type of dancing is incredibly widespread. Far more widespread than contra dancing, and far more widespread than traditional square dancing. So if I wanted to find regular dancing, this was the kind available. (As an aside, there are other types of dance around, like swing and tango, but I have little interest in those.)

To be quite straightforward, my loyalties lie with traditional square dancing. Maybe that isn't fair, since I never even gave mwsd a try. But now I have tried it, and my loyalties still lie with traditional square dancing.

Before going to the dance, I didn't quite know what I was getting myself into. I had been told to expect something in the style of a contra medley (this means the dance is always changing on the fly, so you have to listen carefully). Basically, how it worked was that the caller called a move, and we did the move. And then the caller called the next move, and we did the next move. There was little to no repetitive sequence, which is how all traditional square dancing goes.

Mwsd also has levels. I danced "basic", even though many of the "basic" calls are the same in traditional square dancing, or at least have a comparable call, so the move was something I knew. The dance was a class, and as such, new calls were taught. So, a dance would start, and then we'd pause and learn a new call, do some more moves, learn a new call. The music was recorded, so the caller just turned down the volume. Also, if anyone messed up a dance, the caller just waited for them to fix their square before calling the next move.

My overall impression of mwsd was that it didn't really feel like dancing. During two hours of dancing (every other dance, since I couldn't dance the "plus" level dances) I only once, for about four seconds, felt like I was dancing. The rest of the time, it felt more like a game.

Have you ever played Bop It? I remember one Christmas a relative of mine showed up with a Bop It Extreme, and we spent the whole day passing it around trying to get the best score.

To me, mwsd seems just like a Bop It. You hear a command and act on it. "Spin It" You spin the red disc.
"Circle left" You circle left.
And while you are acting on the command, you prepare your brain for the next call.

I never realized how much I appreciated the repetitive flow of a dance until it was taken away. So mwsd turned out to not be my favorite, although I don't think any of us thought that it would be. There are certainly some items on the "pro" list for mwsd, so I'll probably go back, but maybe not every week.

This concludes part 1 of the Dancing in Sweden series.

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