Teaching tips: “Uncommon Courtesy” by Gene Hubert
March 21st, 2011
Uncommon Courtesy by Gene Hubert
A1 star L 1x, partner courtesy turn 1x and roll the ladies (right to left)
A2 pass through across the set, partner swing
B1 circle L 3/4, neighbor swing
B2 ladies chain, promenade and loop to face new neighbors
A caller friend of mine recently asked about tips for teaching this lovely dance. His request inspired me to write a blog post, hopefully the first in a series called “Teaching tips”. Enjoy, and please comment!
Uncommon Courtesy is a beautifully crafted contra dance by Gene Hubert, whom many consider to be “the king of contra dance flow.” After a fair amount of trial and error with this dance, I’ve arrived at what I feel is an effective way of teaching this sequence of moves to a mixed crowd. I’ll start with a few general observations, and then move into my specific way of conducting a walk-through for Uncommon Courtesy.
This dance is what Bob Isaacs calls a “sweetheart dance,” meaning all (or nearly all) of the substantive moves happen with partner instead of neighbor. There is almost no opportunity for newer dancers to experience the transfer of skills that comes from a dance with a high percentage of neighbor interaction. Keep that in mind as you program Uncommon Courtesy; it is likely to be a dance that is most effective later in an evening, when the newer dancers have built up a some experience and confidence. Watch for newer couples during the walk-through, and make an effort to teach to them without being overly obvious about it. If they’re confused during the teaching, chances are they’ll be confused for the whole dance. We’ve all been there before, and it’s no fun.
It is also a dance that has “mushy timing” (this is my way of describing sequences that have no obvious arrival points like balances or long lines — I’ve been told this way of referring to dance choreography has a somewhat negative connotation…I respectfully disagree). I used to ask bands to play something “smooth” or “dreamy”. These days, I’ll mention the horizontal, constant forward motion of this dance, so that the band will get the idea that it is a dance with really nice flow; but I’m much more likely to ask for a tune that is well-phrased, and will encourage the dancers to move with purpose.
Since it’s a becket dance, I’ll often start by having everyone swing partner, saying something like “You’re swinging your partner on your home side of the set. This will be important information a bit later.”
The defining sequence begins the dance; it flows beautifully (all CCW movement), and I try to let dancers feel that right away. The dance starts with a left hand star, “all the way around, back to your home side of the set.”As the star is nearing home, I prompt the gents to scoot up behind their partner in a courtesy turn position, and courtesy turn ALL THE WAY AROUND to face back in, and then do a rollaway with the ladies moving right to left.
The next figure (pass through across to a partner swing) inspires what I have come to think of as creative interpretation on the part of the dancers. I don’t belabor the teaching. Just say the words, and the dancers will figure it out for themselves.
Circle left and swing neighbor is straightforward enough.
Ladies chain reunites partners, but still facing same neighbors and not on “home side.” I have everyone ID new neighbors on the left diagonal, let them know that they’ll be starring with those folks shortly, them have them face across to their current neighbors; “promenade across, turn to face in, and look for new neighbors” gets everyone to where they need to be for the dance to work. I used to try and teach the “wide loop to face the next” coming out of the promenade, but I find it unnecessary to teach that point of style; in most cases, it just happens naturally.
Those are the basic elements. My teaching changes a bit depending on the crowd.
Hope this is useful!
‘Til next time, friends…