I have been to many dances where gendered calling is the norm and it consistently leaves me frustrated and at times has made me question whether to continue. In gendered calling communities I have experienced the expectations of what I “should” do as a woman and there is no shortage of older men who feel the need to “help” push me into a swing, put me in what they consider the correct place or who have left bruises on my hand from squeezing too hard. I’ve really tried to advocate for myself and follow-up with people I’ve encountered in the line who exhibit those behaviors. It can be hard though; when you only have a few seconds to dance with someone and then they’re down the line, partnered up and onto the next dance in the blink of an eye. I don’t want other new dancers to think those experiences are normal or okay. I’ve been very hopeful after experiencing more dances where callers use positional calling. It has allowed those troublesome “expectations” and behaviors to slowly start dissolving.
At one dance I was on the left while a friend who is a very tall, masculine person was dancing to my right. Even before we started the dance our neighbors were trying to “correct us”, giving us the “stink-eye”, pointing rather forcefully to the “ladies” position saying to me “you’re in the wrong spot” even after explaining that, “Actually, he’s following and I’m leading, so we’re good.” It was hard! I’m a big advocate that everyone would benefit from dancing the opposite role than the one they’re used to. Positional calling gives dancers the space to dance in a different role and experience what they’re asking their partner to do and highlight what cues might need modification because they don’t feel good. As my friend and I went up and down the line, we were both confident in the roles we were dancing but the pressure was intense! People stared daggers at us, continued to try and push me into the other position, older men refused to balance, swing, or modify a swing with my partner, there were huffs of disdain and disapproval and by the time we were done with the dance it felt like we had encountered more animosity in that one dance in our regular dance community than all the previous years dancing there combined! It was eye-opening!
To sum it up, in the decade that I’ve been dancing, starting in my mid-twenties and now into my mid-thirties, I’ve experienced the positive changes that positional calling has brought to my dance community!