Even though contra dances are plenty of fun, sooner or later dancers, callers, and dance composers want more variety. Contra choreographers keep finding great new ideas, but there's still a certain sameness with hands four in a longways set.
Square dances offer many possibilities, with eight people instead of four and a long history of interesting choreography. And some contra dancers love squares. But many are un-enthusiastic — quietly or not so quietly. Why is that? Well, contra dancers like to swing a lot and like to interact with a lot of people, and don't like too much standing around. A square has only three other couples, you might not swing everyone, you might not swing very often, and you might stand around more than you like!
Certainly there are many great squares we wouldn't want to lose. But, why not also try for the best of both worlds — enjoy the variety of square formations and figures while preserving the things that contra dancers love?
We do have two promising dance formations in this direction. There's the 4-face-4 contra, where two opposing lines of four meet for some square figures and then pass on to another line of four. And there's the grid square, where square sets are aligned in rows and columns and dancers travel between the squares. OK! But while many dances in these formations are pleasing for their variety or for a cool progression, they don't always have the level of great choreography found in the best contras.
So I've been writing some, trying for lots of movement, enough swinging, a good progression, a mix of square and contra figures, and satisfying my tough choreographic critic. How am I doing? See what you think of Warp and Weft, The Birds and the Bees, Bobsled, and The Phantom Tollbooth.