Contra Diction, Life on Grand Seal Island
Previously, in Island Wars… Donovan Graham, a young and ambitious new journalism graduate, has been sent to Grand Seal Island to cover the brewing spat there between the U.S. and Canada. He has settled into island life with mixed success, and he is now learning about the island’s churches, families, lobster fishing, and drug trade — all the while keeping an eye on the hippie goddess he worships in the island’s southern Village. Click here to read earlier entries, or read on to see Van's latest update.
If you took my vast reservoir of knowledge about Contradancing, let it expand to its full range and scope, then placed it carefully in climate-controlled conditions ideally suited for the exponential growth of understanding — you’d still be left with nothing whatsoever. You’d have an easier time detecting gravity waves on the moon.
But at that Contradance the other night, impelled by the unambiguous shove supplied by Cory Coffin, I suddenly found myself on a fiddle-inspired dance floor at the end of a long line of uptight, conservative men and facing Cory, who apparently was going to be my partner.
“What am I supposed to do?” I asked.
“Pay attention, follow along, and have some fun, dammit,” Cory suggested, her steel eyes boring into my head. When she gets like this, she looks kind of like an angry fireplug — and is about as easy to move. Oh, well. My experience dealing with her will serve me well when I’m surrounded by cannibals in the Congo.
The music started up again, and the guitarist stood and pulled a microphone to her face. “Everybody ready?” she asked.
I was the only person who answered, “No!” Actually, I was the only person who answered at all. It didn’t seem to matter, though, because the music volume jumped a notch and the dance began. Good dances begin like birth pangs — you have no choice in the matter, and you just get swept up in the experience.
Employing my well-honed journalistic skills of observation and analysis, I learned a great many things that night, as the dances ended and began again:
1. Contradancing is a lot like square dancing, which I was forced at gunpoint to pursue as a unit of seventh-grade gym. It all came rushing back: Ampersand Left with your corner, Dose-a-Doe with your partner, grand right and left, swing your partner (which, I remembered just a moment too late, has nothing to do with locking elbows and trying to get the girl airborne).
2. Your partner changes throughout most dances. After a quick “Chain a Cross” and a nifty “Five Hands Tar” or two, you find yourself with a new partner and can gauge your understanding of the dance steps by checking to see what gender it is.
3. Some partners are more desirable than others. After studying the issue throughout the evening, I developed a “Top Ten” list of positive traits in a contradance partner:
#10. Absence of silicosis, tuberculosis, and black-lung disease. Contradancing takes a lot of wind.
#9. Absence of stiletto heels. The odds of this one improve as the night goes on; the women in the high heels crumple to the floor from time to time and have to be carried to their cars.
#8. A working knowledge of the difference between right and left. Even a brief moment of indecision can result in a terrifying Promenade collision.
#7. Freedom from any of the less pleasant odors. This one actually gets worse as the evening progresses, especially if someone contributed sauerkraut to the pot-luck table.
#6. General willingness to smile and at least pretend that they’re happy to dance with you. Partners who discard you prematurely and try to seize the next guy in line rate poorly here.
#5. Related to #6: Absence of revulsion when you achieve physical contact. Contradancing requires some genteel touching — holding hands, arm around the waist, that sort of thing. Low marks go to partners whose body language, facial expressions, and surface skin temperature all indicate that they’d rather French-kiss a squid.
#4. Better looking than I am. After living for several weeks in The Stump, this one’s a gimme.
#3. Ability to avoid head collisions, foot stomps, and other injuries that you can’t admit really hurt. Sufficient reflexes to deliver you to the next partner unbloodied, unbruised, and unconcussed are appreciated.
#2. A generally upbeat, cheerful, positive disposition.
— and —
#1. Meg. Eliza would be even better, but I’m not sure the world is ready for topless Contradancing.
Meg and I started most of the dances as partners that night, and I began to suspect that I had misinterpreted Cory’s plot.
— Donovan Graham, “The Shadowless Writer”
Comment — MapleLeaf249: Contradancing is real popular in Canada. We’ve been doing it up here for centuries.
Comment — Leslie112: Sounds nice. I’d like to try it sometime. I live in Kansas, though, and I don’t think people do it much around here.
Comment — Kate Fisher, editor: I’d love to know, sometime, why those of you who aren’t from Maine or New Brunswick read the Eastport Sun Web site. How did you get here?
Read previous blog entries in the Island Wars story by clicking here.