What is gender free calling?
A system of calling where instead of gendered terms (e.g. men, gents, women, ladies, etc), other words are used to refer to people and groups (e.g. the person on the left in your couple, the line facing the windows, larks/ravens, lead/follow etc)
Why do we do it?
As a society, we understand that traditional gender roles can be restrictive, exclusive, and erasing for some people: women/female-identifying people who want to dance in traditional male positions and vice versa, non-binary people who do not fit into either category, trans people, or anyone who wants to dance with someone of the same gender as themselves (for whatever reason).
By removing gender labels, we aim to make our ceilidhs a safer, more inclusive space for everyone to dance in their chosen position or role without having to adhere to terms that do not apply to them. This allows everyone the potential for more freedom in dancing, to dance with whoever they want, in whichever role without anything we say running contrary to that.
Ultimately, gender labels are not essential for clear calling, and if using other terms provides a clear benefit (which we’ve found it does for some people) without sacrificing clarity or fun, we can’t see the point in using them when there are so many alternative ways of doing it.
I’m used to gendered calling, isn’t this going to be really confusing?
If you’re used to gendered terms, it might take some getting used to for sure, just like anything new. and we want our dancers to feel comfortable learning at our dances, whether it’s new terminology or a totally new dance style. If you’re ever unclear on what the caller is asking you to do, whatever your experience level, you can always ask them to explain again or redo the walkthrough. Our callers understand that there will be people who are used to different things, and will always try to work with the dancers to make sure everyone’s having the best evening they can.
As a caller, the adaptation can be a little tricky too, but we have lots of people who have made the transition from gendered to non-gendered calling, and they will be more than happy to help you out if you’d like to call for our ceilidhs. If this is you, then get in touch with us!
But I like traditional dancing roles!
Fair enough, that’s entirely your choice. You still have the choice to dance with whoever you want to ask, and if that follows traditional gender lines, then fair enough. The point is not to restrict people as to who they can or can’t dance with. In fact, it’s totally the opposite: everyone should feel free to dance in whatever role with whichever partner they choose, and if that follows the traditional roles, as long as you’re being polite and respectful to everyone, there is no harm in that. However, we would also like to encourage people to think outside the box — there’s loads of fun to be had in dancing outside your traditional role, or with someone of the same sex. The possibilities are endless!
What should I expect from gender free calling?
Most callers have their own style of calling, and it’s no different for gender free calling. Some will use positional terms or landmarks in the room (e.g. “the line facing the door”, “the couple closest to the stage”); some will refer to “lead” and “follow” (generally corresponding to the traditional male and female roles respectively), or “lefties” and “righties” (referring to people’s position within the couple); some will use arbitrary (or not so arbitrary!) pairs of words to refer to each half of the room — recent examples include pirates and ninjas, cybermen and daleks, or larks and ravens, but the possibilities are endless.
Again, callers will make sure to be clear on the terms they’re using and to whom they refer, and if you’re ever unsure, they’ll be more than happy to elucidate. The aim is for everyone to enjoy dancing with the total freedom to dance in whatever role or position they choose, and our callers will facilitate that to the best of their considerable ability.