The event: Weave Your Heart in San Francisco, the 30th IAGSDC square dancing convention, at the San Francisco Marriott Marquis. Thursday July 3rd, 2013 through Sunday July 7th, 2013. Refresher: Gay square dancing of course has a higher proportion of LGBT participants than straight square dancing, but they've really become separate branches of dancing even though they're both based on the CALLERLAB "modern western square dancing" set of calls. Straight dances often have dress codes, and even when they don't straight dancers often wear the crinoline skirts and the "western" (1970s interpretations of 1950s interpretations of "western") shirts, and tend to be fairly staid events. Gay dances usually don't have a dress code so there are lots of people in shorts and T-shirts, big broad flourishes, a lot higher energy, and often a lot faster. But the lack of dress code doesn't mean that people don't feel free to dress up, so we planned out a few outfits along with a copious stack of T-shirts, socks and underwear.
We had been planning on driving over to the east bay, parking at a friend's house and taking BART in to the event, but the BART strike meant we sucked up the parking charges, drove in and parked at the 5th and Mission Garage. We arrived early Thursday morning, checked in (and the hotel gave us our room crack of dawn in the morning). Our original plan was to be crash test dummies for the Gay Callers Association caller's school in the morning and do floor setup in the afternoon, but Charlene was tired, so she crashed out in the room and I went down to help with floor setup.
Note for anyone doing floor setup and/or teardown: Kneepads (har har, yes, make sure you bring kneepads to the gay square dance convention) and gloves. The hand blisters have healed, the knees are still rubbed raw.
By the time Charlene came down for our afternoon work shift, the floors were all set up, so we went and caught the tail end of the caller's school callers. Based on the whoops and cheers I heard from earlier in that room I think we got the less confident beginners, but it was still a good warmup. Then walked down to the Whole Foods on 4th Street, bought dinner and snacks and breakfast for the cooler, came back and in the Trail-In Dance.
Pictures start here
Friday morning we hit the Fun Tour. We knew that many people didn't do costumes for the Fun Tour, but Lucy, one of the driving forces behind Redwood Rainbows (our club), was going to be the tour leader, was trying to figure out here character for that, and we figured a little solidarity in going over-the-top would be worthwhile. So I got a pink velvet shirt for the tux (top hat acquired earlier 'cause... well... there are more and more opportunities to wear a top hat occurring in my life), Charlene put on leather and cat ears, and we went and gave it our all.
- The police escort took the 8 or so buses over to Treasure Island where we danced in the shadow (if there'd been sunlight, it was foggy as it tends to be in San Francisco in the mornings) of Marco Cochrane's "Bliss Dance" sculpture. Did two tips on the grass.
- Back in to the buses with the police escort where we got traffic slowed on the Bay Bridge for us to merge, on into Chinatown for a tip at Portsmouth Square.
- A stop at the city hall where we didn't have time for a tip (and Charlene and I stayed on the bus and chatted with the people around us 'cause we've seen that area).
- A looong drive out to the beach, through Golden Gate Park, where we danced a tip by the windmills.
- Then back into the Castro where we had a performance on the wonderful pipe organ at the Castro Theater, and then a short film of reminiscences of people's IAGSDC convention memories. Which was a great way to help give us newbies a little intro to the culture of the convention.
Friday we danced. And danced some more. We'd met Willie and James, of the El Camino Reelers at Stumptown Stomp earlier this year, and then ran into them at the Golden State Roundup, where they opened our minds a little about how to better handle the costumery at square conventions: Go "western", but over the top. So I picked up a shirt at a hispanic western wear shop in Santa Rosa, a pair of boots off of Craigslist, and we slid all over the floor on Friday night. Or at least until I gave up on the boots and we went and changed shoes.
Late Friday night was the Honky Tonk Queen pageant, and we went, but weren't finding the drag as compelling as we've seen, and were tired, so we went to bed early, about quarter after midnight. We did, however, see enough to make us think that maybe there's some room for competition next year. Which brings us to...
We thought this would be a great venue for drag. We'd originally figured we'd dress up for the drag tip, but that was set up for when our club photo was. Then we thought about the Honky Tonk Queen competition, but Jet Roberts was calling a session before that, and faced with the choice between putting on a face and an outfit or dancing to Jet, Jet won.
So we decided to dress up for the Saturday evening banquet:
In the process of figuring out when we were going to wear these we went back and forth on shoes, and I ended up in 5¾" heels (4" rise), which I could walk in fine but couldn't dance in. So we went back to the hotel room, I switched into a dirndl T-shirt, Charlene into a tuxedo T-shirt, and we got nearly as many compliments on that little bit of cross-dressing as on the full-on make-up and dress outfits.
Sunday danced some more, I went to the intro to calling session, where I learned about the "chicken dance" and some techniques for organizing call structure and got some inspiration for how to learn the next steps, we went back down to do our stint as "hall monitors", but by quarter to six were worn out and decided to head home.
But we will see y'all in Salt Lake City for Swarm The Hive next year, and in 2015 at Swing Me in St. Louis.
And I think the other caller we want to keep our eyes open for is Michael Kellog. Somewhere in there we had a session with a guy who called fast smooth choreography with a voice that rivalled Jet Roberts, I think it was Michael Kellog, and when the outsides don't twirl when the centers are calling through 'cause we want to catch our breath and there's a voice like that? Ooooh, baby.