Drawing dancers


Saturday I ventured down a seriously narrow road in the coastal mountains to visit a folk dance weekend. It’s a private event that’s been going on for many years. It involves camping, eating, and pretty much round-the-clock dancing. My husband’s band, Harmon’s Peak, played for a contra dance and I went along with the intention of sketching.

I like dancing a lot, and I had to exert an enormous amount of self-discipline to pull out my sketchbook and get some work done. Of course I was shy to sketch around people I didn’t know (they might look!), but even when a man plunked down right beside me and took a good long gander at my sketches, I just kept drawing.

DancButterflytwirlers present the puzzle of sketching a moving target. When the dancers were flying across the deck, I could only scratch out the briefest of lines. So I mostly drew them as they stood waiting for instruction, and during the repetitive parts of the dance. I had to watch carefully to catch them as they returned to the same position over and over again. Then I’d tear into the drawing and get a few more lines down.

I started by drawing stick figures with the pen side of my Tombow Dual Brush-pen. Stick figures are a great way to get a gesture down fast. I start with the line of action so I’ve got a place to go, then over that line I draw in the barrel of the chest. That’s the most important part—it’s the visual clue about the torso’s inclination in space, and as Rob has told me millions of times in class, it’s all about the torso. When I’d got the torso down, all the rest of the bodily bits—hips, arms, legs, and head—could be attached with some success.  Last of all, I hung flesh and clothes on the gesture drawing using the brush side of my Tombow.

SingleDancerThe contra was short and sweet. Afterward, the dancing rounded back to Israeli line dancing, a style of dancing I don’t know. It was interesting to watch the dancers as they stepped and twirled. They didn’t have partners, as they would in contra dancing, but they did form a large circle and danced as a group. Each song had intricate stepping patterns and lots of whirling, and some dances had arm waving and gestures. It seemed almost meditational rather than social in the way a contra or a set dance is social. Without someone to tell me what I should be doing, I’d sure have to be meditating on what the heck I was supposed to be doing in that circle.

If you live in the S.F. Bay Area and want to find a contra dance, the BACDS (the Bay Area Country Dance Society) is a good resource.

There is evidently a large subculture of Israeli line dancing in the Bay Area. You might try the Sunnyvale Community Center.

One thought on “Drawing dancers

  1. Dear Margaret,
    My name is Aizlynn and I live in Leeds in the UK. I volunteer teaching Irish Set Dancing and I’m trying to create a poster to put up in our area to increase our numbers and I came across your lovely drawing of two dancers in walts hold. It had just the right sort of relaxed feel that I am looking for to promote our class. I’m writing to ask permission to use your drawing and to ask how much you would like for our use of it.

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