Next Generation Dance Camp

Mt. Hood Kiwanis Camp

Larks and Ravens

At Next Generation Dance Camp 2018, we will be using “larks” and “ravens” for the two dance roles. The “lark” is the dancer who ends the swing on the left, and the “raven” is the dancer who ends the swing on the right. Why use gender free language?

Gender free language reflects both who we are and how we want to dance.

This community includes people of many gender identities. “Gents” and “ladies” are inherently gendered terms, and not all of us are comfortable having those words applied to us, even if it’s well understood that no one is expected to dance any particular role. We are committed to making this a space that is comfortable for all of us, and that means no “gents” and “ladies.”

Gender free language also reflects how we want to dance. We want dance with all different kinds of people, whether they have a different gender from us or not. We want everyone to ask others to dance, and for everyone to be asked. We want to make purposeful decisions about what role to dance instead of relying on a default. We believe that using non-gendered language reminds us of all these things.

Why Larks and Ravens in particular?

What language we use is not beyond discussion, but we chose larks and ravens this year for a few reasons: They’re connected to the dance roles– the Lark is on the Left and the Raven on the Right when you line up improper or finish a swing. As of 2018, larks and ravens are overwhelmingly the most common choice of gender free language. If you’ve done gender free contra in the last few years, the caller was probably using Larks and Ravens (citation:

This is new to me, and I’m scared I’ll be confused!

If you’ve never danced to larks and ravens before, don’t worry! The dance still works the same way. We’ve watched several dance communities switch to using this language, and while some people may have to think a little harder for the first few dances, most adjust quickly. We’re committed to being patient and understanding during the adjustment period.

If you haven’t danced to larks or ravens, or in a gender-free context before, here is some advice:

  • Dance the role you most want to dance. If there’s one you’re more comfortable with, stick with it. Alternately, this is your chance to try something new!
  • When you ask someone to dance, also ask them what role they want. If you have a strong preference, you can include that when you ask. For example, “Would you like to dance the lark’s role?”
  • Don’t rely on the gender presentation of the other dancers to help figure out who the lark and the raven are in your neighbor couple. Instead, trust that they know where they need to be, and dance with the person who’s in the place where you expect your neighbor (or your shadow, or whoever you’re dancing with) to be.
  • Try not to sweat the mistakes. We’ll all make mistakes. Just shrug it off and keep dancing! . On a related note, avoid judging others as they get used to these new terms. We’re all in this dance together.