And Now for Something Completely Different

Published January 23, 2021

My pal Deacon Steven Greydanus has a minor avocation as a Cartoon Critic. That is, he looks at newspaper cartoons, typically single-panel, and offer scritical analyses of their virtues and defects for the benefit of mankind. It’s a weird job, but somebody’s gotta do it. It’s also oddly infectious and others are getting in on the act, including his chum Jimmy Akin. Akin is a staff apologist for Catholic Answers, but also a huge nerd with a wide variety of interests, including Science and Square Dance Calling.

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Faced with a temptation like this, what self-respecting polynerd like Jimmy Akin could restrain himself from from offering way more information than any normal person could want in criticism? To wit:

Speaking as a square dance caller with a science background, several aspects of this cartoon call for comment:

1) In general, the dance that Einstein is calling is “off program,” meaning that it uses moves not part of the standard lists in Modern Western Square Dance. This is allowed, as long as the caller ensures that the dancers are able to do the non-standard calls.

2) The dancers are not all doing the same things. The couple in the upper background is doing a Left Elbow Swing (a non-standard move), while the couple in the foreground is apparently doing a Left-Hand Star Thru (another non-standard move) while the woman is SIMULTANEOUSLY bowing to her partner (a VERY off-program combination). The man in the lower foreground is raising his left arm for an unknown reason.

3) To explain why the dancers are not all doing the same thing, we may suppose (a) that there has been a break down due to dancer error, (b) Einstein is using “If You Want To, But You Don’t Have To” choreography, where dancers are given a choice of moves to execute, or (c) Einstein is calling too fast and not all of the dancers are able to keep up with him.

4) The last is a distinct possibility, as Einstein is currently speaking 3 calls in quick succession. This is known as “stacking” the calls, and it’s bad practice, because the dancers will lose track of the calls before they can be executed.

5) Einstein has put Do Si Do (aka Dosado) after Swing Your Partner. This involves bad body flow. At the end of a standard Ballroom Swing, the dancers would be chest-to-chest. They would then have to lurch backward and forward in order to execute a textbook Dosado. The more natural flow would be from a Dosado into a Swing.

6) Einstein’s cadence is flawed. Standard Modern Western Square Dance uses a 2/2 (BOOM-chuck) time signature or another form of duple time that allows the caller to chant in cadence with the beat. This works for his first two commands, with the accented syllables on the beat (“SWING your PART-ner, DO-sa-DO”). But his third command will not naturally fit this cadence.

7) His third command is also unclear in two respects. First, which theory of relativity does he want them to “formulate”? The Special Theory of Relativity, which deals only with flat spacetime, or the General Theory of Relativity, which incorporates the curved spacetime brought on by gravity? Instructions must be clear so that the dancers know what to do!

8) Second, what does he mean by “formulate”? WRITE DOWN the basic equations? DERIVE these equations as he did in the papers he published? Something else? Instructions must be clear!

9) If I were serving as his caller coach, I would advise him to invert his first two spoken calls and then change the third to something more specific that can be done in cadence, thus: DO-sa-DO and SWING your PART-ner. WRITE the MASS and ENER-gy re-LA-tion.” This requires you to say a couple of syllables together on up and down beats, but it will work.

10) If Einstein has done adequate walk thrus during the “teach” for this non-standard move, the dancers will then write the correct equation: E = mc^2. 

You’re welcome!

One Response

  1. As a square dancer left with nothing more exciting during COVID than virtual Square Dance in my living room with a phantom partner and the dogs watching intently (maybe they see my phantom partner? ), I really enjoyed Jimmy’s assessment of the cartoon which, unfortunately for me, was virtual as well.

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