What is Contra Dancing?
Contra dancing is a form of American folk dance in which the dancers form a set of two parallel lines which run the length of the hall. Each dance repeats a sequence of moves where couples progress one position up or down the set. As the sequence is repeated, a couple will eventually dance with every other couple in the set.
Contra dancing is currently all the rage in the United States. Some
dance halls will fill with as many as 300 dancers.
Why Should I Dance Contras?
Contra dances have a relaxed, family-like atmosphere where the emphasis is on dancing, a welcome relief from noisy and smoky dance halls. The patterns of the dances are nifty. Contra dancing is excellent exercise that you can take at your own pace. Above all, contra dancers form a community of friendly, active people and they welcome new dancers, be they youngsters or seniors. Contra dancing is enjoyed by people of all ages.
What if I Don't Have a Partner?
No problem. Many people come alone. Dancers are encouraged to dance with many different partners throughout the evening. If there is an excess of one gender, it is customary for women to dance men's parts (and vice versa) to form couples and extend the set.
What if I Have Never Danced Before?
In contra dancing, your feet are never asked to do more than walk to the music.
There is a person (the caller) who teaches each dance so that you
can practice before the music starts. They continue to prompt the dancers as needed. Because the pattern of moves in each dance is repeated often, it is easy to learn. Beginning and experienced dancers happily share the same set.
Do I Need to Wear Special Clothes?
No. Contra dancers tend to dress informally. Most people dress for comfort,
knowing they will be moving about the dance floor. You'll see ladies
wearing a variety of clothes: dresses, skirts, shorts, pants.
Anything goes that won't embarrass you or other dancers. Men wear slacks, jeans, or even shorts. Be sure to wear soft-soled, comfortable shoes.
What is the Music Like?
For many dancers, the live music is the great attraction. Traditional jigs, reels, and hornpipes from the Scots-Irish tradition
or American style old-timey music, or a little bit of both. Bands
may consist of 2 to 6 players and typical instruments include the
fiddle, mandolin, flute, guitar or piano, bass and banjo.
Is Contra Dancing Similar to Square Dancing?
Many of the basic moves in contra dancing are similar to those in square dancing (swings, promenades,
do-si-do, allemandes). To join the set, all you need is a partner;
young or old, new or experienced. If you have danced squares, you will enjoy contras immediately.
Do I Have to Join a Club?
No. You may come and go as you please. A small admission is charged to pay for the hall, the caller and the musicians. You can have a fun night out for less than the cost of a movie ticket.