What is Contra Dancing?
Contra dance is descended from English Country dance and has been done in
this country since before the revolution. Contra dance is similar to
square dancing, but is done in long lines of couples (like the Virginia
Reel) rather than in squares. An evening might also include a couple of
circle or square dances. Usually there's a waltz before the break and as
the last dance.
You will be part of a living tradition passed on by the experienced
dancers helping the newcomers. The dancers, the musicians, and caller aim
for an evening of low pressure, often energetic, camaraderie. Come alone
or with others. Sometimes you choose a partner and sometimes you get
chosen. It's acceptable for women to ask men to dance.
Contra dancing is an evening of fun, featuring dancing in long lines of
about a dozen couples. You interact with your partner, and everyone else
too, as you dance with easy walking steps to energetic music. A caller,
working with a group of live musicians, guides new and experienced dancers
through a variety of dances.
A set consists of two lines, with your partner usually across from you in
the other line. You dance with the couples nearest you, then gradually you
and your partner move down the line to dance with new couples.
The caller teaches each dance before it is actually done to the music.
This walk through gives everyone an idea of what to expect so the
movements can be easily executed. The caller prompts the dances as they
are being performed to the music, so dancers are able to execute each
movement to the music. Once the dancers appear to have mastered a dance,
the caller may stop prompting, leaving the dancers to enjoy the movement
with music alone.
A good way to develop your dancing style is by watching someone whose
dancing you admire. Be sensitive to other dancers needs and preferences.
For example some women don't like to spin while doing a courtesy turn.
Feel free to ask other dancers for pointers. Wear cool comfortable
clothes, and comfortable soft soled shoes. Do please try to avoid wearing
strong fragrances. Relax and have fun!
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