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Contra Dance

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Contra Dance

Contra dancing

Betty Ann Sather / Great Meadow Music
You may have never heard of them, but chances are, they are happening nearby. What are they? Fun-filled, action-packed, family-oriented dance events...contra dances.

What Is Contra Dance?

Contra dance refers to a group of folk dance styles in which couples dance facing each other in parallel lines. These dance lines have no standard length, as they are usually limited only to the length of the dance hall. Contra dance events are family-friendly gatherings that usually last about 3 hours, consisiting of several individual contra dances. Music is typically provided by a live band, adding to the relaxed atmosphere of the informal gathering. Contra dance is unique in that individuals interact with everyone in the line, not just their own partners. Contra dancing is therefore considered by most people to be a group activity.

Contra Dance Structure

During a contra dance, a "caller" guides dancers through a variety of dances. Before beginning a new dance, the caller teaches everyone the steps contained in the sequence. Once everyone has an idea of what steps and movements to expect, the caller leads the dances to the music. The caller usually stops calling once the dancers seem to have mastered the dance, allowing them to listen and enjoy the music. Dancers perform steps and movements with their partners and another couple for a short period of time, then repeat the same steps with another couple. It's safe to say that almost everyone will have danced with every other person at least once before the night is over.

Contra Dance Attire

Most contra dancers dress informally. Because contra dancing can be quite vigorous, comfortable, lightweight clothing is a necessity. Women tend to wear loose, light dresses or skirts. Men typically prefer to wear lightweight slacks, jeans or shorts. Shoes should be soft-soled and comfortable. Street shoes and high heels are discouraged, as these can cause damage to some dance floors. Most contra dancers wear sneakers or dance shoes, and some dancers even prefer to dance in bare feet.

Learning to Contra Dance

One of the great things about contra dancing is that no experience is necessary. At almost any contra dance you will find people of all dance skill levels, from beginner to expert. Contra dances are easy to learn, with only about 20 basic moves. As with any other style of dance, the more you do it, the better you will become.
  • Recommended Age for Contra Dancing
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