What is Contra Dance?

According to this clip, Contra Dancing is the Most Fun on the Planet.
Ours is a bit more sedate, but we're working on it.

Contra is a communal-style folk dance that is fun and easy to learn. No partner or experience is necessary. A caller leads the dancers through a series of moves and the sequence repeats itself. There's no real footwork - it's more like walking to music. An evening consists of 10-12 dances, each with a different combination of a few simple moves. You can enjoy dancing in a friendly, fun, wholesome environment.

One-minute History of Contra Dance

Modern Contra Dance was originally the English Country Dancing which had spread to France and America in pre-and-post-Revolutionary times (think Jane Austen movies). American Colonials loved to dance, but they didn't want to be seen doing anything "English" so they adopted the French name, "Contre Danse" (meaning "line facing line" but probably a corruption of "Country Dance"). The name lived on as "Contra Dance".

It survived, like an underground stream, was revived by some enterprising dance leaders in New England in the early-mid twentieth century, and became nationally popular during the counter-culture 60s, along with folk singing, Birkenstocks and crunchy granola. It spread rapidly because it was fun and flirtatious and communal, reflecting the times.

The dances changed, as new dances were written in which there was less standing around and more "swing time". The tempos became faster, the dances more flowing and energetic. In the Northeast, most of the dances were done to the jigs and reels of the British, Irish and French Canadian traditions. In the South and here in the Midwest, most dancing was done to more southern, old-timey fiddle music. The West Coast is home to healthy examples of both traditions.

Useful Links

Here are some links which will explain contra dancing even more:

  1. A few definitions of contradancing from Gary Shapiro's web site.
    (Numbers 3 and 5 are perennial favorites)
  2. Tips for Beginners from the Columbia, MO web site
  3. Basic Dance Figures from the Columbia, MO web site
  4. Tips for Experienced Dancers from the Columbia, MO web site
  5. How to be a Great Contra Dancer from the Atlanta, GA web site
  6. Greg Rohde's article Hands Four.
  7. Contra Dance description from Wikipedia
  8. The Top Ten (plus) Things That Make a Good (Contra) Dancer from the Cincinnati web site.