What is Contra Dance?
Contra dancing is a type of folk dance similar to, but in fact older than, square dancing. In Contra Dance, couples interact with other pairs in long lines of couples, and end up eventually dancing a turn with almost everyone in the line.
An experienced person "calls the dance", instructing dancers with a practice dry run or "walk through", and then continuously calling throughout the dance along with the music. The caller keeps the beat and drives the dance, reminding dancers of the moves they practiced in the "walk through". A particular dance might last ten minutes or so, and the practiced moves are repeated every 64 beats, so dancers do the same set of moves repeatedly. Perhaps dancers will get to repeat the moves a dozen times or more with other couples up and down the line. When that dance is over, you thank your partner, invite someone else to dance, and quickly line up ready for a new dance.
Contra Dance is very easy for beginners as one is taught essentially everything one needs to know for each dance. The lesson is important and covers the basics and throughout the night the caller will add details if the particular dance demands it. Between dances one can refine and clarify by asking experienced dancers to demonstrate steps and moves. During the evening, the caller prompts you throughout the actual dance, and you are always with a group of four people --so someone is bound to be able to help keep your group straight! Everyone gets mixed up sometime or another, but it is no big deal, and while you'll always want to try and improve and avoid gumming things up, a mistake can be part of the fun.
There's usually a large and friendly crowd, so it's easy to find a partner if you fly solo. Couples are encouraged to split up for some dances and dance with other people --it's just a dance! The point is to have fun and see that everyone else is having fun, too!
Here's a tip --don't wait to be asked to dance. It is even OK to ask someone for a future dance --just remember you made that date! Best not to get too far ahead of yourself.
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