General Information - Contra Dancing


Some Pictures

What is Contra Dancing?

Contra Dancing is a form of North American folk dance in which the dancers form two sets of parallel lines which run the length of the hall. Each dance consists of a sequence of moves that ends with couples having progressed one position up or down the set (in a few dances the couple progresses two positions). As the Sequence is repeated, a couple will eventually dance with every other couple in the set. Contra Dancing was all the rage in 1800.

Is Contra Dancing similar to square dancing?

Many of the basic moves in Contra Dancing are similar to those in square dancing (swings, promenades, dos-a-dos, allemandes). A square dance set comprises only four couples whereas the number of couples in a Contra Dance set is limited only by the length of the hall. To join a set, all you need is a partner. If you have danced squares, you will enjoy Contras immediately.

What if I have never danced before?

In Contra Dancing, your feet are never asked to do more than walk to the music. Each dance is taught by the caller before it is danced. The caller continues to prompt the dancers as needed. Because the pattern of moves of each Contra Dance is repeated often, Contra Dances are easy to learn. Both beginning and experienced dancers happily share the same set.

Why should I dance Contra?

Contra Dances have a relaxed, family-like atmosphere where the emphasis is on dancing, a welcome relief to noisy and smoky dance halls. The patterns of the dances are nifty. Contra Dancing is excellent exercise that you can take at you own pace. Above all, Contra Dancers form a community of friendly, active people and they welcome new dancers, be they youngsters or seniors. Most dancers range from 25 to 50 years old.

What if I don't have a partner?

No problem. Many people come to a Contra Dance 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.

Do I need to wear special clothes?

No. Contra Dancers tend to dress informally. Most people dress for comfort and in anticipation of vigorous exercise. Ladies prefer loose, light dresses or skirts; men wear lightweight 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 on both sides of the Atlantic form the basic repertoire. The fiddle is often the lead instrument.

Written by Les Francey and Farrell Boyce, Hamilton Country Dancers.



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The Baltimore Folk Music Society is funded by an operating grant from the Maryland State Arts Council, an agency dedicated to cultivating a vibrant cultural community where the arts thrive.

Coming up:

See our Events page for a complete listing of events and details.

November 23 2014 
Tellabration!
Save the Date! Baltimore's 18th Annual Tellabration! will held on Sunday, November 23 at Irvine Nature Center in Owings MIlls, MD from 2 to 5.
 
November 23 2014 
Fourth at Four
Join us in November at Tellabration!
 
November 24 2014 
English Country Dance
Carl Friedman calls to Tina Chancey (violin), David Crandall (flute, sax), and Jonathan Jensen (piano, etc.)
 
November 26 2014 
Square/Contra Dance

Melissa Chatham calls to Wombats: Carl Friedman (fiddle), Charlie Pilzer (piano), Robin Wilson (flute, concertina). New dancer's workshop at 7:30 pm.



 
November 27 2014 
Thanksgiving Burn off the Calories Dance
The annual Thanksgiving Burn Off the Calories dance. Open Band led by Liz Donaldson. Open Mic for callers. Contra, English and Squares. 8PM to 10:30 PM at St Marks on the Hill. Bring your left over deserts to share.
 
December 01 2014 
English Country Dance
Free New Dancer orientation at 7:45

Ann Fallon calls to Carl Friedman (violin), Marty Taylor (winds, concertina), and Karin Loya (cello)
 
December 03 2014 
Square/Contra Dance
Perry Shafran calls to Perpetual e-Motion: Ed Howe (electric fiddle) and John Cote (guitar, digideridoo, vocals).
 
December 08 2014 
English Country Dance
Sharon McKInley calls to Jeff Steinberg (violin), Robin Wilson (flute, concertina), and Jonathan Jensen (piano, etc.)