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.

September 17 2014 
Square/Contra Dance
Chestnut Night! Local callers call chestnuts such as Chorus Jig, Petronella, Rory O'More, and Money Musk. Music provided by Devine Comedy - Marty Taylor (whistles, concertina), Steve Hickman (fiddle), and John Devine (guitar).
 
September 20 2014 
Gentle English Dance
Bob Farrall, calling, with Emily Aubrey on violin, Robin Wilson on
concertina and flute, and Ben Hobbs on piano.
 
September 20 2014 (Member Sponsored) 
Baltimore Square Dance
8-11 pm at Mobtown Ballroom. Live music from Coracree String Band (Jane Rothfield, Bill Quern, Sarah Gowan and Allan Carr), with calling by Shane Knudsen.
 
September 22 2014 
English Country Dance
April Blum calls to Edie Stern (violin), Robin Wilson (flute, concertina), and Judy Meyers (piano)
 
September 24 2014 
Square/Contra Dance
Kappy Laning calls to the Baltimore Open Band. New dancer orientation at 7:30 pm.
 
September 25 2014 (Member Sponsored) 
BFMS Open Sing
7:30-9:30 PM, in the back room at the Wharf Rat in Fells Point
 
September 28 2014 
Fourth at Four
Storytelling at Towson Unitarian Universalist Church
 
September 29 2014 
English Country Dance
Tom Spilsbury calls to Becky Ross (violin), Heather Martley (flute), and Jonathan Jensen (piano, etc.)