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.

March 02 2015 
English Country Dance
Free New Dancer orientation at 7:45 Tom Spilsbury calls to Jeff Steinberg (violin), Robin Wilson (flute, concertina), and Ben Hobbs (piano)
 
March 04 2015 
Square/Contra Dance
Jack Mitchell calls to Contra Mantra: Ryck Kaiser (fiddle), Bruce Campbell (bass), and Jill Smith (piano).
 
March 07 2015 
Gentle English Dance
Caller, Susan Taylor
Musicians, Emily Aubrey (violin), Brian Cardell (recorders), Ben Hobbs (piano).
 
March 08 2015 (Member Sponsored) 
Waltz Practicum
Waltz lovers, please join us for an open practicum. The format is very simple: there's a dance floor and there's waltz music playing on the stereo. The rest is up to you. http://tinyurl.com/waltz-practicum.
 
March 09 2015 
English Country Dance
April Blum calls to Elke Baker (violin), David Crandall (flute, saxophone), and Jonathan Jensen (piano, etc.)
 
March 11 2015 
Square/Contra Dance
Maia McCormick calls to Mat Clark (fiddle) and Dave Wiesler (piano, guitar).. New dancer orientation at 7:30 pm.
 
March 14 2015 
Family Dance
Band: Devine Comedy with John Devine (Guitar), Marty Taylor (Whistles and Concertina), Steve Hickman (Fiddle and Harmonica)

Caller: DeLaura Padovan

 
March 14 2015 
State of the Society Meeting
The 2015 State of the Society meeting will be held at St Marks on the Hill. Current members who come for the meeting will get into the dance Free.