Contra dancing is a form of folk dancing similar to ceilidh or barn dancing,
and is a great way to spend an evening! You dance each dance with a partner
and a long line of other couples, giving you a chance to meet everyone in the room.
There’s live music, and lots of twirly skirts and smiling faces. You can come by
yourself, with a partner or with a group of friends. We change partners between each
dance, so it’s a great opportunity to meet new people. The dances are simple
sequences of moves which involve no special footwork and are easy to learn.
Each dance is explained before it starts and we have a brief practice without music.
Once the music starts, the caller (instructor) keeps prompting over the music to
keep everyone in time.
Here are a couple of videos from some of our previous events:
Contra dancing is great for:
* Socialising and making new friends
* Enjoying dancing to live music
* Getting some exercise
* Dancing with a partner but also getting to meet everyone in the room
Contra dancing is done to live music, giving the dancing energy, lift
and drive. We have a different live band for each event, so every
night has a unique character. We dance to folk tunes old and new from
America and beyond.
As well as a band, every evening has a caller. The caller teaches and
explains the dances, so that you don’t need any prior knowledge to
join in. The caller announces and dance and explains how to get into
position for the start of the dance. The caller explains the sequence
of moves and we practice it briefly without music. Once the music
starts, the caller keeps prompting over the music to keep everyone in
time and to remind you which bit comes next.
Each dance consists of a simple sequence of between four and eight
moves. These include swings, where you get into ballroom hold and
rotate, and dosidos, where you walk around someone keeping facing in
the same direction. You might do a hey, where you weave in and out,
or a California twirl, where the lady twirls under the gent’s arm.
Each move (or they’re sometimes called figures) is easy to pick up,
and there’s no footwork to learn. The figures run together into one
beautifully flowing dance, and very quickly become muscle memory. You
will be surprised at how soon it all becomes second nature.
You, your partner, your set
In contra dancing, you have a partner which stays the same over the
course of the dance. But within each dance you also connect with
other dancers in the hall. Here’s how. You and your partner will be
in a long line of other couples. Each turn through the dance you
progress along the line. You keep your partner, but get a new
neighbour. You do some moves with your partner, some with your
neighbour, some with your neighbour’s partner, and some with all four
of you working together. Then you move along to a new couple and do
it all again. You don’t need to remember the sequence of moves –
that’s the caller’s job! Dancing this way lets you connect with lots
of people at once, without even needing to changes partners –
although finding a new partner for each dance is encouraged.
At each evening you can expect to dance with a variety of people. We
have dancers of all ages, and degrees of dancing experience. You can
expect to dance with people who have just turned up to their very
first contra dance, and with people who have been contra dancing their
whole lives. What we all have in common is that we love contra and
love to meet new dancers.
What to wear and what to bring
Contra dancing is great exercise! We suggest wearing flat, comfy
shoes. Loose, comfortable clothing is good: twirly skirts, t-shirts,
breathable trousers are all popular choices. It’s also a good idea to
bring a bottle of water.