About Contra Dancing
What is Contra Dancing?
Contra dance is social interaction, meeting people, and making new friends, set to music.
A caller, usually working with a group of live musicians, guides new and experienced dancers alike through a variety of dances.
Contra is danced to Celtic, Quebecois, Old Time, New England, Southern Appalachian, Jazz, Blues, and all sorts of other music played by live bands. In a contra dance, parallel lines of dancers stand opposite -- or "contra to" -- their partners. A dancer and his or her partner form a couple.
A dancer and his or her partner dance a series of figures, or moves, with each other and with another couple for a short time. They then repeat the same figures with another couple, and so on. The figures are similar to those of old-time square dancing. The figures are combined in different ways for each different dance.
The caller teaches each dance before it is actually done to the music. This gives everyone an idea of what to expect so the movements can be easily executed. The caller leads the dances while they are being done to music, so dancers are able to perform each movement to the music. Once the dancers appear to have mastered a particular dance, the caller may stop calling, leaving the dancers to enjoy the movement with music alone.
People of all ages and lifestyles, including children, are welcome. Contra dances are a place where people from many walks of life come together to dance and socialize.
Worried About Being New At This?
Don't be. You are in good company -- we were ALL new to Contra at one time. Beginners are always welcome at Charleston Folk dances; prior experience is not expected. We offer a beginners' walk-through at 7:30 pm which is very helpful to first-time dancers. Experienced dancers are always happy to help you by partnering with newcomers. The most important thing is to have fun! So grab your dance shoes and come on over for your first (or second, or seventieth) dose of dance trance!
If you are worried about being the only young person around, don't be! There are plenty of middle, high school, and college students at all of our dances. Check out this cool video (below) made by dance photographer Steph Hodge, wherein dancers talk about their first impressions of contra dancing. See also these links: