The first thing to know about contra dances is that you don’t need to bring a dance partner or have any experience. Everyone dances with everyone, partners change around and there’s a welcoming culture in which people ask new partners all the time so everyone gets to dance as much as they want. Women can dance as men, or men as women, as required by the relative numbers. People of all ages enjoy it, and it is good exercise.
At a contra dance, couples line up facing each other, in a circle, or in groups of four. The caller facilitates a walk-through before the dance begins. The dance consists of figures – do si do, swing, circle left or right, left or right hand stars, partner swings, simple things like that, which the caller explains. The band plays Irish, Scottish and French-Canadian tunes. When the figures get put together into a dance to live music, it’s a lot of fun, even if you don’t know exactly what you are doing. When kids dance with the adults, it adds to the experience. When they run around and keep getting in the way, it detracts from the experience.
If you want more info, here’s a video: http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=how+to+contra+dance&FORM=HDRSC3#view=detail&mid=37537D1753CD6C025A1D37537D1753CD6C025A1D
We’re lucky to have a terrific live band that wants to play for contra dances: Rick Bockner on the guitar, Leonard Woywitka on the bass, Brian Hayden with his fiddle and Drivin on the accordion or piano. This band is currently known as One Foot in the Groove, and may soon be known as the Dopamines as well.
Our missing ingredient is a caller, and this Saturday we will have a great caller from Vancouver, Maureen Collier. I (Sarah Tonin) am testing the waters as a caller and will call a couple of the dances with Maureen there to bail me out.
With a great local band and a caller traveling up the learning curve, we will have the local capacity to dance away many a winter’s eve. We can even dance in other seasons too.
Here’s my contra dance testimonial: I love it. I contra danced during my family’s Vancouver years. It was fun from the first dance and the more I did it, the more fun it became. Sometimes it feels like community does when its working really well: moments of recognition with your neighbour before moving on, a combination of repetition and progression, a sense of being in the right place at the right time, a flow.
We hope to build a contra dance culture here on Cortes. Please join the fun this Saturday!