Might I Suggest ... Contra Dance?
Posted on: 2008-02-21 12:27:14
by John Young
I had never heard of contra dance until my daughter's school started holding them. Every fall, all the kids, parents and teachers show up at the school for the annual dance. Needless to say, now I'm a big fan.
The weekend is coming. Might you have a couple of hours on Friday or Saturday night? If you do, you can probably find one near you here or here.
Yes, I know. Folks reading this site, especially the men (come on, admit it guys) aren't too fond of dancing. We either think we have two left feet, the dances are too complicated or we are just plain shy. Maybe we've seen just one too many (even one is one too many) John Travolta movies, and we know we just don't have the requisite moves. Maybe we've seen the way Fred Astaire or Gene Kelly could dance, and know we could never stack up.
Well, strap on your sneakers (yes, sneakers) because contra dancing isn't athletic, it isn't complicated and the folks doing the music actually tell you all along what moves to make and how to make them! Above all, for anyone older than 5, it's just plain fun. If you don't believe me, just look at these videos on Youtube. Here is one in Greenfield, MA and another in Arizona.
Yes, contra dance is a uniquely European-American folk dance that originated in New England from French, Celtic and English country dances. It's the kind of thing our great-grandparents did for entertainment back before television was invented.
With the big-band craze in the early 1900's, contra dance almost disappeared; but now it's back and all over the country. Take a moment and look at the videos I've linked above and any others you'd like. Look very carefully and you'll see something interesting: everybody is smiling, happy, and having a good time. This isn't stuffy or pretentious stuff. You'll also notice all age groups are represented. Yes, you might also notice something else worthwhile; which is only to be expected.
This is good, healthy, old-fashioned-but-new-again fun. Your family will enjoy it more than Hollyweird's latest propaganda, and it's less expensive too!
So ... what do you have planned for the weekend?
Some Questions and Answers from Newport County Community Contra Dance.
Q. What is the music like?
The music is live, and clearly Celtic-inspired, but everywhere has its own flavor added. Most of the bands consist of at least a guitar or piano and rapid fiddle music.
Q. Is it hard to learn?
Not hard at all. Dances are all taught by a caller who teaches the moves, and tells you as you go through each dance what to do. This simple method of teaching makes contra dancing very easy to pick up, and is especially helpful to seniors or younger children who might find memorizing moves difficult.
Q. What is all ages, really?
Contra dancing is unique in its ability to draw people of different ages together for a fun night. Contra dancing is energetic and a good source of exercise, but not hard to do or to learn. Adults and children, as well as a growing number of teens, enjoy contra dancing on a regular basis.
Q. Do I need a partner?
No. Contra Dances are "mixers" with frequent changes of partners, and people come either singly, or in couples or groups, sometimes whole families.