dancing is a spirited form of American traditional dance. It draws
from many other forms of dance including square, round, Scottish and
English country, Appalachian, and European dances of the 1800s.
Dancers come from
all age groups. Kids, 'tweens, teens, young adults, "grown-ups"
and seniors can all become skilled and experienced dancers.
The origin of the name "contra" is lost in history. It may be a changed form of "country" dancing or it may have come from the Latin for "across" or "opposite".
Dancers line up facing their partner, forming long lines down the hall. The caller or dance leader teaches the dance before the music starts. This walk-through helps everyone learn the figures to be danced.
The figures are danced with the next couple in the line. The whole set of figures takes only 64 beats of music (about 30 seconds or so), and the last figure directs you and your partner to the next couple in the line. You begin the dance again with the new couple.
Part of the fun is that as a couple, you'll get to dance with everyone in the line. When you get to the end of the long line, turn around, trade places and get ready to dance your way back.
Most dances are best performed at a brisk walk in time with the music -- generally 115 to 130 beats per minute. The musicians will play a variety of jigs, reels, hornpipes and marches throughout the evening.
There is a break in middle of the evening, usually with light refreshments and snacks. The last musical number of each half is often a waltz.