Home > Contra Dancing > Lake City Contra/Old Time Country Dance

Every Thursday Night at the
Seattle Latvian Center

11710 3rd Ave NE

Free introductory workshop at 7:00pm

Dance 7:30 pm till 10:30 pm

Admission $8 - 12, kids & first-time contradancers free


Please respect the health needs of many dancers and come fragrance-free.
For more information call 206-525-0932.

The LAKE CITY CONTRA DANCE moved to the SEATTLE LATVIAN CENTER in January 2018: for directions check out Google maps or this map that shows which streets do and do not go through.

LARKS & RAVENS - Open letter to Lake City Contra Dancers - please read!

Schedule of bands and callers:

NOTE: The dance floor at the Latvian Center was refinished on Fri Sept 13. Built-in exhaust fans will be running round the clock every day, and all windows will be opened to air out the building. We may add box fans if needed for the Sept 19 dance.

Sept 19-Get energized when this fiery neo-Celtic band “The Nettles” rocks out! Laura Brophy, Kevin Johnsrude, Michael Proctor, & Brian Bucolo from Corvallis, OR cavort on fiddle, guitar, bass, & drums.   Supple caller Sarah VanNorstrand (Syracuse, NY) adeptly channels that wild energy. Role terms tonight will be "larks and robins" - see linked info.

Sept 26-Vermont’s own trad-roots power trio “Pete’s Posse” features master-of-many-genres, neo-folk icon Pete Sutherland, his ultra-talented young protégé Oliver Scanlon, and dynamic, versatile Tristan Henderson as they build excitement trading off on fiddles, mandolin, banjo, guitar, piano, & vocals!   Caller Suzanne Girardot brings a diverse array of great dances. Role terms tonight will be "gents & ladies". Also, we will celebrate September birthdays tonight!

Oct 3-Your spirits will soar high up above the clouds with “The Waxwings” (Jesse Partridge, Brian Lindsay, Alex Sturbaum, & Amy Englesberg on fiddle, guitar, accordion, & keyboard)! Tip-top caller Lindsey Dono gives us our wings! Role terms tonight will be "larks and robins" - see linked info.

Oct 10-Swing, swing, swing in fine style with “The Euphemists” (Paula Hamlin, Kaye Blesener, Jerry Nelson, Alan Snyder, Dave Goldman – Portland – sax, clarinet, trombone, flute, fiddle, guitar, keyboard, & percussion)! Doubly delightful callers Amy Wimmer & Martha Pidcock keep us in the mood!   Role terms tonight will be "larks and robins" - see linked info.

Oct 17-They’re so cool, they’re so hot, they’re “The Syncopaths” (Ryan McKasson, Jeff Spero, Ashley Broder, & Christa Burch – CA & WA – on fiddle, mandolin, keyboard, bodhran, & vocals)! Check ‘em out at Jacqui Grennan (CA) smoothly calls both exciting and elegant dances.   Role terms tonight will be larks and robins" - see linked info.

Oct 24-Special benefit dance for David Kaynor* with lively music from the “Contraries” (Mary Varnum & Olga Hauptman on fiddles, Will Brown on guitar, Marcy Kubbs on piano, & Frank Brown on bass)! Genial caller Eric Curl will use traditional role terms “gents & ladies” tonight. *David is an iconic and much-loved master contradance caller, musician, and composer from Montague, MA, who is intrepidly defying the ravages of ALS. Additional donations for him will be most welcome.

Oct 31-Halloween Dance – costumes encouraged! Portland’s popular “Jigsaw” (George Penk, Heather Pinney, & Dan Compton) thrills us with irresistibly spirited tunes played with zest on fiddles, guitar, accordion, & piano! Savvy caller Michael Karcher always chooses fascinating contras. Role terms tonight will be "larks and robins" - see linked info. Also, we will celebrate October birthdays tonight!

Nov 7-“The Janie Rothfield Band” - Janie Rothfield & her daughter Shona Carr from Staunton, VA are equally powerful rhythmic fiddlers and banjo players with an undeniable musical genetic connection that makes their sound ROCK! Seattle multi-instrumentalist WB Reid joins them for an evening of old-time and Celtic tunes that will move dancers all night long!   Caller John Gallagher will use traditional role terms “gents & ladies” tonight.

Nov 14-“Saving Daylight” (Brian Lindsay, Alex Sturbaum, Amy Englesberg – fiddle, accordion, guitar, keyboard); Craig Wolfe caller Role terms tonight will be "larks and robins" - see linked info.

Nov 21-“Faux Paws” (Noah VanNorstrand, Chris Miller and Owen Morrison – fiddle & feet, sax, banjo, guitar); George Marshall (MA) caller Role terms tonight will be "larks and robins" - see linked info.


Contra (or Old-Time Country) Dances feature dynamic LIVE music, energetic dancing, friendly camaraderie, and a strong sense of community. Contra/square dancing is great fun and great exercise - for all ages!

Here are some helpful hints and guidelines:

For Everyone:

∗ Contra dancing is traditional American folk dancing, derived from English and French country dancing. Couples stand in long lines. The caller “walks through” a pattern of figures before each dance begins, and prompts the moves as long as the dancers need it. Each couple dances the sequence with another couple, then progresses along the line to repeat it with new couples.

Anyone can ask anyone to dance - it’s “people’s choice”. It is customary (not mandatory!) to change partners for each dance. When invited to dance, it is ok to politely decline. There is no need to feel guilty or to make excuses. If you are turned down for a dance, take it in stride and seek another partner; don't harass anyone who has repeatedly declined to dance with you.

Callers use the terms"gents & ladies" (or "larks & ravens" or "larks & robins")to refer to thepositionsof the people in the dance – the "gent" (or lark) is on the left & "lady" (or raven, or robin) is on the right in each couple (unlike other social dances, either person in contra dancing can lead or follow depending on the figure). Dance with whoever is coming towards you in line, regardless of their gender.

∗ You don’t have to worry about footwork; justwalk smoothly, 1 step per beat of music.

Connecting with each other and with the music is the essence of contra dancing. When dancing with joined hands, keep your elbows bent, pull back slightly, just enough to keep an equal counterbalance – keep your fingers relaxed, don't squeeze hands or twist wrists.

Eye contact is another way we connect. Looking at each other will keep you from getting too dizzy – and it’s fun!!! If you're uncomfortable looking deeply into someone's eyes, you can look at their forehead, chin, ear…..

∗ In contra dancing, each figure fits with a musical phrase. It’s very satisfying to time each move so you can be ready to start the next in sync with the music, and with the other dancers!

∗ Learn the basics before trying to add fancy flourishes. Be respectful of each other’s needs and preferences: how fast to swing, adding extra twirls, how boldly to flirt…or not…

It's ok to make mistakes – no one is keeping score! People are friendly & everyone helps each other out. If you miss a figure, don’t worry about it - skip it and go on to the next.

Dancing in a way that hurts or disregards the safety or comfort of other dancers is NOT acceptable!!! If someone does something that hurts or makes you uncomfortable, let them know - be clear, direct, and specific – subtle hints are often ineffective. If you feel awkward or unsure about your dancing or social interactions – ASK!! Callers, dance coordinators, and many experienced dancers are willing and able to help.

∗ At the end of each dance remember to thank your partner and the band! Show your appreciation for the talent, skill, and dedication of our fabulous musicians & callers – applaud heartily!!!

For Experienced Dancers:

Please welcome newcomers - ask them to dance, and help them have a fun, satisfying dance experience! Two of you can approach new couples and offer to be their partners, but don't insist that they split up. Trust that their "neighbors" in the line will help.

∗ Give your full attention when the caller is teaching, thereby setting a good example for newcomers (even if you thoroughly know the dance).

∗ Help newer dancers to face the right direction, and keep verbal instructions to an absolute minimum. Point, gesture, tap on the shoulder, use other signals, or call their name. It is hard for newer dancers to listen to the caller, you, other dancers, and the music all at the same time.

Be considerate - refrain from extra twirls & spins, and high-speed swings with less experienced dancers. These are disorienting, slowing the learning process for your partner and for other newcomers for whom you are a role model.

∗ When helping other dancers, relax – be encouraging, and keep it light! It’s all about shared enjoyment, not perfection. Newcomers will learn faster and dance better when they are not anxious about their performance.

Be sociable and resist the urge to “book ahead”. Go to the sidelines & ask those sitting out if they would like to dance.

Please read footprints for a brief history of this dance series.

Webmaster: Matt Fisher (
Last modified 09/17/19.