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 - 14, 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 has been cancelled until further notice in accordance with the efforts to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Washington State has implemented a (very reasonable!) 'Phased Approach' to re-opening; we are currently in Phase 1, at least through the end of May. When we reach Phase 3 we will evaluate whether small concerts with "safe distancing" can take place at the Latvian Center. Unfortunately, we expect it will be much longer before dancing together can resume.


From Home to Home - NW Folklife Festival has a collection of recorded performances available now (or coming soon) from their Memorial Day weekend's virtual festival, including virtual contra dancing! Access the videos here

You can still contribute to the HUGE matching grant for "Warren's Roadhouse Dancers" through June 1st! Make your contribution of any amount go a LONG way with a dollar-for-dollar match, up to $20,000! Thank you, Luther Black, Mike Richardson, and many others!

The Lake City Contra Dance invites the Seattle dance community to join a stay-at-home virtual contra dance series on Zoom on Thursday nights!

Many of us are really missing contra dancing together during these days of corona-distancing. It may be a long time before we can have real dances, so the best we can offer for now are virtual dances with live-streamed musicians and callers, so we can dance together - but apart.

We are lucky to have fine musicians who share the same household willing to play for us, who have the right equipment at home for good-quality digital audio. We had a test Zoom with a callers in different locations; it works, and it's fun! We're also lucky to have great mentoring from folks with the North Bay Country Dance Society ( who have been hosting wonderful waltz events, concerts, and music workshops online.

Stay-at-home dances means that most of us will be either dancing solo or with a partner (some with multiple housemates might be able to have a small set). Of course virtual dancing isn't the same as being in each other's arms, but for me, and I hope for many of you, it lifts my spirits and keeps my dancing gyroscope tuned up.

The meeting ID and password will be posted on Sunday before each of our virtual Thursday night contra dances. At the session, everyone's mics, except for the musicians and caller, will be muted during the dances by the host, and un-muted between dances. There will be links so donations can go directly to the musicians and callers. The musicians will also give the names of the tunes, and the keys they are playing in, before each dance for anyone wanting to play along at home (muted, of course).

On Thursday, May 28, we'll be getting together virtually for another virtual contra dance! Primo fiddler Audrey Knuth (of Free Raisins, Audacious, & Wake Up Robin) will be cavorting with Ben Jaber on pipes & flute - wow, what a great duo! Caller Isaac Banner will get you happily out of your chair. The session starts at 7 pm, dancing is from 7:30-8:30 (each dance will be shorter than at a "real"dance), and there will be more time to chat until 9 pm.

Topic: Lake City Virtual Contra Dance 5/28/20
Time: May 28, 2020 07:00 PM Pacific Time (US and Canada)

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Meeting ID: 842 4241 7787
Password: 708279
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Please donate to the musicians and caller via OR Venmo @Audrey-Knuth OR by check to 2716 Landis Street, San Diego CA 92104

Schedule of musicians and callers for Lake City Virtual Contra Dances:

May 14-WB Reid & Bonnie Zahnow with caller Michael Karcher

May 21-"Dear Crow" (Brian Lindsay of "Countercurrent" & Penka Jane Culevski of "Try-Works") with caller Noah Grunzweig (Portland)

May 28-Audrey Knuth & Ben Jaber (CA Bay Area) with caller Isaac Banner

June 4-"Countercurrent" (Alex Sturbaum & Brian Lindsay) with caller Susan Michaels

June 11-Sande Gillette & Alan Roberts with caller Claire Takemori (CA)

Here are some hints for contra dancing with imaginary friends ("ghosts"), especially if you are dancing solo:

In your room, decide where is up the hall (usually where the music is) and across the set.

If you have difficulty following the calls without other people there, relax - you can still do the moves, and not worry where in the imaginary set you end up. Miss a move - so what? You won't throw anyone else off.

You may get dizzy while "swinging". Hold your arms up in imaginary ballroom position, and focus on your hand (in place of a partner's face).

To keep track of which role you are in (if that matters to you), end a (virtual) swing holding the (virtual) hand of the (virtual) person you (virtually) swung with.

If there is a couple on the screen walking through the dance, it is easier if you align yourself with the person dancing the same role as yourself.

Looking forward to "zoom-dancing" with you! Virtual hugs, and stay well - Sherry

Pass the word on! Continue to take precautions, and check for health updates: "Real" dances, bands and callers will be rescheduled as soon as possible. Please help the musicians by contributing what you can to the "tip jar" on the virtual dances, and purchasing their recordings directly from them or at online sites like cdbaby and band camp. Be safe, stay healthy.


Check out the Lake City Contra Dance channel on YouTube! More videos are coming!

The old driveway to the hall (from the intersection of NE 117th St & 3rd Ave NE) is now closed for the Sound Transit Light Rail construction. A large, well-lit parking lot has been built on the north side of the hall; access is now from NE 120th St off 5th Ave NE (see attached map). A one-way single-lane roadway wraps all the way around the building and connects with the new parking lot. There is a ramped, paved, lighted walkway to the north side door.

Contradance role terms have settled in as "LARKS & ROBINS" (as part of the evolution from "gents & ladies" and "larks & ravens"). For more info please read Larks & Ravens - open letter to Lake City Contra Dancers.

Contra Dance - Code of Conduct and Contra Dance - Safety & Consent Agreement


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 "larks & robins" (traditionally "gents & ladies") to refer to the positions of the people in the dance – in each couple,the "Lark"(traditionally "gent")is on the Left & the "Robin"(traditionally "lady") is on the Right. Unlike other social dances, either person in contra dancing can lead or follow depending on the figure. Just remember your own role label, and dance with whoever is coming towards you in line, regardless of their appearance.

∗ 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.

Last modified 05/27/20.