At the Lake City Contra/Old-Time Country Dance you’ll find 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! An optional, free introductory workshop is offered at 7:30 pm every week.
Here are some helpful hints and guidelines:
- 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.
- Come with or without a partner. It is customary (but not mandatory) to change partners after each dance. Anyone can ask anyone to dance – it’s “people’s choice”.
- Callers use the terms “ladies & gents” to refer to the roles of the people in the dance, regardless of who is dancing each role (unlike other social dances, in contra dancing either person can lead or follow depending on the figure).
- You don’t have to worry about footwork; just use a smooth walking step, 1 step per beat of music.
- The essence of contra dancing is connecting with each other, and with the music. When holding hands, keep your elbows bent and pull back slightly – just enough to maintain an equal counterbalance – without squeezing hands or twisting wrists.
- Eye contact is another way we connect. Looking at each other will keep you from getting too dizzy when you’re going round & round – and it’s fun! If you’re uncomfortable looking deeply into someone’s eyes, you can look at his/her forehead, chin, ear – somewhere in the vicinity of the face.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Refrain from extra twirls & spins, and high-speed swings with less experienced dancers. These can be disorienting, slowing the learning process for your partner, as well as 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.
- Be respectful of each other’s needs and preferences: how fast to swing, using extra twirls, how boldly to flirt…or not…
- 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.
- 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.
- If someone does something that hurts or makes you uncomfortable, don’t hesitate to let them know! Be clear, direct, and specific – subtle hints are often ineffective. If needed, ask the dance coordinator for assistance.
- Contra dancing can be aerobic. Fellow dancers appreciate that you bring an extra shirt (or 2) if your dance “glow” tends to be damp, especially during hot weather.
- At the end of each dance remember to thank your partners, and the band! Show your appreciation for the talent, skill, and dedication of our fabulous musicians & callers – make some noise!
The Lake City Contra/Old-Time Country Dance is an affiliate of the Country Dance and Song Society, a nonprofit organization founded in 1915 to promote American and English folk dance, music and song. This dance is run entirely by volunteers. We are eternally grateful for help with setting up and putting away chairs, lamps, quilts, and fans; taking a turn at the front desk; sweeping the floor; and spreading the word about contradancing! Your comments and suggestions are always welcome.