What is contra dance? Print

Contra dance is a high energy, non-competitive social dance form done to live roots-based music.  The word “contra” refers to the formation of the dances in lines that are “opposite” to each other.  The dances resemble madcap English country dances and require fast reflexes.  Each dance is taught briefly, so no experience is needed; however, we recommend that newcomers attend the 30-minute orientation session that precedes each evening’s dance.  It is not necessary to bring a partner.  Wear comfortable clothes and shoes. (Thanks to Bill Hixson for some descriptive language)   


In a contra dance, you, your partner, and another couple dance a 32-bar phrase of simple figures done with a smooth walking step, then progress onto another couple and repeat the phrase. It's about the geometry, the patterns, not the footwork. The dance phrase progresses you and your partner along the set to other couples. Everyone dances the entire time. A set may consist of a handful of couples or of twenty or more couples.

This is a technical definition of the form. Most contra dancers would consider it inadequate to convey the experience of the dance itself.