by Marjorie Matthews
always welcome to come to a dance. Here are some things you may be
you consider attending your first contradance.
What should I wear?
Folk dancing is great exercise, and it is a good workout, and so don’t
in winter you don’t want to wear a sweater, sweatshirt, or long
often enjoy dancing in a skirt, as skirts flow to the music. Broomstick
are common. T-shirts are common dress. Don’t worry about what to wear –
is no special costume, just be comfortable. You probably will get
sweaty as you
What about shoes – do dancers have special
Since we dance on
hardwood floors, many people bring a separate pair of shoes from the
they wear to the dance. Clean off any grit from outside that might be
soles of your shoes and could damage the floor. If possible, it is
not to dance in shoes with rubber soles, as these are harder on your
ankles, knees and hips. But people have danced in socks, barefoot, in
shoes or whatever. If you get into dancing you might purchase a pair of
dance shoes. Some people dance in bowling shoes, because they have
What if I don’t know how to dance, and end
up doing it wrong?
not difficult. It is said that if you know right from left, can walk,
count to eight, that’s all you need. At the beginning of a dance there
basic instructions for new dancers, and a chance to practice a little.
the evening every dance is taught – a caller does a walk-though before
dance and then calls the steps for the first several times through.
Contradances are repetitive; you do the same set of steps over and over
you don’t get it at first, you have lots of opportunities to practice.
are very welcoming, and they will help you and not expect you to know
what you are
doing. Everyone attended their first dance at some point. It is about
fun, not about making no mistakes. No one will glare at you if you
goof, or are
headed in the wrong direction. There’s lots of smiling at dances.
What if no one asks me to dance? I don’t want to feel like a
Dancers will ask
you to dance – you won't be sitting on the sidelines. You don’t need to
a partner. And if you do come with a partner, it is a good idea to
split up and
each dance with more experienced dancers. Two brand new dancers can't
other. The etiquette at contradances is that for every dance people
partners and dance with someone else, even if you do come with a
partner. It is
part of the fun to dance with many different partners.
Can I just watch and listen to the music
until I see how it works?
not a spectator sport; it is participatory. People will ask you to
dance if you
are sitting on the sidelines. They will encourage you to join in and
your feet – it is more fun to dance than to watch. The music is always
by live musicians; the band is usually three or more people playing
guitars, and maybe a banjo, mandolin, bass, or piano. It is lively, fun
music, and you
will want to get up and move to it!
What should I expect?
start at 8 pm, with a half hour of instruction from 7:30-8. They
about $6 for the evening. The musicians are set up before you get
caller will provide the instruction for new dancers at the beginning,
will ask people to get a partner and form lines. The same caller calls
evening. The caller will walk everyone through each dance before the
kicks in. Each dance lasts about 15 to 20 minutes. People look like
having fun! Dancers are of all ages – anywhere from 20s to 70s (and
younger, or older than that.) Sometimes the caller will do a square
but more usually a contradance (two lines of couples, half the couples
moving to the top
of the set, and half moving to the bottom of the set.) The dances fit
rhythm of the music, and everything is set in phrases of eight – you
can hear this in
the beat, and can tell when it is time to do the next move. If you need
a break, you certainly can sit out, and talk to people. Sometime
9:30 and10 there is usually a break for about 15 minutes. Dances
between 11 and 11:30 on weekends, and end by 10 on week nights, and
people go out afterwards to socialize. Dancing is a community event;
come regularly and get acquainted. Locally we hold dances on Tuesday
and Saturday evenings. They are not always held at the same location,
dance website for details. Another tip: bring
a waterbottle – you will get