Introduction to Contra Dance
- What is "contra dancing"?
- It is an evening of fun, featuring dancing in "sets" of about a dozen
couples. You interact with your partner, and everyone else in the set
too, as you dance with easy walking steps to energetic LIVE
music. A caller first explains the movements and then prompts you during
the dance (as in square dancing). Contra dance is descended from
English Country dance and
has been done in this country since before the revolution.
In fact, George Washington was a contra dancer. Contra dance is similar
to square dancing, but is done in long lines of couples (like the Virginia
Reel) rather than in squares. An evening might also feature square dances
and couple dances (waltzes and polkas, for instance).
- What happens during a dance?
- You, the other dancers, the musicians, and the caller aim for an evening
of low-pressure, yet often energetic, camaraderie. Come alone or with
others; we ask new partners for each of the dozen dances during the
- How do I join in the fun?
- You will be part of a living tradition passed on by the experienced
dancers helping the newcomers. It's best to join in the very first
dance of the evening with an experienced partner (if possible). Getting
started by letting other dancers guide you is much more effective than
- What do I need to participate?
- Energy and Enthusiasm! Wear cool, comfortable clothes -- usually a sports
shirt and slacks for men, a skirt and blouse for women. To protect
the wooden floor, we ask dancers to bring a separate pair of clean,
soft-soled shoes. Admission is $5 per person. A slightly higher price
may be charged for special events.
- Where and when are the dances?
Urbana Country Dancers
dance from 8-11 pm on the 1st and 3rd Friday's of each month with some
occasional dances on Saturdays. Most dances are
at the Phillips Recreation Center, 505 W. Stoughton, Urbana.
Text adapted from a flyer produced by
NEFFA -- The New England
Folk Festival Association
For more information or to subscribe to the
Urbana Country Dancers'
email list, mail
Jonathan Sivier at:
For a related dance form try
English Country dance,
Central Illinois English Country Dancers
Last updated on July 6, 2009