I love contra dancing for so many reasons and I highly recommend it as a way that anyone can enjoy dance!
1) It’s a painless way to start developing memory for choreography. It focuses on interesting, simple, pretty patterns. The movements are easy to learn and are called by a caller so you don’t have to remember them. Other people in the dance help you as you go, and making mistakes is just another way to laugh and enjoy the experience! The patterns themselves are awesome because they occur in two long lines that could in theory repeat infinitely! Someday I want to see a contra dance that extends across an entire city!
2) You get to hold a lot of people in your arms without getting too close. The stance is at arm’s length, allowing touch and motion through the hands and shoulders, without the overt intimacy of pelvic action. Due to the patterns in the dance, the people in your arms change every few seconds. You start and end the dance with a partner but you are encouraged to find a new partner with every dance.
3) Wonderfully jiggy live music is played, mostly English and Celtic folk tunes via acoustic instruments such as fiddle and guitar. Beautiful, both melodic & rhythmic, and intellectually stimulating as well as foot-tappingly fun! I usually sing along with a counterpoint.
4) It’s fantastic exercise that most anyone can do! Based on brisk walking, it is cardiovascular and can get as energetic as you like when you add creative hopping flair! People can do it pretty much lifelong and many elderly people become spritely on the dance floor.
5) Did I mention spinning, which is therapeutic for my ADD brain? Everytime you swing a partner, you get to spin! It’s easy to keep from getting dizzy though, by looking into your partner’s eyes- or at their ears if you’re shy!
Ashland, Oregon hosts a monthly contra dance, usually on third Saturdays. All ages attend. The next one is this Saturday, October 18th. Next dances are Nov. 15th and Dec. 13th. Instruction for beginners starts at 7 p.m. so you can learn things like what’s a do-si-do or an allemande left, and how to “swing” your partner. The dance itself begins at 7:30. The location is the Grove in Ashland, which is at the corner of East Main and Garfield St. $9, and you get a coupon for a free second attendance.
Swing you there!