How to Contra Dance

For those who don't know, contra dancing a a great form of exercise that you can do on your own, with friends, or with a significant other. The people are great to be around, and it's a great atmosphere to just let loose and be yourself. It's great fun and easy to learn!


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    Show up to the dance up to 30 minutes early because some places have instructional periods before the dance actually begins. These beginner lessons will usually be mentioned on the flier or the website for the organization running the dance.
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    When people start to show up, don't hide from them, be social. Contra dancers are friendly people who are more than willing to help beginners find their rhythm.
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    Decide who will be the 'woman' once you have found your partner. It's acceptable for women to dance with women and men to dance with men. Some places will have ties that the women can wear to denote that they are dancing the male part. In addition, some male dancers wear skirts to show that they are willing to dance the female parts.
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    With your partner, line up in which ever set (line of dancers) needs more couples.
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    Listen. All dances are led by a caller, or somebody telling the dancers what moves to do- listen to what the caller is saying.
    • The dance will be walked through one or two times before the music starts, pay close attention to what you need to do.
    • Be aware of who your neighbor is for each part of the dance.
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    Once the music starts, don't be afraid to make mistakes. Your partner will be there to help you.
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    After the dance is over, slightly bow to your partner and thank him or her for helping you with your first dance!


  • Try to be partnered with somebody who is experienced with your first dance, otherwise you will be nothing better than the blind leading the blind.
  • Avoid apologizing as a beginner, because you might not always be the one making mistakes. Even the most experienced contra dancer misses their cue or misunderstands the instructions from time to time.
  • If you are dancing on a gym floor, avoid rubber-soled shoes as they tend to stick.
  • During swings, people dancing the female part should look the person swinging them in the eye so they don't get dizzy.
  • Some dances and specific dance moves are harder than other ones. If you need to walk through a dance once more before the music starts, let the caller know and he or she should accommodate you.
  • Wear what is comfortable for you. Jeans are fine, but skirts make spinning that much more fun.
  • Eye contact is also crucial for another move -- the gypsy.
  • Try to attend your first dance with someone you know, preferably someone who has been in the group for a while and knows the experience levels of the other dancers.
  • Dancers tend to be barefooted or wearing comfortable shoes. It is difficult to dance in flip flops.

Things You'll Need

  • comfortable clothes and shoes

Article Info

Categories: Dancing