Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Contra Dancing Has Nothing To Do With Oliver North

What is contra dancing? a dance with Oliver North? Au contraire.

Contra dancing is a blend of English country dancing and square dancing. A dancer and his or her partner dance moves with each other and with other nearby couples. The dance is repeated again with new couples, as the couple progresses down the lines. Each contra dance is a bit different.

Eye contact with the person who's whirling you around adds an element of chemistry to the dance, and best of all, so doing will keep you from getting dizzy or throwing up. Sometimes couples dress in English country dress to enhance the experience. Part of the fun is changing partners for each new dance, unless you go with someone very special, that is, and maybe not even then.

The live band at contra dancing is usually a couple of fiddlers, flute, and guitar, but may range to the more exotic fife, washtub bass, and whistle. Even harmonica.
The last couple of Wasatch Wiggles Contra Dancing events I've attended have been well attended, to the point where the elegant and well-appointed Ladies Literary Society building in downtown Salt Lake City has been bustling with dancers. There was not much room for "wall flowers." The caller asked us to make three sets of two lines and every line extended from the front to the back of the dancing room.

Contra dancing is fun, but frustrating at times, if you are not "getting" the moves or your partner can't tell right from left. Still, anyone with reasonable coordination and a sense of humor will have a great time contra dancing. You may feel as if you've stepped back in time to the English countryside of old.

People oft bring children to contra dancing events, although contra dancing is probably best suited for age 10 and above. Isn't that the age when we learned square dancing in school?

To find a contra dancing group in your area, visit the Country Dance and Song Society website. You may want to go "test drive" a contra dance event first, but after you are there, you will be hooked either as a spectator or better yet, spinning around with your next partner.

Photography was weak ... I was using a borrowed camera without sufficient training. The You Tube video is courtesy of Wasatch Wiggles, the local contra dancing organization in Salt Lake City.

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