Tips for Beginners
The Round Hill Dancers want you to know that newcomers are WELCOME and IMPORTANT. We hope you have a good experience on the dance floor and come back for more!
1. Have fun! It's only a dance. Don't be nervous about making mistakes when learning to contra dance. Every person on the dance floor was a beginner at one time, and even experienced dancers make mistakes.
2. If you didn’t get here in time for the Beginner Session (1/2 hour before each dance), we highly recommend that newcomers attend several of these. You'll catch on more easily and have a lot more fun.
3. Men and women are equal on the contra dance floor. Men ask women to dance and women ask men - equally. So don’t wait around for someone to ask you.
4. Most contra dancers dance with a different partner each dance. So when a dance ends, find a new partner (whether you know them or not) and jump back in there.
5. It's usually a good idea for two newcomers NOT to dance together the first couple of dances. Ask an experienced dancer to dance with you. Most dancers will be glad to help you out with what to do and where to move. But you can particularly look for the people on the Welcome Committee, who are wearing a badge.
6. The caller will "walk-thru" each dance before the dance actually begins. If you can, try to get near the top of a line, to hear the caller better. However, it is not considered good "contra etiquette" to jump in the middle or top of an already- formed line.
7. It's important to be on time for each move in contra dancing. If you and your partner get off track, it's better to skip that move and try to get to the next move on time.
8. There is no fancy footwork in contra dancing. A smooth walking step is good. You'll probably want to keep things simple when first learning -- you don’t have to copy those experienced dancers who are doing extra twirls.
9. How not to get dizzy: Look at the person you’re dancing with, not out into the room.Eye contact is fun too.
10. Come back! It usually takes a few dance sessions before new dancers feel really comfortable.
Still on the fence about joining in on the fun? Here's a testimonial from a first-time dancer, Chris Fountain:
"Although the history is murky, the name “Contra Dance” probably began life in 17th Century England as “Country Dance”. The dance form was adopted by those cheese-eating surrender monkeys, the French, who changed the name to contre dance and tried to claim it as their own. Ha!
Or so says the Oxford English Dictionary (sort of). Regardless of the difficulty in tracing its name, however, the dance itself is rather simple to describe: dancers form a series of lines next to each other, males alternating with females. A “caller”, backed by musicians –a fiddle, often a clarinet or accordion and other instruments, depending on the style of the band – explains each new dance’s moves – usually four different moves to a cycle, or about 30 seconds spent with each partner. The dance couples practice by completing the moves – the final is a spin - and then switch partners, with the male moving down the line, the female up. When everyone is somewhat confident that they know what they’re doing, the caller strikes up the band (which plays reels and jigs) and the dance begins.
Often, there is a lot of confusion at first, especially when the lines are filled with inexperienced dancers like this writer. But by the time everyone has worked through the line, their moves are less awkward and fewer mistakes are made. So, moving back down the line a second time the dancers really begin to have fun; they don’t have to think so carefully about what they’re supposed to do and can just enjoy the music and the movement. Of course, when that dance finally ends, everyone has to learn a new series of moves for the next one. Life is like that.
Its fun, great exercise (you’ll be sore for days), a teens-to-octogenarian activity and you can find it right here in town at the Round Hill Community Church where they’ve been holding such dances the second Saturday of every month since 1974. By tradition, and because many of the earlier dancers were Brunswick and Daycroft grads who wanted to see their friends, there is also a Thanksgiving weekend dance, tomorrow 8:00, with a beginners’ class at 7:30 (there’s an “experienced dance” from 4-6 but if all this is new to you, you probably aren’t going to that).
- Youth Flock to Contra Dancing
- NPR News (02 July 2010)