Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What kind of dance is the Round Hill Country Dances?
A: The Round Hill Country Dances is a New England contra dance.
Q: What is a New England contra dance?
A: A New England contra dance is an American traditional dance evolved from British and European folk dances. Modern contra dancing feature a caller, usually working with a group of live musicians, guiding new and experienced dancers alike through a variety of unique dances. For a more detailed description, see Gary Shapiro's definition.
Q: Do I need prior dancing experience to do contra dance?
A: Aspects of ballroom or other folk styles occur in contra dancing, but anyone can join in without any prior experience. Each dance features a walkthrough of the steps, and the caller will recite them periodically throughout the dance iself.
Q: Is this like line dancing?
A: Not really. Most country line dances are danced to country-western type music and mostly without a partner. Contra dancing is sometimes referred to as Old-Time Country Dance or a Barn Dance as many dances will include waltzes, polkas, or square dances as part of the event.
Q: Is this a western square dance like we learned in school?
A: No, although some of the square dance moves will be familiar (for example, the do-si-do). We sometimes will dance a traditional square or circle dance during the evening.
Q: If I'm a caller or band, how do I book a dance at Round Hill?
A: Contact Oliver Gaffney to make arrangements.
Q: What kind of shoes should I wear?
A: Bring a clean second pair of shoes to change into -- no street shoes please! This helps us keep the dance floor clean and free of scratches. Men and women wear flat, low-heeled shoes. Some people prefer to dance barefoot.
Q: What is the dress code?
A: Informal, but an an emphasis on nice and comfortable. Women tend to wear light, cool dresses. Men wear lightweight shirts and slacks; some wear shorts, and a few men even prefer to wear skirts. Jeans may be too hot and restrictive depending on the season. The dance hall can get quite warm even with windows open, so plan your outfit accordingly.
Q: What is the style of dancing like?
A: Dances vary in energy level from lively to aerobic, but you can dance at a personal energy level appropriate for you.
Q: Do you have live bands?
A: Yes, all our dances feature exciting, live bands.
Q: What age group typically comes to a dance?
A: Contra dances are enjoyed by ALL ages.
Q: Are there lots more women than men or vice versa?
A: Our dances tend to be well-balanced compared to other types of dances you may have been to. In the event of an inbalance, we keep a stash of ties of handy (see below) for dancers who can dance the opposite gender role.
Q: Can same-gender couples dance together?
A: Absolutely! Round Hill Country Dance is a welcoming, safe space for all dancers. Anyone is free to dance with whomever they choose -- and in whatever role they choose. For same-gender couples, we recommend the dancer in the opposite gender role (i.e. a woman dancing the gentleman's part) wear one of our ties to help with recognition by the other dancers, but it's not strictly required.
Q: Is there smoking or drinking at the dance?
A: Our dance is smoking and alcohol-free.
Q: Do you serve refreshments?
A: Water is available throughout the dance, and dancers always bring some tasty homemade snacks that are served at the break.
Q: Must I bring a partner to the dance?
A: No partner is required. Many dancers come by themselves, and oftentimes groups of friends will come together too. Come as you are!
Q: Can women ask men to dance?
A: It is a contra dance tradition for women to be able to ask men to dance. In fact, anyone can ask anybody to dance!
Q: If I dance with one person, should we dance every dance together?
A: We try to change partners after every dance so that we can better mingle with the dance community. However, it is not uncommon for married couples (or equivalent) to dance together several times in the course of the evening.
Q: What is a "figure"?
A: A figure is a short dance "step" or "move", sort of a choreographic building block. Most contra dances consist of a sequence of about six to twelve individual figures.
Contra Dances are generally done to tunes that are 32 musical bars (64 beats) long. The tunes usually have an A part and a B part, each of which is 8 bars (16 beats) of distinct music. The A and B parts are each repeated, to make a form that is described as AABB, with a total of 32 bars (64 beats). The dances are made up of sets of figures (such as forward and back, allemande, do-si-do) that are mostly 4, 8, or 16 beats long, strung together in a pattern that results in 32 bars (64 beats) of dancing. Once through the tune equals once through the dance.
The dancers dance the figures once through with their partners and neighboring couples, and then move on (progress) to a new couple and do the pattern all over again. The caller prompts the figures for as long as is necessary until the dancers can do it on their own. The band plays the music in this form until the caller decides to end the dance, generally after everybody has danced with the other couples (7-10 minutes or so).
Q: What are the names of the figures?
A: Here is a list of some of the figures:
Swing Your Partner
Long Lines Forward & Back
Right & Left Through
Hey For Four
Figure of Eight
Circle of Four
Turn as a Couple
Down the Hall Four In Line
Box the Gnat
Roll Away with a Half Sashay
The length of this list may seem daunting, but in fact many of these figures appear only rarely, so it's not necessary to know them all to enjoy contra dancing. The overwhelming majority of contra dances consist mostly or entirely of the first few of these figures. And as previously noted, the caller will walkthrough the steps for each dance and review the figures as necessary.
Q: It sounds like fun, what is the atmosphere like?
A: It is fun! Round Hill is a friendly community. Many people travel from all around the area to come to our beautiful and engaging dances.
Q: Can I take Mass Transit to the dance?
A: Yes, take Metro North to the Stamford train station. Take a taxi or bus to our dance. See the Directions page.
Q: Where do all the photographs and video come from? What if I don't consent to be included?
A: Our volunteer organizers take photos and/or video of the dance so that we have relevant material for our website, Facebook page, etc. We would be happy to exclude you from any media capture -- please let us know when you check in for the evening. In general, we do not do close up pictures of any dancers unless we have their consent, so you won't wind up with a candid or glamour shot unless you specifically pose for one.