couple dancing under oak

What is Contra Dancing?

For an evening filled with partner dancing and lots of fun, why not try contra dancing.  But what is contra dancing?  Contra dancing has been around since the 17th century and is a form of North American folk dancing.  Its style is similar to a square dance but in contra dancing, partners face each other in 2 parallel lines.

Contra dancing is similar to square dancing and is led by a caller.  The caller teaches the group the sequence of steps prior to starting.  During each contra dance, there can be anywhere from 6 to 12 steps, known as figures, to repeat.  Because the dance is performed in a line, the dancers will likely dance with each person in the opposite line at least once.

couple dancing under oak

During a contra dance, the arms and hands do most of the dancing in the sequences.  The fun of contra dancing is that each person can add their own flare to the move making it as grand or small as they want.  A few examples of the moves done in contra dance include the butterfly whirl, the courtesy turn, the gypsy, and the do-si-do.  In the butterfly whirl, the couples will turn around while holding on to each other’s waist.  In the courtesy turn, the gentleman takes the ladies left hand, and reaches behind the ladies back to grab her right hand and they turn around and he walks backward as she walks forward.  They gypsy move requires couples to look at each other in the eye and walk around each other without touching.  As many of these moves are done as couples, it is not necessary to be a part of a couple to enjoy contra dancing.  Since the dance is performed in a line, dancers will have the opportunity to dance with everyone.

Contra dancing is great for dancers of all skill level.  You do not need any previous experience of the choreography.  There are 20 basic moves to learn and the caller will explain and teach these at the beginning of the event.  Contra dancing can be fast paced at times and is a great aerobic workout.  Loose fitting clothing and comfortable shoes are recommended to wear while enjoying the dance.

The music that is used for contra dancing is usually stringed instruments with the fiddle being the most common.  Irish and Scottish music can be heard at contra dancing events, but guitars and mandolins can also be heard.

To find contra dancing events right here in Pennsylvania, check out the Folklore Society of Northeastern Pennsylvania.  Dances are held on the first Saturday of the month at 7:00 pm.  Dancers meet up at the Church of Christ Uniting in Kingston located on South Sprague Avenue.  A pot-luck dinner starts off the festivities of the evening at 6:00 pm.  Each guest is asked to bring a dish to share.  This location is just an hour away from us here in Hawley at The Settlers Inn.  We would love to have you stay with us when you’re visiting the region.  We’ve got beautiful and spacious guest suites and cozy common areas to curl up and relax.  The holidays are a great time to visit us as the Inn is decorated for the season and the fireplace makes a great spot for sipping an evening nightcap.  For reservation information, please call us at 570-226-2993.