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Most important - RELAX - it's just a dance. We are here to have fun.

Here are some hints to start. If you make a mistake, laugh and catch up to the next move.

  • New dancers should seek out experienced dancers as partners, especially for their first several dances. If you brought a date, give each other a present by dancing with others for a while to learn the basics from experienced partners. You'll then be able to have more fun dancing with each other. Please read this paragraph again!

  • Asking others to dance. In contra dance, we usually change partners after each dance, even if we came with a partner or spouse.  Experienced dancers are happy to dance with new dancers and are pleased if you ask them to dance.  Just walk up and say, “Would you like to dance?”  If they say no, it likely means they have said yes to someone else already.

  • Dance mentorship. Contra dances depend on everyone moving together.  Experienced dancers will help you find your spot by calling out moves, pointing, or even giving a gentle push.  This isn't criticism; they're helping you.  Smile and go with it!

  • The pre-dance lesson.   Feel free to attend the introduction multiple times.  You'll learn new things each time, especially after experiencing a few dances.

  • Contra dancers make eye contact whenever possible. This builds connection and reduces dizziness, especially during the swing. However, some people are uncomfortable with it, especially at first. Eye contact is optional, but do give it a try. Eye contact (and even flirting, etc.) during a dance means nothing more than two people enjoying a short time together. Remember: what starts on the dance floor stays on the dance floor.

  • The Swing. Contra dance's flagship move is a spin in ballroom position.  Develop a good swing and people will want to dance with you!  Experienced dancers are eager to give you pointers, so ask, and try them when they're given whether they're requested or not.

    • Hand position.  The man's right hand goes on the lady's back on or just below the bra strap, placed to support her weight in the spin.  The woman’s left arm goes on top of his arm and around his shoulder with the hand wherever it lands.  If she can reach behind his shoulder, she should support the spin as well, but don't stretch to reach if you are much smaller than he is.  The other hands touch lightly.  Their arms should be tensed, with elbow bent, creating a “frame.”
    • The spin.  Rotate the frame to your left, placing your right foot down on every odd beat, parallel to your partner's.  Left feet can walk or “buzz step” (ask for a demo).  Do not bounce!  That's for (bad) movies.  Rotate as smoothly as you can, like a merry-go-round. Leaning left asks to go faster, right asks to decelerate. If you easily get dizzy, say, “spin slowly” when you start.
    • Giving weight.  Keep your upper body straight and lean out to give your partner a feeling of connectedness. Your arms hold you together; if you let go you should fly apart (so don't!).  It's a tension between the two people - you can feel that there's someone there.  Look at each other!  If they're smiling, you're doing fine.  If not, ask.
    • Balance and swing.  Take hands, two steps forward, two steps backward, swing.
- adapted from information created by Gary Shapiro - to explore further use the More about Contra Dancing link

"A contra dance is like an amusement park ride we make for ourselves." --Unknown  -