What is a contra dance?
Most community/country dances are a mix of circle, square and longways set (contra) dances. These are dances that one can attend without a partner, in fact you are encouraged to change partners frequently.
Circle dances are often “mixers” where you change partners each time the dance and tune start again.
The square dance form is widely known in North America. A typical square has four couples (two head couples, two side couples). Some are “partner keep” dances. Others are mixers. The movement patterns of the dance can range from simple to quite complex.
Contra dances are done in long lines. The dancers form couples, and the couples form sets of two couples in long lines starting from the stage and going down the length of the dance hall. Throughout the course of a dance, couples progress up and down these lines, dancing with each other couple in the line.
All of these dances are done using a simple walking step usually punctuated by a partner or neighbour swing. The dances are led by a caller who teaches the sequence of figures in the dance before the music starts, then continues to prompt this sequence of figures.
Above all, the goal is to connect with your partner and the other dancers in your set, and with the rhythm of the live music, and to smile and have fun.