fiddler & dancers Introduction to Contra Dance

What is "contra dancing"?
It is an evening of fun, featuring dancing in "sets" of about a dozen couples. You interact with your partner, and everyone else in the set too, as you dance with easy walking steps to energetic LIVE string band music. A caller first explains the movements and then prompts you during the dance (as in square dancing). Contra dance is descended from English Country dance and has been done in this country since before the revolution. In fact, George Washington was a contra dancer. Contra dance is similar to square dancing, but is done in long lines of couples (like the Virginia Reel) rather than in squares. An evening might also feature square dances and couple dances (waltzes and polkas, for instance).

What happens during a dance?
You, the other dancers, the musicians, and the caller aim for an evening of low-pressure, yet often energetic, camaraderie. Come alone or with others; we ask new partners for each of the dozen dances during the evening.

How do I join in the fun?
You will be part of a living tradition passed on by the experienced dancers helping the newcomers. It's best to join in the very first dance of the evening with an experienced partner (if possible). Getting started by letting other dancers guide you is much more effective than watching.

What do I need to participate?
Energy and Enthusiasm! Wear cool, comfortable clothes -- usually a sports shirt and slacks for men, a skirt and blouse for women. To protect the wooden floor, we ask dancers to bring a separate pair of clean, soft-soled shoes. Admission is $5 per person. A slightly higher price may be charged for special events.

Where and when are the dances?
The Urbana Country Dancers dance from 8-11 pm on the 1st and 3rd Friday's of each month with some occasional dances on Saturdays. Most dances are at the Phillips Recreation Center, 505 W. Stoughton, Urbana.

Text adapted from a flyer produced by NEFFA -- The New England Folk Festival Association

Further Information

For more information or to subscribe to the Urbana Country Dancers' email list, visit the list web site or subscribe below. Contact if you have any trouble with the list or if you wish to be added to the list without creating a Yahoo account.

For a related dance form try English Country dance, with the Central Illinois English Country Dancers

Last updated on May 10, 2013