What is Contra Dance? Contra dancing is a form of traditional American set dance, with its roots in the French and English country dancing of the 17th and 18th centuries. The dances are done in longways sets of couples, in which a dancer and his/her partner do a short series of dance figures or moves with each other and another couple, then each couple moves along the set to a new couple and repeats the figures, and so on. The figures themselves, which are simple and easy to learn, are similar to those used in traditional square dances-- for example, do-si-do and swing your partner.
Contra dances are almost always done to live music, usually Celtic or traditional American reels and jigs. There is also always a caller, who first teaches the figures to be done in a particular dance, and then "calls" the dance as the music is played, reminding the dancers of each figure to be danced. An individual contra dance lasts for 8 - 9 minutes; the evening program consists of a series of these dances, sometimes with an occasional couples' dance (such as a waltz or polka) thrown into the mix. Dancers typically change partners for each dance. The dance is open to all ages, newcomers are always welcome, and it is not necessary to bring a partner with you to the dance.
No costume or particular style of clothing is worn, though as the dancing is energetic, lightweight attire and low-heeled dance shoes with non-marking soft soles are considered more comfortable. Please note that, despite the similar-sounding names, contra dancing has absolutely nothing to do with country line dancing. Here are some more resources to help demonstrate what contra dancing is:
Video of contra dancing, from our own Foggy Moon Weekend 2015, with Riptide playing the music, George Marshall calling the dance "Rocket City Romp" by Cis Hinkle