A Swing

What's Contra Dance?

Contra is a traditional form of New England social dance dating back to Colonial times. It was often done in a barn in the country. It is also know as Barn dancing or Country dancing. The name Contra comes from the French meaning opposite as the dancers start the dance facing their partners who are opposite them. It's a cousin of English and Scottish country dance and father of the American square dance. It has a caller who prompts the dancers with figures like "do-si-do" "Allemande" and "swing your partner." It's is a great way to have fun, meet people and get in a little aerobic exercise as well. In contra dance, couples form two lines, partners facing each other. Prompted by the caller, they perform a sequence of figures that causes them to progress up or down the line, meeting other couples with whom they repeat the sequence. Eventually every couple dances with every other couple. The music is performed live. The music consists mainly of Irish, New England, and Quebecois jigs and reels. There may be   an occasional waltz or Scandinavian dance during break time. The band's structure is wildly variable, typically including fiddle, piano, and guitar/mandolin. We typically provide refreshments during break @9:30 PM (e.g., iced tea and cookies). Dances are smoke and alcohol free.


No Experience Necessary:


We welcome and encourage newcomers. The dances are fun and easy to learn. The dances don't require fancy footwork - if you can walk, you can contra dance. A 30 minute workshop before the dance will teach you what you need to know to get started.




Dress is very casual (e.g., shorts and t-shirts are not out of place). Wear cool comfortable clothing.  NOT square dance outfits, hats, boots, high heels, or footwear that will mark the floor. Contra is aerobic exercise, so be prepared to work up a sweat. Experienced dancers often bring a towel and a spare dry shirt.




Wear clean soft-soled comfortable shoes. Some dancers bring a clean pair of shoes to dance in. Each dance has a shoe cleaning station for people who wear street shoes. Grit lodged in the sole of street shoes can mar and gouge a floor. Use the shoe cleaning station to clean the bottom of you shoes and protect the dance floor.


No Partner Needed:


Contra dancers are of all ages. You can come alone or with a friend, and you'll meet a lot of new people. Some dancers dance with each other all the time. Our convention is to switch partners for each new set, newcomers are encouraged to dance with an experienced partner. This will help you master contra dancing in the fastest most enjoyable way. You'll find contra dancers to be very helpful and friendly.


All Dances Taught:


The caller walks everyone through the moves of the dance before the music starts. Once the music starts, he/she prompts the moves until no more prompting is needed.


Contra Dance is Not:


Contra dance is not line dancing. Contra dancing is not western square dancing.


Become Involved:


Contra dance is community dance run by volunteers. Volunteers are the backbone of each dance series. Many people become more involved by volunteering to work the admissions table, help on the refreshment committee, sweep the floor or help move tables and chairs.