About Contra Dancing
Contra dancing is a form of American folk dance in which the dancers form a set of two parallel lines that run the length of the hall. Each dance consists of a sequence of moves that ends with couples having progressed one position up or down the set. As the sequence is repeated, a couple will eventually dance with every other couple in the set. Live music (listen to a music clip) with a caller is always a feature of contra dancing, which began in New England in the 1800s and is popular throughout the United Stated today.
In contra dancing, your feet are never asked to do more than walk to the music. The caller teaches each dance and continues to prompt the dancers as needed. Because the pattern of moves of every contra dance is repeated often, the dances are easy to learn. Both beginning and experienced dancers happily share the same set.
The spirited, live music is a great attraction for many dancers. Traditional jigs, reels, and hornpipes from the Scots-Irish tradition on both sides of the Atlantic form the basic repertoire with fiddle being the usual lead instrument. Waltzes are also included during an evening of dancing.
Contra dances have a relaxed atmosphere where the emphasis is on dancing. Smoking and alcohol are either absent altogether or very minimal. It is excellent, self-paced exercise. The dancers tend to dress informally. Most people dress for comfort and in anticipation of exercise. Ladies prefer loose, light dresses or skirts; men wear lightweight slacks or jeans. Soft-soled, comfortable shoes are essential.
Many people come to a contra dance alone, and dancers are encouraged to dance with many different partners throughout the evening. Above all, contra dancers are a community of friendly, active people who happily welcome newcomers to this tradition of dance and music, which still thrives after nearly 200 years.
Contra Dance Sites
Contra Dancing in or near Portland, Oregon
Portland Country Dance Community
Joyride First Wednesday Contra Dance
Contra in the Couve
Northwest Passage Dance Camp (Labor Day Weekend)
Portland Raindance Weekend
Portland Megaband Dance Extravaganza (2nd weekend in March)
Portland Roadhouse (10-hour dance; 2nd weekend in March)
Contra Dancing Throughout the United States
Country Dance and Song Society
Contra Dance Schedules for the United States and Canada
Contra, English, Scottish, and Other Dance Schedules