What is contra dance?

Contra dance is community social dancing to live music.  It's lively, joyful, welcoming, modern, traditional, and fun!

Most contra dance figures combine a walking step with hand gestures, and these figures are combined into patterns that repeat throughout dances.  Each dance is taught and prompted by a caller, who indicates to dancers what figures they should dance when.  Though the dance is proscribed, improvisation is encouraged.

No partner is needed - you dance with everyone!  Dancers line up in long parallel lines and, in pairs, make their way down that line, dancing with the other pairs of dancers they meet along the way.  Our community is diverse and intergenerational, so you know you'll meet a lot of different people as you make your way down the line.

People have been contra dancing since the 18th century - in barns, in kitchens, in dance halls, in churches - connecting with one another and creating an evolving tradition.  We're excited to have you be a part of it.

June 2016 Portland Intown Contra Dance at State Street Church. Photo by Zach Whalen.

June 2016 Portland Intown Contra Dance at State Street Church. Photo by Zach Whalen.

IT's EASY TO LEARN.

If you can walk, you can contra.  Truly.  It's an easy, enjoyable, and accessible dance form for most people. 

Each weekly PICD dance starts with a lesson for beginners.  If you're new, we highly recommend joining us for it.  You'll learn basic figures, how to dance in time to the music, and how the dance works.  It's fun and invaluable.

In the beginner's lesson, you'll also be introduced to experienced dancers who can show you the ropes for the rest of the night.  ...Which is another great way to learn: dance with people who know how to contra!  It can be frustrating or challenging to dance with another new dancer, so we encourage you to seek out more experienced dancers as partners.  It is traditional to change partners throughout the night, so don’t be intimidated to ask someone to dance.

Dancers in Maine are Wonderful.

Contra dancers are some of the most genuine, good people you'll ever meet.  And we have an abundance of good eggs here in Maine.  Maine Public Broadcasting Network gave the world a peek of the contra dance in Topsham in 2016, and here's the result:

 

FAQ

DO I NEED TO BE EXPERIENCED TO COME?
No experience is needed to contra dance.  We do encourage new dancers to come to the beginner's lesson, which happens at 7:00 p.m. each Thursday prior to the weekly dance.  You'll have a much more enjoyable dance after going over the basics!

WHAT CLOTHING SHOULD I WEAR?
You can dance in street clothes.  Loose fitting, comfortable clothing is recommended.  Contra dancing is aerobic, so clothing that is cotton, silk or wickable is even better.  Should you choose to wear a skirt, be sure to wear shorts under for modesty.  

WHAT SHOES SHOULD I WEAR?
We recommend wearing comfortable shoes with a soft, smooth sole.  Bowling shoes or canvas sneakers work well.  Heels are not recommended.  Lots of us dance barefoot as well.  If you dance in the shoes you walked in with, just brush them off in the shoe changing area to help us preserve the beautiful, historic wood floor.

WHAT SHOULD I BRING?
You should bring a water bottle.  Also, if you're likely to sweat quite a bit, a change of t-shirt or clothing would be clutch.

DO I NEED TO BRING A PARTNER?
Nope, no partner is needed!  However, if you'd like to come with another person, or a group, please do!

DOES MY GENDER HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH IT?
Nope!  There are two roles in contra dance and you can dance either one at any time.  In Portland, you will dance as either a "jet" (black gemstone) or a "ruby" (red gemstone).  At most contra dances in other places the terms are "gent" and "lady."

WHAT ELSE SHOULD I KNOW?
Smile!  Contra dancing is FUN.

 

Come dance!