What is Contra Dancing?
Contra dance (also contradance, contra-dance is a form of folk dancing made up of long lines of couples. It has mixed origins from English country dance, Scottish country dance, and French dance styles in the 17th century. Sometimes described as New England folk dance or Appalachian folk dance, contra dances can be found around the world, but are most common in the United States (periodically held in nearly every state), Canada, and other Anglophone countries.
A contra dance can be attended without a partner. The dancers form couples, and the couples form sets of two couples in long lines starting from the stage and going down the length of the dance hall. Throughout the course of a dance, couples progress up and down these lines, dancing with each other couple in the line. The dance is led by a caller who teaches the sequence of moves, called “figures,” in the dance before the music starts. In a single dance, a caller may include anywhere from six to twelve figures, which are repeated as couples progress up and down the lines. Normally, each time through the dance takes 64 beats, after which the pattern is repeated. The essence of the dance is in following the pattern with your set and your line; since there is no required footwork, many people find contra dance easier to learn than other forms of social dancing.