Contra Dance Frequently Asked Questions

If you haven't looked at our About Contra page, please start there.

Is contra dancing difficult?

No it isn't, especially compared to other forms of dance. If you can walk smoothly, have a good sense of space, and can follow directions, you can probably contra dance, although we'd be lying if we said that everyone can do contra. There are only about 20 basic moves and no special footwork. You will learn most of the moves in two or three evenings.

Contra dance is done to the beat and phrases of the music. If you can't hear the beat or phrases, then you may have some trouble. However there are ways to compensate so don't stay away because you think that you have a tin ear.

As with any other activity, the more you do it, the better you will become; the better you become, the more you will enjoy it!

What if I make mistakes?

laughingDon't worry about making mistakes during a dance—everyone makes them. You just smile (or laugh!) and keep moving.

Plus, one of the wonderful things about contra dancing is the willingness of the more experienced dancers to teach those who are new to the dance form.

Having said that, there are other common mistakesnew window new dancers often make that have little to do with any individual dance. These mistakes aren't at all stupid as the linked article suggests; they are totally understandable and are commonly made by beginning contra dancers. Yet making any of them really can prevent a new dancer from learning and enjoying this most enjoyable form of dance. If you're new to contra, we strongly suggest that you read the articlenew window and take it to heart. You will be glad that you did.

How much does it cost?

We currently ask $10 for the general public, $6 for members of HATDS. Young people under 18 are free.

When you come the first time and pay full price you will receive a card that allows you to come three more times at the members' price. After that we hope that you will become a member and continue to receive the discount.

What are the ages of those who attend your dances?

dancersWe truly have a range of ages, although most of our dancers are probably in their 20s through 50s.

The dances are targeted for dancers about 10 years old and older. Kids younger than 9 or 10 may do very well or could be a danger to themselves and others; it depends on the child.

Parents are always responsible for their young children, especially those who are not dancing! Unfortunately our current hall does not have any good play areas for small children, so parents must actively supervise their children.

Nationwide, teens and the college crowd are discovering contraNew window. Our dances are no exception!

Do I have to bring a partner?

No. If you do bring a partner, be ready to dance with others. It's contra dance tradition and etiquette to be sociable and dance with different partners throughout the evening.

If you're new to contra dance and you come with a partner, do yourself (and everyone else) a favor by dancing with more experienced dancers for the first few dances. That's the best way to learn quickly.

How should I dress?

There is no dress code, however we suggest that you dress comfortably. Contra dancing is aerobic exercise and you're very likely to perspire, so wear clothes that are not restrictive. If you perspire heavily, consider bringing an extra shirt or two.

dancerIn order to protect you and our wood floor, we urge you to wear comfortable low-heel shoes with soft soles that slide easily. Many dancers bring a special pair of dance shoes. Bowling shoes are inexpensive and work well.

Women often wear skirts that can flare out during swings and twirls, but that is not a requirement.

And—very important—please do not wear fragrances such as perfume, cologne, and after-shave. Read our Why Fragrance Free? page for the reasons.

I still want to know more!

Then come to a dance! smiley

If you haven't read Sharon's or Greg's article, start there.

Gary Shapiro has a page of descriptions, and the Wikipedia article on contra dancing is good.

If you haven't listened to Nancy Kane's talk, here it is:

There are also many contra dance videos on YouTube and other video sites.

But really, the best way to learn about contra dance is to experience it. Won't you please join us at a dance?

Contra dance is Real People in Real Time with Real Music. It is Real Life.
~ from Gary Shapiro's "What is Contra Dance?" page