Yellowstone Square dance council
Join our contra dance community for an evening of live music and fun!
A new contra dance community is being formed in Billings and we invite anyone who enjoys live music and fun to experience this form of dance. No experience is necessary to contra dance. An introduction to contra dancing precedes every dance to allow the beginner to learn enough to start dancing and then to learn more throughout the evening. Amy Letson of Billings will be the caller.
What is Contra Dancing?
What is Contra Dancing ?
Is Contra Dancing Similar to Square Dancing ?
What If I Have Never Danced Before ?
Why Should I Dance Contras ?
What if I Don't Have a Partner ?
Do I Need to Wear Special Clothes ?
What is the Music Like ?
What is Contra Dancing?
Contra dancing is a form of North American folk dance in which the dancers form two parallel lines that run the length of the hall. In its simplest form, it is danced by pairs of couples. One lady and gent face another lady and gent. Under the direction of a caller, each couple dances a sequence of figures with each other and with the other couple, for 64 beats of live music. Then each couple moves forward to meet another couple, and they repeat the same figures. When a couple reaches the end of the line of couples, it turns around and comes back the other way. Eventually each couple dances with every other couple in the set.
Is Contra Dancing Similar to Square Dancing?
Many of the basic moves in Contra Dancing are similar to those in square dancing (swings, promenades, dos-à-dos, allemandes). A square dance set comprises only four couples whereas the number of couples in a Contra Dance set is limited only by the length of the hall. To join the set, all you need is a partner. If you have danced squares, you will enjoy Contras immediately.
What If I Have Never Danced Before?
Beginners are welcome and you do not need to have any prior dance experience. Also, you do not need to bring a dance partner with you. A beginners class starts at 7:30 PM so you will learn everything that you need to know to be able to contra dance. The dance starts at 8 PM and ends at 11 PM. In Contra Dancing, your feet are never asked to do more than walk to the music. Each dance is taught by the caller before it is danced. The caller continues to prompt the dancers as needed. Because the pattern of moves of each Contra Dance is repeated often, Contra Dances are easy to learn. Both beginning and experienced dancers happily share the same set.
Why Should I Dance Contras?
Contra Dances have a relaxed, family-like atmosphere where the emphasis is on dancing, a welcome relief to noisy and smoky dance halls. The patterns of the dances are nifty. Contra Dancing is excellent exercise that you can take at your own pace. Above all, Contra Dancers form a community of friendly, active people and they welcome new dancers, be they youngsters or seniors. Most dancers range from 20 to 65 years old.
What if I Don't Have a Partner?
No problem. Many people come to a Contra Dance alone. Dancers are encouraged to dance with many different partners throughout the evening. If there is an excess of one gender, it is customary for women to dance men's parts (and vice versa) to form couples and extend the set.
Do I Need to Wear Special Clothes?
No. Contra Dancers tend to dress informally. Most people dress for comfort and in anticipation of vigorous exercise. Ladies prefer loose, light dresses or skirts; men wear lightweight slacks, jeans, or even shorts. Many of us bring an extra shirt to change into partway through the dance. To protect the dance floor be sure to wear soft-soled, comfortable shoes.
What is the Music Like?
For many dancers, the live music is the great attraction. Traditional jigs, reels, and hornpipes from the Scots-Irish tradition on both sides of the Atlantic form the basic repertoire. The fiddle is often the lead instrument.
Come Dance With Us
Amy Letson is originally from Buffalo, NY, where she grew up in ignorance of contra dancing, knowing only that the square dance segment of gym class was too short. It wasn’t until after earning a degree in viola performance at Indiana University that a friend introduced her to the joy that is contra dancing at the local Bloomington Old Time Music and Dance Group in 1983. From the enjoyment of dancing, she was drawn into playing for, and then calling the dances, collecting from other local and touring callers, keeping a notebook in her skirt pocket to quickly jot down the sequences. Moving to Billings, MT in 1998 marked the beginning of a hiatus from dancing as her two children grew up, she got involved in orchestras and chamber music, and there was no local dance. In 2011 or so, when both kids were in college, Amy began attending the contra dance in Bozeman as often as possible. In the past few years, she has called 2 or 3 evening dances in Bozeman each season, including the last three New Year’s Eve dances. Additionally, this year, she is on the calling schedule in Missoula and Helena. When she’s not calling or dancing, Amy is the principal violist of the Billings Symphony, plays with the Yellowstone Chamber Players and the String Orchestra of the Rockies, and teaches violin and viola privately.
Amy Letson - Caller
Resources for the Beginner Contra Dancer
Good overview of all aspects of contra dancing
Here are a few tips to help you have more fun.
An introduction to the mechanics of contra dancing
Copyright (c) 2016 Yellowstone Square Dance Council