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ContraDance Billings

2019-20

Dance Schedule

 

Oct 11

Oct 25  Halloween Dance

Nov 8

Nov 22

Dec 6   Holiday Dance

Jan 3

Jan 17

Jan 31

Feb 14  Valentine's Dance

Feb 28

Mar 13

Mar 27

Apr 17

May 8  Special Extra Dance

Join our contra dance community for an evening of live music and fun!

Come Dance With Us

We will normally dance on every other Friday starting on October 11, 2019 at 7:30 for beginners with the regular dance to run from 8:00 to 11:00. The cost is $10 per person for 3 hours of dancing and live music. We would appreciate experienced dancers to come at 7:30 to mentor the beginners.

We will be dancing in Cedar Hall at MetraPark. This is a fabulous building for dancing with its wood floor, kitchen, bathroom facilities and air conditioning. The location of the building can be found on the home page.

Frequently Asked Questions

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.




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.





Amy Letson - Caller

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.

  • Yellowstone Square Dance Council

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