Entry for January 14, 2006

The montage I created above shows musican and caller  Rhiannon Giddens, the Blue Ridge Country Dancers , and the band  dot-dot-dash  (Bill Anderson on fiddle, John Hildreth on guitar, Jjoel Keebler on bass and Matt Livingston on mandolin–and I’m not sure who on the horn; I was too busy dancing at the Wintersun Community Hall  in Floyd!)  Traveled down Route 221 with Jerry and Kat (and Maria) for the monthly contra dance .

Smooth dances and innovative music.   Learned a new swing out out from the gypsy from Jim. (The woman’s half is to  curve  your right arm around your partner’s waist and lift your left arm palm out  to hands with your partner. )

 My friend Tilly asked in an e-mail today,

What is a contra dance? Fill me in.

I’ll try. 

Contra dancing is a type of folk dance from New England. The music has an eight-count measure and can be celtic, cajun, rock n’ roll, klezmer, old-time, etc, usually live.  Common instruments are keyboard, fiddle, guitar, bass, with others thrown in:  hammer dulcimer, clarient, trombone, concertina, didgeridoo, you get the idea.
The figures are similar to those in oldtime square dancing–allemande, do-si-do, partner swing, promenade etc. with some extras thrown in like gypsy hey for four. petronella.  The formation is usually a long line of  couples half facing down the hall away from the music and half facing towards them up the hall , divided into sets of two couples each.  But all this is very dull compared to the definition I like by Gary Shapiro:

Definition 0: the only real definition

The only real answer to the question “What is contra dance?” comes when you try it. 
Hope to see some of you dancing, soon  Next week’s contra in Blacksburg  features caller Shawn Brenneman, with band Toss the Possum (The Zisettes:  Robbie on fiddle, Janse onn flute and whistle, Chas on bas and Laura on piano .)


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