Welcome, Newcomers!

We’re glad you are coming to join in the fun!

This is the dance form America grew up with: the barn dance, the hoedown, the fancy dress ball. It’s been fun for more than three centuries. It’s still fun. We think you’ll like it, too. Here’s why:

It’s easy to learn. If you can walk and smile, you can do this kind of dance. The caller will explain all the moves and walk you through the dance before it starts, and continue to prompt you as the dance goes on. Pretty soon everybody in the room is doing it mostly right, and everyone is having fun!

It’s a great social mixer. This is “community” dancing. Come alone or with another; you’re WELCOME either way. Our dances focus on the group, not on individual couples. There’s no awkward singles scene, nor hidden agendas when asking someone to dance. People of all ages and social situations just come to have fun and dance! Both men and women are encouraged to ask each other to dance. We customarily change partners after each dance, so we get to dance with lots of different people. Even if you don’t change partners, you and your partner will do a round of the dance with every other couple in your set. It’s literally true, in some contra dances, that you will be swinging a new person in your arms every twenty seconds. Besides, we’re a friendly group. We get to know one another, and go out for dinner before, or dessert after, the dances.

It’s easy, yet never boring. As quickly as you’ll pick up the mechanics of moves, you’ll also start seeing patterns, flow, rhythms, begin to appreciate the beauty of the patterns. There are thousands of dances in the répertoire, and new ones are being composed all the time, but always made up of the same basic moves, so you’ll be amazed how fast you’re an “expert.” You walk up and down the length of the dance hall, interacting with the other dancers as you go, and the music carries you along.

And there’s the music! Did I mention the music? It’s all live music: fantastic fiddle tunes, driving Celtic rhythms, Cajun and old-timey and whatever else the band gets charged up with. And that’s just the contra-dance music. The music for English dance is another world entirely, and not to be missed. You can’t get this kind of music in a concert, and you wouldn’t want to. You need to be up and moving your feet to it.

Want to try a taste? All of our Monday evening dances are preceded by a free newcomers’ session to introduce the basics. If you are new to this kind of dancing, please try to arrive in time for that class (although it’s not required). You’ll feel much more comfortable much sooner. Plus, first-time attendees to the newcomers’ session get a “next dance free” coupon!

The content of the page was adapted from bacds.org

Ten Tips for Beginning Dancers

1. Relax. It’s just a dance! Everyone was a beginner at one time.

2. Don’t panic. If you mess up, smile, laugh, apologize and go on to the next figure. It’s more important to be in the right place for the next figure than to complete every move.

3. Learn the basic figures and timing before adding flourishes. You’ll have lots of time later to add your own touches.

4. Don’t look at the floor, or far away. Eye contact is an important part of contra dancing, and it may help to keep you from getting dizzy. If you’re not comfortable with eye contact, you can look at your partner’s earlobe or cheek.

5. It’s the custom to change partners for each dance, and women ask men to dance as often as men ask women. (And women ask women, and men ask men.)

6. Don’t rush away from your partner at the end of a dance. Take time to thank them, and calmly find another partner. (Warning: this is hard to do in some dance communities.) You’re much more likely to find a partner if you’re moving around than sitting down.

7. If you ask someone to dance and he or she says “No”, don’t worry about it. If someone asks you to dance, and you’re not comfortable with them, you can graciously decline. Keep moving, you’ll find a partner.

8. Do ask experienced dancers to dance with you. Don’t think they’re too good for you. They’ll guide you in the right direction if you get confused.

9. Sweating is natural and healthy, and there’s a lot of it at dances. Dress cooly, bring a towel (or extra shirts fellows), take breaks and get some air, and drink water. Many experienced dancers bring water bottles (not glass) from home.

10. After you have some dance experience and know what you’re doing, beginners need your help.
Tell them to remember: Relax. It’s just a dance!

Thanks to CDSS News #109 Nov/Dec 1992.