Welcome new dancers!

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

What is a contra dance? 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.

If you want to see us in action, check us out in the Charlotte Observer and watch the video below!

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 more comfortable much sooner. 

The content of the page was adapted from

contra dance graphic


I’m a new dancer. What should I wear?

Dress comfortably! Folk dancing is great exercise, and it is a good workout, and so don’t overdress. Women often enjoy dancing in a skirt, as skirts flow to the music. T-shirts are common dress. Don’t worry about what to wear – there is no special costume, just be comfortable. You probably will get sweaty as you dance. Please leave the perfume and cologne at home as other dancers may be sensitive to it.

What about shoes?

Since we dance on hardwood floors, many people bring a separate pair of shoes from the ones they wear to the dance. Clean off any grit from outside that might be on the soles of your shoes and could damage the floor. If possible, it is preferred not to dance in shoes with rubber soles, as these are harder on your joints – ankles, knees and hips. But people have danced in socks, barefoot, in tennis shoes or whatever. If you get into dancing you might purchase a pair of dance shoes. Some people dance in bowling shoes, because they have smooth leather bottoms.

What if I don’t know how to dance?

Contradancing is not difficult. It is said that if you know right from left, can walk, and can count to eight, that’s all you need. At the beginning of a dance there are some basic instructions for new dancers, and a chance to practice a little. All through the evening every dance is taught – a caller does a walk-though before each dance and then calls the steps for the first several times through. Contradances are repetitive; you do the same set of steps over and over – if you don’t get it at first, you have lots of opportunities to practice. Dancers are very welcoming, and they will help you and not expect you to know what you are doing. Everyone attended their first dance at some point. It is about having fun, not about making no mistakes.

Final tip!

Bring a water bottle, you will get thirsty!

The content of FAQs was adapted from contradanceFAQs.