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a Traditional New England
Contra Dance

Country Life, Dance & Music Society
Pittsfield, MA

Flower Line

Q: . . . How is contradancing different from football ?

Football Game

A: . . . . . It's how the game is played.

A Statement by the Berkshire/Albany/Hudson Valley Dance Organizers

Country Life, Dance & Music Society (CLDMS) : Pittsfield, MA
Eight Step Coffee House Dances : Albany, NY
Hudson-Mohawk Country Dancers : Schenectady, NY
Old Songs Dances : Guiderland, NY

Race to top of the set

"This is so exciting!"

I'm Hooked! I've lived in this town for 15 years
and never knew about contradancing before.
Now I am going to dance as often as I can.

Dance Couple
Dancing in the Moon - dancinginmoon.gif
Contradancing today still has its appeal and still provides its special pleasures as it has since colonial times. New dancers are as excited by it as ever, and it undoubtedly is because country dancing is not a crash and bang sport like football. It draws on many of our hidden qualities. At a countradance we trust, respect and support one another like we wish we would throughout life. Let's look at why country dancing is such a rewarding experience in out lives.

Perhaps the key is that country dancing is a group experience. Richard Neville, in his book "A Time To Dance" called it "choral dancing", perhaps because there is a harmony of movement. Group-dancing is very different from couples-dancing where you need to please only one other person, or singles-dancing, like rock & roll, where you are beholden to no one and may not even have eye contact. Group dancing makes you a part of a very large team. You are like an oarsman on a rowing crew, or a violinist in a large orchestra. Everyone is important, equal, and together. When every dancer pulls her or his weight, the dance is fun for everyone. Everyperson provides support, spirit, and energy. Dancers energize the band and caller at least as much as the band and caller give them rhythm and pattern. Everyone contributes to the happening. Here are several qualities that every dancer can share.


Five Steps to Great Contradancing :

1. Enthusiasm

  • *(Of course that's the easy part)

2. Sensitivity

* Adjust to each dancer's needs and abilities continuously. If you dance with 60 people in line, big or little, older or younger. You'll need to dance 60 different ways. Aim to please every person (both genders) that you hold in your arms.


3. Consideration

* Dance with new comers. Like you were once danced with. You can help them learn quicker.
* Dance in the side sets as well as the center set.
* Be Mellow when other goof up, and help them with encouragement. Dancing should be enjoyable!
* Listen. Callers give valuable pointers at the walk-thru. Heed them and the dance will go better.

4. Skills

* Learn proper technique. posture, and foot work because your dancing could hurt someone, especially during the balance and swing. The graceful and group-oriented traditions of country dancing are not just for tradition's sake. They prevent injuries and are a source of immense pleasure.
* Later you can develop your own style as long as it does not disrupt other people and as long as you remain a part of the group.
* Give good weighting to each dancer, without jerking or throwing them regardless of their size.
* Be precise in your timing. But when you do blow it. Blush, apologize and keep dancing.

Twister Tim

5. Appreciation.

* Make eye contact with every dancer. Its a pleasure almost unique to country dancing.
* Applause is music to the ears of callers and musicians. They need to be reassured they are doing a good job after each dance. Whenever you feel so moved, give them a hand or a cheer. Although bands do not generally like rhythmic clapping during the music - the exception is southern music - if these erupt during a dance because you are feeling so good, let them out!
* A hug and a compliment for the caller and musicians at the end of the evening is as important as a last waltz. After all, the caller, the band, and the dancers are a single happy family.

Ted Sannella once jumped down to the floor to show us the difference between "just moving to music" and "really dancing." As he demonstrated some of the qualities above he explained, "Now that's dancing!"

As the dance organizers in this region, we thought it would be helpful to provide you with this list of dance qualities so we can all be "really dancing." We also will continue to provide workshops and special events to perfect your dancing skills, and to schedule excellent callers and musicians to give you a superior and varied dance experience.

Reprinted with permission from author Bob Henshaw. Illustrations by Jennifer Snow Wolff. This excerpt was taken from Bob's more lengthy publication, "Q: How is contradancing different from football?...A: It's how the game is played". If you would like a copy of the original piece, please send an SASE to Bob Henshaw, 91 Louis Dr., West Sand Lake, NY 12196. Bob can also be reached at 518-283-0415 or

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    Country Life, Dance and Music Society
    99 Sherwood Drive
    Pittsfield, MA 01201-5911

    Call :

    Dave & Kristin O'Connor
    (413) 499-7105

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    Pittsfield, MA 01201-5911

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