Contra Dance

Contra dance is a community dance form recognized around the world as an American folk dance. Contra dances are welcoming and inclusive places where people of all backgrounds and experience come together to connect with live music and each other.

Contra dance is easy to learn! A caller teaches each dance and guides the dancers throughout the dance.  We offer a free lesson before each dance where beginners can learn the basics.  The internet also offers excellent introductory lessons (see for example Cis Hinkle of Georgia teaching contra).

The contra dance begins when the dancers face their partners and form two sets of parallel lines that run the length of the dance hall. Each dance consists of a series of movements done with smooth walking steps to the rhythm of music. Some of the moves are similar to square dancing. As the dance progresses each couple will dance with every other couple up and down the set.

Contra dance is danced with a partner. You can ask anyone to dance. Dancers are encouraged to dance with many different partners throughout the evening.

In the North Bay we always dance to live music.  We are fortunate to have some very talented musicians able to play music that really drives the dances. Contra dance music features fantastic fiddle tunes, driving Celtic rhythms, Cajun, old-timey and sometimes dashes of Eastern-European and swing.

Contra dance is moderate exercise. Wear low, smooth-soled shoes, and loose, comfortable clothes.  Bring water. There will be snacks to tempt you at the break.

It is interesting to watch and listen to contra dance videos such as Welcome to the contra dance.

It’s a lot more fun to get off the internet and come dance!  Bring your family and friends or come alone and join us for an evening. For some people the first dance takes a little courage, so in the North Bay the second dance is always free. Many of the barns in Sonoma and Marin Counties are gone but elements of the old fashioned barn dance are alive and well in the Contra dance hall. Come and claim this piece of American heritage for yourself.

BEGINNERS are welcome! Please join us for a free lesson a half hour before the contra dance begins to learn the basic moves. Wear low, smooth-soled shoes, and loose, comfortable clothes. You can come alone or with a partner — our dances are friendly and inclusive, and you’ll probably end up dancing with most of the people in the hall.

Remember: “if you can walk you can do this form of dance.” although do come prepared for moderate exercise- we work up a sweat! And don’t be discouraged if it takes a few months to feel confident, we love helping new dancers and we all took time to learn.

A beginner’s lesson is held one half hour before every scheduled dance, please plan to attend these for the first 3-4 times you contra if possible.