Thursday, February 9, 2017

I Like Thursday: Dancing

Dancing a hambo with Cliff (photo by Carol M. Ansel)
I like dancing.  There's something awesome that happens when you mix movement with music.  I learned square dancing as a kid.  I've taken ballroom and tango lessons, attended English and Cajun dances, and have been to a cotillion or two.  I'm not afraid to boogie at weddings, have dabbled with belly dancing, and love when they have the drummers at Kripalu.

My regular dancing fix comes from contra dancing.  It's one of my favorite kinds of dancing - so I'm using it as examples of what I like about dancing.

I like the music.  Contra dancing has live music, which can often be worth the price of admission by itself.  There's a lot of traditional songs, but there's many bands that have developed their own sound (or even use popular meme music - see video).  Often there's a fiddle, a guitar, a piano.  But some have drums, bass, button boxes, a didgeridoo, sound effects.  It's amazing how much sound can come from as little as two to three people jamming on stage.

I like the sound.  This is more than the music.  There's something soothing about listening to hundreds of feet shuffling across the floor in unison.  <swish> <swish>  There's laughter, the murmur of conversation.  There's the occasional staccato stamping of feet and enthusiastic whooping.  It's a happy crowd.

I like the energy.  Lots people gathered together in one spot engaging in spirited activity.  Probably why I'm smiling or laughing in all any dance photos I find on Facebook?

I like the movement.  The music flows, the people flow - a lovely combination, all working together.  Most contra dance steps are easy; experienced dancers add flourishes.  I move where the music takes me - I tend to add some belly dancing hand movements.  It makes some people laugh, others try to mimic.  I may look stupid - who knows.  But it feels good, so I go with it. 

Photo by Ryan Carollo (more at the Snow Ball album)

I like the touch.  Society is largely hands off.  Contra dancing is particularly hands on - we touch each other's hands, arms, shoulders.  Lots of people live for the swinging.  There's so much to learn with touch - what different people like, dislike or what can hurt or be uncomfortable.  Some people require more support; others may need more space.  You can learn a lot about people in how they make contact with you.

My home dance in Rehoboth
I like the symmetry,  the repetition.  A partner and I dance with another couple for 32 measures of music, then progress to a new couple and do it again.  Contra dances have a lovely mathematical quality.  So it's not surprising I meet a fair number of computer programmers at a dance. 

I like the community.  Contra dancers are a nice group of people.  They're tend to be friendly, honest, kind.  They come from all sorts of backgrounds - it's a crazy network of people that all have dancing in common.

I like the Rehoboth contra dance (although all the local dances are nice).  I'm happy to tell people this is my home dance.  It's one of the friendliest, welcoming dances in the area.  There's a lot of regulars and a steady influx of new folk.  The lines are a mix of young and old (although we don't have as many young people as we did a few years ago).  We're quirky, too.  Rehoboth is the only place I know of that chants "men, men" when the guys allemande each other.  Sometimes we're so noisy we get in trouble from the callers trying to teach us a dance.

Blurry action shot with The Traveling Skirt
I like the playfulness.  This is especially true with dancers I see each week.  We catch up, tell jokes, make faces, do goofy dance moves.  Make each other laugh.  Contra dancing is not serious business.

I like the casual atmosphere.  Dress code is to wear what's comfortable.  Dancing can be hot work!  But pretty much anything goes - long sleeves, short sleeves, no sleeves, pants, shorts, kilts, skirts.  For both genders.  I get a kick when I'm envious of some guy's skirt.  I'm describing clothing, but I'm also talking about the overall attitude.  Like my favorite Pirates of the Caribbean quote:  the code is more what you'd call "guidelines" than actual rules.  Contra dancing roles, dress, attitude tend to go with the flow.

But speaking of clothing - I like twirly skirts.  I have two of them and a few twirly dresses.  I got to borrow The Traveling Skirt (it has it's own Facebook page) briefly at the New England Folk Festival.  Twirly skirt with bangles!  I have to be prepared to get a bit dizzy if I wear a twirly skirt - people like to spin me to get the skirt to flair.  And that makes me laugh.  It's possible they're twirling me just to make me laugh.

If you have not heard of contra dancing before and this piqued your interest, here's a directory of contra dances.  Perhaps you can find one near you.

I promise, at some point, to stop writing these marathon I Like posts.  In the meantime, check out some other I Like Thursday posts over at Not Afraid of Color.


  1. I've learned a lot about Contra dancing this week through various discussions and it looks like great fun! I think, were I to join in, I'd want a twirly skirt too!

  2. Yes! A terrific post on contra! I like it for all the same reasons. It's hard to show the good feelings surrounding people at contra. It's unlike other activities... just smiling going on. Pretty twirly skirt girl!

  3. I have never danced a contra dance - but I think I'd be a twirly skirt kind of gal too. I can tell you really enjoy your dancing and the community. Thanks for giving us a window into that world.

  4. Oh this post makes me merry! Great music, great dancing, great laughing. I love LOVE the twirly skirt. You are having so much fun and I enjoyed this post so very much! Have a great day!

  5. I enjoyed your post so much. This is my first visit and I love your site. Enjoy! mary in AZ

  6. I like your I like post! And never heard of Contra so happy to find out! Sheri


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