Contra Dancing??

I’m always looking for something fun and new to do with my kids.  To me, it’s part of my “mom job” to expose them to as many different activities, people, music , arts, etc. that I am able.

I love to dance and so do my kids.  However, I’m not very good at “free form” unless I’m trying to get my kids to laugh – really laugh!  I remember square dancing as a kid and how much fun it was.  Last year, someone mentioned Contra Dancing and I wasn’t sure what kind of dancing that was.  I looked up videos on youtube and it looked a lot like square dancing.  Also found out that they had some Contra Dancing in Athens.

When I was up at the John C Campbell Folk School, Saturday night was Contra Dance night and all the townsfolk came over to dance.  I watched from the window…

It looked like a lot of fun but I would want some lessons before I attempted the dance.  I don’t mind making a fool of myself – I do it frequently, but there’s a difference between being ignorant and informed and I would rather be informed!

When I got home from John C, I told my kids about the dancing and they were interested enough for me to keep pursuing this activity.

Colbert, the Old Gym, February 6th at 6:30.  Yes!

Now, the typical format for the evening is to have the caller give a half hour of instruction and then the dancing begins.  Also found out that contra dancing has it’s roots in New England with Scotch-Irish music.  It was dear to my heart already!

We pulled into the parking lot and walked toward the building.  Admittedly, we were all a little tentative – a new place, new people, new activity…

We walked past the big windows of the school.  My kids turned and looked at me.   “Mom???”  I was walking to catch up with them and looked in the windows – a whole lot of older, older people sitting at tables.

“Kids, we don’t know anything.  Maybe this isn’t the right place.  Let me see…”

Come to find out – it was the local Lion’s chapter and they were holding a dinner.  The gym was across the street.  We all breathed a collective sigh of relief as we walked over to the gym. As we got to the door, I met Elizabeth, the lady I had talked with on the phone to find out if the dance was still on for the night.  She was so friendly and ushered us in the door to the gym.

Within minutes, we were talking to people and realizing this was going to be a fun evening.

The caller for the evening had everyone come to the middle so he could give dance instructions. The gentleman in the hat in this picture was the caller.  He was showing my son and his friend how some of the moves were danced.

“Contra” means opposite.  A lot of the dances were danced in 2 lines that faced each other.

But there were also several square formations.  We learned the Virginia Reel, the Grapevine, the Yellow Cat Jig and some others.

We all had a blast!!  We laughed and smiled till our faces hurt.  We were sweaty and exhausted…this was like aerobics for 3 hours!

And we were hooked…

Even my son came to me a couple of times and said what a great time he was having – he’s a good dancer and caught on quickly.

The gym was full of people (at least 80 or more)- all kinds of people.  Young and old and in between.  I met a couple that had been to the farm for some classes, another gentleman who I had ushered with at the local theatre, and another gentleman who had bought pork from us!

Squish danced with a friend that she had acted with in “The Sound of Music.”   (Squish was Gretl and her friend was Brigitta.)

LoLo danced with a boy who was from Nicaragua and had been in the States for 2 months.

And the best part, we made new friends, friends who assured us we would all see one another at the next dance.

It was very family friendly and I didn’t worry about my kids once.  The music was fantastic and the caller was great – demonstrated all the moves with willing dancers before we began a new set.  There were people who’d been contra dancing for 20+ years and those like us who were there for the first time.

We danced and laughed till 10 pm, said our goodbyes and piled into the van.  We chatted about all the great people we had met and danced with that night and all agreed that we were a little stinky and a shower was going to feel great!

Yep – Contra Dancing was a hit with the kids and this will definitely become a new family favorite.  The next dance is already on the calendar!

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