Q1: What is contra dancing?
A1: We’ve got a whole page on this topic, with videos and history and everything!
Q2: But I can’t dance. I’ve tried. What’s the point?
A2: We’ll answer this one below. Short version: Neither could we! Contra is an easy way to learn, with many benefits for life, besides having fun dancing. Scroll down for the rest of A2.
Q3: What kind of contra dance is it? Who is it for?
A3: The target audience of our dance is UCF students and recent alumni, typically ages 18-30 or so, so we play fast music in a variety of styles ranging from traditional old-time fiddle to modern contra to pop (all eras), house, EDM, and techno. If it sustains 120 beats per minute and is fun to move to, it’s fair game!
We aim to be inclusive, so we use gender-neutral calling, typically “lefts and rights” or “larks and robins” rather than “gents and ladies”. While many dancers prefer dancing their traditional gender role, you’ll see many others reversing roles, sometimes even switching within a dance. We emphasize: It’s a dance, not a date! Though, you’re welcome to come with a date.
Anyone who likes our style of dancing is welcome! You do not need to be affiliated with UCF and all ages can come. We’ve had 11-year-olds and retirees. Children must be accompanied by a responsible adult and must be physically and emotionally mature enough to participate appropriately. If you’re really looking for a more traditional contra dance, check out some of the dances in nearby cities. There’s plenty of traditional dancing in Central Florida, and we often have road trips to them!
Q4: I’ve never been before. Will I need to take lessons or prepare?
A4: We’ll teach you everything! Today, our campus dances are 100% oriented to teaching new dancers, so come on down! At a dance with more experienced dancers, like our road trips, you can learn enough to join in about 30 minutes, usually in right before your first dance.
Q5: Do I need to come with a partner?
A5: No, but you’re welcome to. We change partners for each dance. It’s a dance, not a date! Romantic couples often dance the first and last dances of the evening together. We also play a waltz before the intermission and at the end of the night, which is a great chance to dance with your honey.
Q6: Wait, waltz? What?
A6: Yes! Most contra dances include a couple of waltzes. We’ll teach you, including how to ask a partner for a dance. You’ll be one of those in the know at weddings!
Q7: What should I bring?
A7: You’ll sweat, so wear light clothing (check our videos for ideas). Bring a water bottle and maybe a light snack. Any shoe that slides well on a wood or laminated floor works, but you can learn in sneakers. Bring dance shoes if you have them. Women generally don’t wear high heels and perfumes/fragrances disturb some dancers. We strongly encourage vaccines and KN95 masks (we supply KN95s). See below.
Q8: I’m LGBTQ+. Is this an OK dance for me?
A8: Yes! Contra is for everybody. Our callers do not use gender terms in their calling. You’ll see straight and not-straight couples. You’ll encounter and dance with people of all genders. It’s a dance, not a date!
A2: This is the long “I can’t dance” answer: Some people have tried dancing many times and have never gotten the hang of it, so they’ve given up. There are two common reasons for this: poor physical coordination and not knowing how to count musical beats. The good news is that both are learned skills. YES! Coordination is something we learn, not something we’re born with. Learning coordination takes time, so if you’ve gone to half a dozen dance events, even if you worked really hard at it or took a month of lessons, that probably wasn’t enough. But, if you dance (or play a sport, etc.) pretty regularly, you’ll start to see improvement after a couple of months, maybe even sooner. After a year or so, you’ll be markedly more coordinated – and you’ll see the benefits in unexpected places!
It may take 2-3 years of dancing or sports to become really smooth and agile, depending on your coordination level when you started. But you won’t care, because it’s so much fun even when you’re just starting, and the community is so supportive, that you won’t worry too much about your skill level, and neither will we. One day, you’ll notice that you just turned fluidly on your heel while lifting a stack of plates off a high shelf to carry them across your kitchen, and you’ll say, Woah, did I just do that?? And you’ll realize then that dancing has benefits in all aspects of life. In fact, this is exactly what happened to one of us!
The other reason people think they can’t dance is that they don’t know how to count musical beats. This is much easier to learn than coordination! We’ll teach you at your first dance, or here’s a fun video to get you started if you prefer to learn at home. After that, enjoy some music and count the beats out on your own, and you’ll be in decent shape for dancing. It gets better from there!
Q9: Isn’t this a bit risky with COVID? What are you doing to be safe?
A9: There’s no question, social dancing without multiple layers of protection would spread COVID quickly. The activity is aerobic and you are inches from your partner’s face. In contra, we dance with everyone in the line, every dance. The only way this can possibly work is if everyone is fully protected with vaccines, masks, and hand sanitizer, and if nobody has symptoms or a recent positive test for COVID.
We ask everyone to get a fully boosted vaccine at least two weeks before dancing, and not to dance if they’ve had COVID symptoms or a positive test in the past two weeks. We strongly encourage KN95 masks, because they are the most effective kind by far, and it’s actually easier to breathe in them than in a cloth mask, because they stand off from your face and have lots of surface area. Cloth masks tend to suck up against your lips, reducing their surface area and making breathing much harder. We supply KN95s and hand sanitizer. In the end, we can’t eliminate all risks, no matter what we do. Attendees assume the risks to themselves and those they encounter, especially if they dance unprotected.