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: Yeah, another long one. Short version: Everyone who likes it is welcome at our off-campus dances. Campus dances are for folks under about 30, and any current student. UCF affiliation is not required, even on campus. Our dances use gender-neutral language and dancing is non-romantic. (“It’s a dance, not a date!”) It’s a modern, high-tempo, high-fun dance party aimed to please younger dancers (18-30 range). Live-music events have whatever music the band we hired plays, typically Irish, Scottish, and Appalachian old-time. Recorded music is all over the map, including trad contra, pop, and EDM! Scroll down for the rest of A3.

Q4: I’ve never been before. Will I need to take lessons or prepare?

A4: Dances are led by a caller, who will teach you everything! You can learn enough to join in the 30 minute workshop right before the first dance, even if you have never done any kind of dance before. Our dancers are welcoming and help beginners throughout the evening.

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 more 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.

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!

Q9: I’ve got a church/school/club/company/wedding and I’d love for my group to have a contra dance! Can we hire you? Can you help us find another caller?

A9: Quite possibly! Reach out to Joe Harrington <contradancerjoe@gmail.com>.

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!

A3: This is the long “dance design” answer: We welcome all who enjoy our dance in a wholesome way! But, try to satisfy everyone and nobody will be happy, so we make decisions with a target dance product and audience in mind. That audience is young adults, roughly ages 18-30 or so, and includes both straight and LGBTQ+ dancers. Our dance product is non-romantic (“It’s a dance, not a date!”), the tempo is fast (typically 120 bpm, with artistic variation around that guideline), and the music is varied. Our live bands typically play Irish, Scottish, Appalachian Old-Time, and Northern (e.g., Quebecois) tunes. Our recorded music includes those as well as modern contra, pop (all eras), house, EDM, techno, and even secular holiday tunes from a variety of cultures. 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 “larks and robins” or positional calling, rather than “gents and ladies”. While many dancers prefer dancing their traditional gender role, you’ll see 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, and many of us met the love of our lives at a contra dance.

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!