New Dancer Ideas - Info - Tips

Helping others

Dancing is fun, why else would so many of us spend major bits of our life-time engaged in it. The best way to learn more about it, how to do it, and so on, is to simply go. Take a look at Gary Shaprio's collection of Contra dance definitions, though it really applies to all country (social) dance, that which you'll find at most English Country, Contra, Scottish Country, Barn, Community events and even some of an evening of Old Time dance

Why is it called Contra Dance? You may find a link to this at the foot of Gary's definition page as well
What is English Country Dance? by Linda Repasky. Fear not, it is also danced throughout Canada as well
Crowded Halls, by Brad Foster (pdf 42.3 KB) [hosted by CDSS]
Intergenerationality in the Dance Community, age ranges, shared fun, by Lily Leahy (pdf 188.5) [hosted by CDSS]
Explaining Traditional Square and Contras to MWDS folks is a descriptive article that may assist some others relax and realise they may simply attend and learn at the dance

How one learns to dance - the basics

- more at Stuff For Dancers

The glib response is, "The caller will tell you." It's true. Also you'll see other folks doing things and will likely pattern some of your actions on this

All our dances use lovely (mostly) live music, we dance in time to that. Many people may hear, or eventually hear, the beat or emphasis in the music and that makes it great fun for them. This may often be an eight count, however moving one's lips if counting is considered . . . funny

Simply feel, notice, internalise the rhythm and enjoy the connection. It can assist all dancers to be in time with each other

Dance Hall/Floor Geography

Moving about the dance hall is pretty straightforward. Toward the band and/or caller is Up The Hall, or toward the Top. Away from the music is the Bottom of the Set or Hall and moving in that direction one is moving Down The Hall
[one may hear, "Line of Four Go Down the Hall"; "With your partner, Up A Double" (double of steps or 4 steps)]

In a Longways set of two rows of dancers, one may face Into the Set, Out of the Set, or Across the Set, often Toward one's partner. One may also face Up or Down the Set with one's partner beside them, both facing the same direction. In this instance one is usually facing one's Neighbour, or occasionally one's Opposite
["Hands Four

One walks or dances many of the steps to the music. In some large circle dances (especially Sicillian Circles) and in most Longways sets one, along with one's partner, dance with another couple, then move on or Progress to the next couple and dance with them. This is repeated a number of times. At the end of that dance one may wish to thank this partner, thank the band and ask someone else to dance. That done and a place found on the floor one might nip off for a moment to get some water and return quickly for instruction in the next dance.

Stuff to wear or bring, or to Not wear or bring

Each form of country dance may have it's own cultural dress appearance, however in the main, be comfortable, be kind


Light layers are best, as one may remove them. A turtlenecked, knit top would seem to be a killer, as would a sweater dress. Think reasonably active to very active depending on the type of dance, season, venue and one's own energy level. That's about personal comfort, mostly. More on dress as we go

By Being Kind I'm thinking both to others and to the hall

For Contra dance and other Ceilidh or active Community and Barn dance events some folks take along a change of some clothing, maybe extra top, and change at the break or more frequently. Some materials hold sweat and that may not be nice if one is holding you in a swing or ballroom hold. Neither is a bare back! Especially one with sun screen or moisturiser on it. Some dance forms (Club Square dance) even insist on long sleeve shirts for men. At it's roots it has to do with comfortable contact as much as etiquette


Many halls have lovely wooden, "sprung" or suspended floors which are fun to dance on, less tiring or damaging to one's legs. The surface may take damage easily from dancing as we whirl, promenade, turn, etc. Please bring clean shoes to dance in. This is quite universal amongst dance forms. Even shoes one may think have clean soles may have bits of sand and gravel which act like sandpaper. Go over your shoes, clean them up, then use them for inside only. The event organisers will appreciate this, and you'll get to keep using the hall


Simple -- Please don't wear them. Fragrance Free, Scent Free may indeed be the next public awareness raising campaign. Already many work places have policies in place encouraging employees and visitors to not wear or use that which gives off scent or damaging chemicals. In some places this is a regulation. When dancing we are many people in a single space, we come into contact with almost everyone and the activity level may exacerbate the distribution or delivery of the chemicals involved, even the natural ones. What to do? Avoid fabric softener for clothes one may wear to dance, pull out special clothes from mothballs or storage with good lead time for airing, avoid body care products with objectionable ingredients

"Small People"

Some events are Family Dances, others All Ages and many are simply Public

Many social dance events (vs classes) are open to the public in general and tend to be suitable for families, a few may not allow minors due to liquor licensing regulations. Outside of that it will be enjoyable for all when youth/children (or their parents) are mature enough to recognise when they may dance autonomously. This means if there is any separation anxiety or folks are unable to follow dance directions independently it will likely not be fun for all concerned. It's almost obvious that if small people run around the dance floor someone is bound to get hurt, big or small. Please don't allow this to happen