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The Living Tradition Dances

Beginner and Family Friendly 
What Is Contra Dancing?


The Living Tradition is proud to sponsor contra dancing, a simple, early-American folk dance that everyone can enjoy – no formal lessons or partners are required.  This traditional dance is fun to learn, family friendly, and builds a sense of community with other contra dancers. 

Many fine bands have graced our dances, and well-known dance-callers provide lively prompting.  Bring your friends, make new friends, get some exercise, or just relax and enjoy the live band playing traditional music.   

Our contra dances are held nearly every month on the 4th Saturday in the City of Anaheim.  Parking is free; admission prices are low, and children under 18 are free with a paid adult.  No alcohol or smoking is allowed at our dances.  See the Schedule below. 

Beginner and Family Friendly 

Our Contra dance evenings are designed to be beginner friendly and fun for everyone.  They begin with a free introductory (or refresher) group lesson.  When the true dancing begins, each dance is explained and prompted by a “caller.”  And to further help novices along, our “regulars” welcome novices to dance with them.   

What Is Contra Dancing?

Thousands of people have been contra dancing for hundreds of years. With a little courage, a sense of adventure, and a spirit of community energy, you, too can be enjoying this traditional social activity. You do not need to know how to dance, nor do you need to bring a partner. All dances will be taught and prompted by a caller with a live, acoustic band. Like most dance forms, contra dancing can be confusing to the newcomer. We welcome your willingness and beg your patience. Hopefully, these hints will help get you started

What are the dance priorities, in order of importance?

  1. Have fun.

  2. Help others have fun.

  3. Give good-faith effort to perform the dances correctly, within your level of experience.

What about partners?

  • Ask anyone to dance. Total strangers are fair game.

  • Women ask as well as men.

  • We recommend beginners ask the more experienced dancers. (Yes we all remember being a beginner and will help you out.)

  • Change partners every dance.

What style tips should I know?

  • Eye contact: We look each other straight in the eyes as we dance. It is more fun and it reduces dizziness.

  • Timing: We dance each figure within its musical phrase.

  • Giving Weight: We keep our arms firm to help each other through the figures.

  • Smooth and Gentle: We move with an easy walking step.

  • Alert: We are sensitive to others’ needs and preferences.

What should I wear?

  • Casual and comfortable clothing.
    Be ready to perspire. (It’s OK, we all do) Come layered.

  • Shoes: Comfortable and supportive. Shoes are often dictated by the type of flooring and requests of the dance venue. Look at the experienced dancers and ask for their comments, too.

How long does it take to learn contra dancing? Typically, after three evenings of contra dancing, most folks say “Now I get it! This is simple and fun.” Your mileage may vary.

Contra Dance History

Americans have contra danced since the Revolutionary period. They combined ideas from French and English country dancing, with their own Yankee ways of having fun, and came up with contra dancing. It is a social dance akin to square dancing that has retained its simple, open, community-oriented spirit. There are fewer than two dozen dance figures that a caller might ask the dancers to do. The main format is two long lines of facing partners, thus the name “contra,” meaning “opposite," or "opposing.”

(The Welcome to Contra Dancing text is used with permission by wild and wonderful Rob Craighurst, an innovative caller from Charlottsville, VA.)