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What Kind of Dance Do We Do?

photo of whirling dancers

Here are some of the styles of dance we offer, always with live music, not recordings:

Contra Dance

Contra dances are done in long lines of couples. Two couples dance together as a group of four, going through a sequence of moves, or figures, for one round of the dance, until the two couples have changed places up and down the line and are facing the next couple, ready to start another round of the dance.

You get a chance to walk through each figure under the caller's direction before the dance starts, and both the caller and your fellow dancers will help you remember what to do at each point in the dance. The dance repeats, so after a few times through your body will start to remember what to do, and you can fully enjoy the music.

You can dance and have fun on your first night. No lessons are required, but if you come a half hour early we will show you the ropes.

The mood of a Contra dance is upbeat and quick-tempo. But the music isn't as fast as it sounds. You can do every figure at a walking pace.

Here's a video example of a contra dance to give an idea of what it's about.


We sometimes mix traditional square dances in with our Contra dances. Our kind of Square Dance is very similar to a Contra, with many of the same figures as in a Contra, but with 4 couples arranged facing inward in a square. No petticoats, no costumes, it's just another shape of fun.

The caller walks you through the dance a couple of times (once for the heads, once for the sides, and once for the break figure, at least), and then you dance it several times through, with wonderful live music. It's a joyous concert where you don't have to keep silent in your seat!

English Country Dance

This is the dance form that American Squares and Contras came from. English dance has a long and varied history that goes back to the court dances of the Renaissance. In its modern form, it dates to 1651, when the publisher John Playford produced The English Dancing Master. English dancing remained popular right down to the 1820's, when it was edged out by that newfangled dance craze, the waltz. Today, the most familiar examples of English Country Dance come from movies of the Jane Austen era, such as Pride and Prejudice.

English dance is richer in form and texture than Contra. There are more different dance formations (it's not all in long lines of couples). There are more figures, and more different styles of music. Most English dance is stately and elegant, with slower movements, and more eye contact. But some is just as vigorous and upbeat as Contra. Every dance has its own tune and its own tempo, and its own feel.

Here's a video example of an English Country dance to give an idea of what it's about.

English Ceilidh, or Barn Dance

"Ceilidh" (pronounced KAY-lee) comes from the Gaelic (Scots and Irish) word for a country dance party. This term (along with the American "Barn Dance") has been adopted by the younger set in England for a style of party dances that falls somewhere between Contra and traditional English. Ceilidh dances tend to be simple, fun, and high-spirited, the kind you can do in the pub with a few beers in you. The emphasis is on being lively and having fun.

Family Dances

The future of our dances depends on our ability to pass them on to our children. Children (properly supervised) are welcome at all of our dances, and those as young as eight are capable of learning the figures and doing the dances with us.

But it's easier for children to feel comfortable dancing in a setting that is structured for them and for their families, and that is why we like to offer family dances when we can. We have sponsored regular family dances in the past, and we run a regular Family Dance Camp each summer. We'd really like to resume running regular family dances. All it takes is someone to organize it, and a core of committed dancers to make sure it happens. Talk to us if you are interested.

What Should I Expect at my First BACDS Dance?

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