If contra dancing is your thing, we’ve got you covered. HCD has two monthly contra dances: Quiet Corner Contra dances are held on the first Friday of the month (except summer months) at Patriots Park Lodge, Coventry, and 2nd-Saturday Contra dances are on the second Saturday of each month at Temple Beth Torah in Wethersfield. Both feature the very best live contra music and callers from all over New England. New to Contra? A free lesson precedes each HCD contra dance.

Learn more about Quiet Corner Contra dances here.

Learn more about 2nd-Saturday Contra dances here.

We’re happy you asked. Contra is a traditional form of New England social dance, with roots dating back 200+ years. It’s a cousin of English country dance and American square dance, with a caller and figures like do-si-do and swing-your-partner. Couples form two lines, partners facing each other. Prompted by the caller, they perform a sequence of figures that causes them to progress up or down the line, meeting other couples they repeat the sequence with. Eventually every couple dances with every other couple in their line. The live music at our dances consists mainly of Irish, New England, and Quebecois jigs and reels, with an occasional waltz or Scandinavian dance tossed in.

We welcome and encourage beginners. The dances are fun, easy to learn, and don’t require fancy footwork. If you can walk, you can contra. A  workshop before each dance will teach you what you need to know to get started. Be aware that contra can be considered aerobic exercise, so be prepared to work up a sweat. Experienced dancers often bring a towel and spare dry shirt with them. You’ll find that the refreshments we provide halfway through our dances will replenish your energy for the second half.

Contra dancers are of all ages. Come alone or with a friend, and you’ll meet lots of new people. Our convention is to switch partners for each new dance, but you can stick with the same partner if you both really want to. You’ll find contra dancers to generally be very helpful and friendly—and our HCD contra dancers to be particularly so.

We suggest you wear clean, flat-bottomed, soft-soled shoes. Shoes never worn outdoors are best, but you can clean outdoor shoes with brushes we make available. By all means avoid wearing high heels or flipflops.

The caller walks everyone through the moves of each dance before the music starts. Once the music begins, the caller prompts the moves until everyone is comfortable with them.

We have no minimum age requirement for our dancers, but children who wish to dance must do so on their own (i.e., no threesomes, no carrying children, no babies in backpacks, etc.), and they must know what they’re doing—or at least be as quick-to-learn as adult newcomers. For small children we recommend local contra dances, such as the one in Cornwall, that are more geared to family participation.

If you’d like to know more about contra dances in general, one of our dancers, Rob Conboy, has written a series of three essays specifically designed for the wanna-be contra dancer: Your First Contra Dance, Things Beginners Encounter While Contra Dancing, and Contra Minutiae for Fence Sitters and the Inquisitive. These will give you an excellent overview of what to expect at HCD and most other contra dances. In addition, this instructional video provides the beginner with an excellent overview of the various contra calls, such as do-si-do, allemande left or right, etc.

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