Contra Dance: Whirling the Night Away

On Saturday, October 24, I went to St. Paul’s Memorial United Methodist Church for my first Contra Dance experience, hosted by the South Bend Contra Dancers. As I pulled into the parking lot my nerves were overwhelming me as I noticed there was very few other vehicles, indicating I was probably one of the first to arrive. Upon entering, I heard the band playing and immediately calmed down with the assurance that I was at least in the right place.

The dancing began as soon as there were enough people to do a square dance. The caller introduced those of us who were new to some of the dance moves and we began. Shortly after there were many more dancers joining in so we moved onto the Contra Dances.   

Two pairs dancing a left hand star. The blurriness in this photo shows how quickly the dancers were moving.

Two pairs dancing a left hand star.

The first dance we did was called “Curse of the Were-teen,” written and named by our caller Barry Dupen.

Fun Fact: He told us that he called it that based on the Wallace and Grommet movie that had recently premiered called “Curse of the Were-Rabbit.”

He began by walking through the required dance moves, one of which was called a Left Hand Star. To the right are two photos of some groups dancing the Left Hand Star.  The top one is very blurry, which is a great because you can really see how fast the dancers were moving. The bottom one is actually a Right Hand Star, which is the same as the Left Hand Star but with the right hand. It is more clear and you can really see how the dance works. To put it simply, every one in the group puts out their left/right arm, grabbing the wrist of the person to the left/right, respectively.  Below is a recording of his teaching it.

Two groups dancing a circle. Notice the Pair at the end waiting to get back in the dance.

After he went through the steps of the dance, the music and dancing began. Although the music may not sound particularly fast, the dancing certainly was! Below is a recording of one cycle of the  dance. To the left is a photo of some of the groups dancing a circle. In the recording below you can hear Barry say “circle left.” This picture is of that movement. (For more recordings and a short explanation of cycles, click here.)

The rest of the night went on in a similar pattern. The caller introduced each dance, briefly went through the movements involved in the dance, then the music began with the dancing. About halfway through the evening the band played a waltz then took a break. The second half was a repeat of the first with different dances.

Overall the evening was a lot of fun. The church was beautiful, but it got really hot with all of the movement. The dances were fast and the moves involved a lot of spinning and whirling. (If you would like to see more information on the dance moves please visit this page)

The photos in the gallery below show a few of the dances that are part of Contra Dance. The photos are all taken from a balcony in the hall. The Dance took place on Saturday October 24, at St. Paul’s Memorial United Methodist Church. For more information on the South Bend Contra Dancers please visit their website or their Facebook page.



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