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Steppin out Elora, Fergus contra dances are for everyone

by Janice Ferri

CENTRE WELLINGTON - Like many people here, I had never heard of contra dancing when a friend invited me to attend a dance in Guelph with her and some others.

She assured me I would have a great time and it didn’t matter if I didn’t know the steps - or didn’t have a partner. I was skeptical but excited about dancing so I took the plunge.

I was surprised to find a live band playing jigs and reels in the church hall. The musicians and the caller, known as Relative Harmony, energized the room. The next surprise was the number of men there. Experienced dancers sought newcomers as a partner to help us learn the dances.

Caller Judy Greenhill walked us through each dance, sometimes more than once until we got the hang of it. No one was left sitting on the sidelines.

When we had a break, Greenhill explained where the name “contra” comes from. It may be a form of “country” as the steps are sometimes called “country dances.” It also may refer to the way the dances start, with men forming a long line down the hall and the women forming another line facing them so dancers are opposite or “contra” their partners. Contra dancing has been popular in New England since the 1800s. In Ontario, they are held in Toronto, Hamilton, Guelph, and Owen Sound.

Contra dancers tend to dress informally in loose light-weight clothing. Some like to wear a twirly skirt. Comfortable low heeled shoes are a must.

What I discovered that first night was exciting live music that made me want to move, a style of dance easy to learn, and a place where the whole community dancing together is more important than any one person or couple looking good. It really didn’t matter that I came without a partner - I danced every dance.

After dancing in Guelph for almost a year, I want to bring contra dance to Elora and my home town of Fergus. Along with friends from the Elora Fergus Unitarian Church and support from Relative Harmony, we held dances in July and August. Encouraged by the good turnout and enthusiastic response, we have planned dances for the last Friday of the month in October and November. Dances are held at the Highland Rugby Club Field House, 150 Albert St. W. in Fergus. Admission is $10 per person and dancing starts at 8pm.

All are welcome.

For more information contact Ferri at 519-843-9971 or visit www.efuuc.org and click on contra dance.

 

October 14, 2011

 
 

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