Southern Maryland Traditional Music and Dance hosted the second Saturday Contra Dance at St. Andrew’s Church on St. Andrew’s Church Road in California on Feb 14. The event kicked off with some informal instruction to first time attendees that covered some basics of this style of dance.
This evening’s caller was Eva Murray (www.eva.murray.com) who started calling dances in 1997 and is a caller for SMTMD Contra dances each year. Murray explained what the dances the enthusiastic participants would be doing and walked them through the sequence before inviting the Open Band to start playing. As dancers enjoyed the effort, if anyone got a little out of place, Murray would gently guide them to where they needed to be at that point in the music.
SMTMD holds a dance each month featuring a different caller so the dancers will enjoy the fun differences between styles of dance calling.
What is a contra dance?
Contra is a French word meaning opposite. Contra dancing is an old European dance form which has changed over the centuries in the United Kingdom, France, and the United States. The dances are led by a caller and involve steps which are repeated and easily mastered. Dancers are led through basic steps such as: Allemande left, doe-si-doe, swing your partner, promenade; the same as the familiar square dancing.
The beauty of this type of dance is that the steps carry over to different dances, but are in a new sequence which makes for a lot of fun for dancers. In Contra dancing there are no fancy costumes needed or any equipment; just good comfortable shoes that do not scuff the floor and a willingness to have a great time and participate in some enjoyable exercise.
Any one wishing to attend SMTMD dances are surprised to learn that there is no need to bring a partner. Many singles come to the dances and there is the opportunity to partner with a different person. As dancers become familiar with the various dance steps they find themselves dancing with every person before the dance is over.
The live music for the SMTMD Contra dances is provided by The Open Band, a group of local talented musicians who enjoy playing for the dancers fr