Remember learning to square dance in third grade? I do. Vividly. I was always taller than my classmates, extremely skinny, and terribly awkward. Thank goodness the music teacher assigned partners, otherwise, none of the boys would have ever chosen me. As it was they made dour faces when my name was paired with theirs. Ah, the joys of youth. 😁The dancing itself was fun, though–bouncy and upbeat, and I wasn’t bad at following the steps.
Fast forward 49 years.
Studly and I recently had the opportunity to attend a contra dance with a dating couple we’ve come to know and whose company we enjoy. The lovely M is a tiny bundle of energy with an irrepressible enthusiasm for life. D is one of Studly’s golf buddies, and a lot like Studly.
Recently we learned that M is an aficionado of contra dancing, and that she and D had attended a dance at the Tallahassee senior center. M made it sound like a hoot, and with just a little coaxing Studly agreed to give contra a try. Before attending, I did a little research:
According to Wikipedia, “Contra dance (also contradance, contra-dance and other variant spellings) refers to several partnered folk dance styles in which couples dance in two facing lines or in a group of four. It has mixed origins from English country dance and French dance styles in the 17th century. Sometimes described as New England folk dance, contra dances can be found around the world and have some popularity in North America and the United Kingdom where weekly or monthly dances and annual dance weekends are common.”
Now to me, contra sounded a lot like square dancing. I couldn’t wait to get out on the floor and sharpen those long-dormant skills. I mean, how hard could it be? After all, they teach third graders to do it! And this time around, I’d have a partner who didn’t grimace every time we did a promenade.
At first glance, contra had a lot in common with square dance. Many of the terms were identical: do-si-do, promenade, alemande, chain, etc., but in square dance one stays within one’s square of four people, whereas in contra only heaven and the dance caller know where one will end up.
Now I enjoy dancing. There was a time in my life when I’d have burned up that dance floor, alas, my 58-year-old out of shape body did not adapt well to the rigors of contra. It was exhausting, not just physically, but mentally. If the caller said “do-si-do,” I “do-si-didn’t.” I crow hopped and ran from pillar to post in every permutation. By the end of the first dance I was fairly sure I was going to puke up the Mexican food I’d indulged in an hour earlier. And if I was struggling, poor Studly, an avowed non-dancer, was like a hog on ice.
At one point in the evening Studly and I gratefully found a place to rest and recuperate from being flung around the room like a couple of oversized pinballs when a nice looking older man approached me with hand out asking me to dance.
“I’m really awful at this,” I said, trying to soften his expectations.
“I know,” he smiled. “I’ve been watching.”
I laughed and relaxed, sort of. My new partner was quite accomplished at contra and offered words of advice as we progressed through the dance. I was still lost much of the time, but I ended up approximately where I should have at the end of the dance, and that was quite an accomplishment.
Even as difficult as I found contra I still had fun. A lively Irish group provided the music. I could have happily tapped my toes to the fiddle playing all night. Dancers representing a wide variety of age groups, from their early twenties to the geriatric crowd twirled, stomped, and hooted to the tunes.
I’m not sure I’ll be able to get Studly to return; although, the physical activity would be so good for both of us. The next dance is in two weeks, so just in case, I’m going to practice spinning in circles while trying not to puke.
I found this on YouTube: