What’s Contra Dance?

About Contra dance

Contra is a form of folk dance made up of long lines of couples. Throughout each dance, couples progress up and down these lines, dancing with each other couple in the line. Contra dancing is always done to live music! The dance is led by a “caller” who teaches the series of steps in the dance before the music starts – each dance includes 6–12 steps which are repeated as couples progress up and down the lines. Contra dancing is easy to learn because the steps are based on walking, are taught at the start of every dance, and are called throughout the dance. It’s also a fun dance for experienced dancers because they can add flourishes (e.g.,  twirling or skipping) to the basic walking steps.

Is Contra dancing for me?

YES! We welcome people old and young, of all genders, races, nationalities, and other identities, and strive to create an inclusive dance floor. Our dances are called/announced using gender-free terms (“Larks” and “Robins”); anyone can dance whichever role they want to — or even switch roles throughout the evening!

Can I come without a partner?

YES! Dances have a mix of people who come with partners and those that don’t. Typically, everyone switches partners through the course of the evening to meet new people and experience the dance and energies of different people.

I’ve never danced Contra! How can I learn?

Every dance includes a 30-minute free beginners’ lesson before the dance starts, covering the basic Contra steps. Come check it out! If you like it, stay on. Otherwise, you’ll be in downtown Palo Alto with lots of good food, music and desserts on a Saturday evening. Classic win-win situation!

Sounds great! What do I need to go Contra dancing?

  1. Contra involves a lot of stepping, so wear comfortable, supportive, clean, non-marking shoes shoes that you would wear for a long walk. For instance, avoid high heels.
  2. Wear comfortable; lightweight clothes — Contra is an energetic dance, and the dance hall can get warm. If you’d like, wear a flowy garment so the twirls are more fun.
  3. If you’d like, bring an N95 or KN95 mask. As of 10/1/23 masks are no longer a requirement, however we are recommending participants wear masks to help prevent spread of COVID-19 or other respiratory pathogens.
  4. Bring cash to pay for the dance if you haven’t paid online in advance.
  5. Bring a water bottle. There is also a water fountain at the venue.

Check out our calendar for information on our upcoming Palo Alto Contra dances!