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Join the locals in an Appalachian tradition! Contra Dancing is a form of American folk dance in which the dancers form a set of two parallel lines which run the length of the hall. Each dance consists of a sequence of moves that ends with couples having progressed one position up or down the set. As the sequence is repeated, a couple will eventually dance with every other couple in the set. Contra Dancing was all the rage in 1800.

Where to Go?

  • Monday Nights Dance is 7:30-9:45 PM, starting with introductory dance and orientation for newcomers, at the Art and Spirit at St George’s in Malvern Hills just off Patton Avenue. Address is 1 School Road, Asheville, NC 28806. $7/person
  • Thursday Contra Dance, 8-11 PM: Warren Wilson College Bryson Gym, 701 Warren Wilson Road, Swannanoa, NC, $7/person. Beginner lesson starts at 7:30 PM and is highly encouraged for new dancers. More Special Dance Nights throughout the year, including English Country Dances and other folks and social dancing. Go to their Web site for performers and details.

Is Contra Dancing Similar To Square Dancing?
Many of the basic moves in Contra Dancing are similar to those in square dancing (swings, promenades, dos-à-dos, allemandes). A square dance set comprises only four couples whereas the number of couples in a Contra Dance set is limited only by the length of the hall. To join the set, all you need is a partner. If you have danced squares, you will enjoy Contras immediately.

What If I Have Never Danced Before?
In Contra Dancing, your feet are never asked to do more than walk to the music. Each dance is taught by the caller before it is danced. The caller continues to prompt the dancers as needed. Because the pattern of moves of each Contra Dance is repeated often, Contra Dances are easy to learn. Both beginning and experienced dancers happily share the same set.

Why Should I Dance Contras?
Contra Dances have a relaxed, family-like atmosphere where the emphasis is on dancing, a welcome relief to noisy and smoky dance halls. The patterns of the dances are nifty. Contra Dancing is excellent exercise that you can take at your own pace. Above all, Contra Dancers form a community of friendly, active people and they welcome new dancers, be they youngsters or seniors. Most dancers range from 25 to 50 years old.

What If I Don't Have A Partner?
No problem. Many people come to a Contra Dance alone. Dancers are encouraged to dance with many different partners throughout the evening. If there is an excess of one gender, it is customary for women to dance men's parts (and vice versa) to form couples and extend the set.

Do I Need To Wear Special Clothes?
No. Contra Dancers tend to dress informally. Most people dress for comfort and in anticipation of vigorous exercise. Ladies prefer loose, light dresses or skirts; men wear lightweight slacks, jeans, or even shorts. Be sure to wear soft-soled, comfortable shoes.

What Is The Music Like?
For many dancers, the live music is the great attraction. Traditional jigs, reels, and hornpipes from the Scots-Irish tradition on both sides of the Atlantic form the basic repertoire. The fiddle is often the lead instrument.

Do I Have To Join A Club?
No. You may come and go as you please. Admission is charged to pay for the hall, the caller and the musicians. You can dance all night for less than the cost of a movie.

Contra Dance Weekend
Asheville's favorite contra dance weekend, Summer Soiree, is held the third weekend of June each year. Great Bear Trio will fill the stage of the Pavilion at Warren Wilson College with great tunes for dancing. Read more about the Asheville Contra Dance Weekend.

Asheville Swing Dancing
Find out about weekly dances and gatherings for Lindy Hop, Charleston, Solo Jazz, Balboa, and Blues dance. Go to their Web site.

Asheville Round and Square Dance Clubs
Visit one of the many clubs. Go to their Web site.

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