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Santa Cruz "Gender Role Free" Contra Dance!

Friday March 25, 2016
6:30-10pm (Beginners' Session 6:30pm Dance 7-10pm)
Santa Cruz Live Oak Grange #503, 1900 17th Ave, Santa Cruz, CA [map]


Caller: Andy Shore; Band: Tilt-A-Whirl (Laurie Rivin, Janet Dows, John Hamstra, Daniel Steinberg)

All Are Welcome! No experience necessary! First Timers Welcome!

Beginners Session starts at 6:30pm. All dances will be taught and walked through. Andy Shore has over 25 years experience leading social dance in the LGBTQ* community.

Here's the Facebook "Event Page" for this dance - help spread the word and share with your friends!

What is Contra Dance?

Contra Dance is an American folk form that evolved out of English country dancing and French quadrilles and is a close cousin to American square dancing. Picture the kind of dancing you saw in Jane Austin movies, or the wedding scene in "MockingJay" but with a more modern twist.

Contra Dance is a community social dance that requires no prior dance training or experience - if you can walk, you can Contra Dance. Our dance is open to anyone regardless of sexual orientation, gender expression, dance experience, or number of left feet.

Contra dancing is innocent aerobic flirting! There is some eye contact and lots of touch - holding hands to circle, allemande, or swing. No intricate footwork - just a walking step on the balls of your feet to the beat of the energetic live music. If you are smiling, you are doing it right!

The live music, usually jigs or reels, is well-phrased and easy to follow. Depending on the band, the music can be Celtic, French Canadian, Klezmer, Old-Time, Bluegrass, or many other adapted styles.

You find a partner - everyone is eager to dance - and join a line of other couples. The caller will teach the dance pattern by leading a walk through with your first set of "Neighbors" (another couple), and any new movements will be introduced and explained, even demonstrated if necessary. When the music starts, you and your partner will repeatedly dance the pattern with a new set of neighbors each time through, which takes about 30 seconds. Lather, Rinse, Repeat. When the music stops, you thank your partner, and find a new one to line up for the next dance. A typical 3-hour evening will consist of about 12 different dances, with break in the middle and a couple of waltzes too. By the end of the evening, you'll have danced with everyone in the room!

Wear comfortable, light clothing - some men and women will be in skirts or kilts. Wear comfortable soft soled, non-marking shoes - some people dance barefoot. Please avoid wearing any scented products to the dance, and arrive relatively odor-free. Avoid dangly jewelry or loose weave clothing that can get caught or snagged by others. There's plenty of opportunity for individual expression and improvisation at a contra dance!

What is Gender Role Free Contra Dance?

Gender Role Free contra dance is welcoming to people of any gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation, and encourages everyone to dance together.

Traditionally, contra dancing partners were identified as "Gents" and "Ladies" or "Men" and "Women", with gender-normative associations of dancers to roles. About 30 years ago, groups of LGBTQ* dancers decided to see what it would be like to eschew these gendered identifiers and dance with whomever they wanted. The naming convention of "Arm Bands" (or just "Bands") and "Bare Arms" (or just "Bares") was adopted. More recently the language has been in flux, especially in communities appealing to younger dancers, but our dance will use "Bands" and "Bares". We provide actual arm bands to help identify those dancing that role, though the philosophy of gender role free dancing is to "dance with who's coming at ya!"

While you can "try on" either role (it is definitely not a life choice!), newer dancers may find it less confusing to stick with one role at their first contra dance. There's still plenty of opportunity to find enthusiastic partners. Don't be surprised if you see some experienced dancers swapping roles with their partners during a single dance!

There are several LGBTQ* Gender Role Free contra dance groups around the US, and more local dances are offering periodic evenings of gender role free dancing. Most contra dance series are very welcoming communities and dancers are welcome - even encouraged - to learn and dance both roles.

If you are new to contra dancing, please try to arrive on time for the beginners lesson! It can make a huge difference in your confidence and enjoyment of your first dance. Even if you arrive with a partner, it's best to dance with lots of people during the evening. If you are new, don't be shy about asking those who seem experienced to dance - they are there to help! No matter what, we want you to have fun and come back again! Contra dancing always makes more sense the second time - everything that was new that first time will seem more familiar.

What's Contra Dancing really like?

Ok. Here's a guided tour. Watch this first:

Here's a couple of short videos featuring Gender Role Free Contra from Seattle and NYC:


Here's a longer YouTube playlist of great contra dance videos:


This dance sponsored in part by Traditional Dancers of Santa Cruz.

Got more questions?  Please contact me!