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  • Adam Hughes

    Adam Hughes Oct. 2, 2001, 6:54 p.m. (Message 27668)

    Re: Contra dancing

    I can't add much to what Seonaid and Bob Mc Murtry have said.  Following 
    is the private reply I sent to Jonathan when he asked last time.
    Seonaid, find me an American step-hopping, and I'll show you a morris 
    dancer!  The step is usually rolled smoothly from the heel through to 
    the toe, almost like Tai-chi.
    Todd, if you don't sweat doing a strathspey, you are doing it wrong!  I 
    like contra and SCD equally, but can get better Scottish dances than 
    contra dances in the UK, which means I try and encourage my SCD friends 
    into contra to raise the standards.
    Cambridge, UK.
    Contra dance is Eastern US longways set dancing.  The word Contra is a
    corruption of Country.
    All dances are 32 bar reels or jigs, for two couples in a longways set
    of many couples, and every "odd numbered" couple starts the dance.
    Usually the odd couples begin the dance improper.  Many other dances use
    the formation from "Glasgow Highlanders", which they call "Becket
    formation".  Most of the figures are the same, but the style is
    different, with more "jive turns" and "ornamentation".  There are only a
    few "proper" dances (ie men on one side), adn they tend to be older.
    It is walked rhythmically rather than stepped, and usually has figures
    which while phrased, are "rushed" or slightly accross the music (there
    may be 5 changes in full rights and lefts for example) and tends to be
    more dominated by exceptional figures than standard ones.  This is
    because keeping moving is more important in the dancing than being
    measured, as Scottish tends to be.
    for a better source try:
    Especially follow the link to the American description.
    I like contra as it is danced on the east coast of the states.    On the
    west coast it tends to be a bit rougher, and wilder than the east, a the
    gentleman from SF mentioned.  Almost all Contra dances operate a strict
    no-smoking, and tee-total policy.  In the UK it tends to be dominated by
    "playford" dancers, who tend to plod rather than roll.  It actually
    suits Scottish dancers well, since many of the same figures and memory
    techniques can be applied, although it differs in that all dances are
    walked and called rather than cribbed.
    A good example of a Scottish dance which could be a contra dance is 
    "Come Ashore Jolly Tar".  Or imagine John Drewry had written loads of 
    nice, flowing dances for two couples, and that's what contra can be like...

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