Subject: Daily Sentinel, Grand Junction, Co

December 28, 2001

Moments By LORI CUMPSTON The Daily Sentinel

Are you looking for something different to do on a Saturday night?

Check out the community Contra Dance on Saturday, Jan. 5, at the Lincoln Park Barn.

Connie Smith, aka Contra Dance Queen, took a few moments out to talk to The Daily Sentinel about the upcoming dance.

What is a contra dance?

It's a dance that's been around for 200 or 300 years. It started in Great Britain and then came to America. It's prevalent on the East Coast and West Coast and lots of university towns have it. It has similar moves to square dancing with a line of men facing a line of women and each couple progresses down the set doing simple moves eventually dancing with every other couple in the set.

How long have you been involved with contra dancing?

I used to play contra dances in Albuquerque in the mid-'80s and I started a series in Grand Junction in November of '99.

Why do you like contra dancing?

The endless smiles. It's unbelievable. It is so much fun, the minute the music starts the smiles radiate. It is simple if you know your right hand from your left hand and you can count to eight ... there is a caller who teaches everyone the basic moves a half hour before the dance and then we'll teach each dance throughout the evening and cue during the dance so people know what it is and it's simple enough so people get it. If you get confused, just raise your right hand and whoever is supposed to grab it next will grab it.

Who puts on the contra dances and how often are they held?

I am the Contra Dance Queen. They are held every other month, but not during the summer. We do five or six a year. It's a lot of work to put these dances on ... last January, we had a record 160 people attend.

Who provides the music?

The West Slope Ceili Band. It's an Irish word meaning party or fun evening. It has a Celtic flavor and we do American contra dance tunes.

Who is in the band?

Jean Dillon, Harmony Voorhies, Ron Young (and myself).

Smith, 43, lives in Grand Junction with her husband, Greg, a civil engineer and their two kids, Ben, 8, and Ryan, 6. She is also an artist who specializes in hand-painted clothing and jewelry.

New dancers can attend a workshop at 7:30 p.m. The contra dance is from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. The Lincoln Park Barn is at 12th Street and North Avenue. The cost is a $6 donation at the door or $2 for ages 10 to 17. Call 243-6736 for information.

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