Published Wednesday, April 5, 1995

Country Dancers follow call of company, fun

YDN Staff Reporter

If you are ever looking for an active, traditional social activity to fill up an empty Saturday night by yourself or with a friend, put on your dancing shoes and join the New Haven Country Dancers -- they would love to have you.

Unbeknownst to most Yale students, this group is one of several organizations in the New Haven area that organize alcohol- and smoke-free public dances with live music several times a month, for only six dollars.

The New Haven Country Dancers focus on contra dancing, a form of dance where partners stand in lines and follow the instructions of a caller at the front of the room.

Contra dancing is in fact the oldest kind of non-native social dancing in the country -- even the Pilgrims did it, New Haven Country Dancer Barbara Ruth said. The most famous contra dance is the Virginia Reel, which was popular 200 years ago.

The English settlers brought contra dance to the United States, but since its birth in America it has developed a distinctive American flavor with a faster paced tempo.

Young and old hail contra dancing's social aspect as the best thing about it.

You can bring a partner along or journey out alone, but either way, "If you stay with your partner all night, it's considered anti-social," Ruth said.

At a typical New Haven Country Dance, the crowd usually runs from 80 to 100 people, and ranges from students to old timers who already have their particular flair down.

For those who have never tried contra dancing, there is always a workshop held at 7:20 for beginners, before the actual dance starts at 8:00 p.m. In addition, the caller always explains the moves of each dance as the night progresses.

Every New Haven Country Dance is held at the Arbeiter Maenner Chor, a building at the University of New Haven, which is about a 10-minute drive from Yale's campus.

But regulars of the dance are extremely friendly and usually carpool -- and are happy to offer rides to new comers.

The organization even provides a hot line for people to find out about the group's schedule, and to find a lift.

The next dance is on April 15, where Eric Hollman and Double Date will be playing. If you are interested, call 776-1812.

Also, the organization has information on numerous other dance events that go on around New Haven, from Scandinavian dancing to folk dancing.

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