There's nothing square about contradancing

Photo caption: Harry Walker dons a skirt to spin his partner, Noemi Ybarra, across the floor at the Athenaeum during the weekly contradancing session. -- Adriane Jaeckle / The Star

By Adriane Jaeckle
March 14, 2004

Every Tuesday night, Hoosiers get together to relive a dancing tradition that started before the Revolutionary War.

"Contradancing is old-time New England-style line dancing. Originally, it was done in England, Ireland, France and all over Europe. It's pretty similar now to when it came over to the states in the 1700s and 1880s," explains Indianapolis Traditional Music and Dance president Fiona Solkowski, a regular organizer and contra aficionado.

Contradancing partners form two parallel lines facing one another. Each song leads the couples through a series of moves down the line. As the moves repeat, each dancer winds up dancing briefly with every other member of the opposite side on the floor. Similar to square-dancing, a caller instructs the couples which moves to do, choosing from an assortment of turns, spins and other partner-switching combinations. Solkowski said experienced dancers can always add flourishes to the basic moves, depending on their skill level. At the Tuesday night contradance meeting of Indianapolis Traditional Music and Dance, lessons are held for beginners at 7:45 p.m., before the dance, which lasts from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Indianapolis Contradance meets every week at the Athenaeum, 401 E. Michigan St. Admission is generally $5.

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