Young and old take a swing at tonight's contra dance

By Lisa Gentes/ Daily News Staff

Saturday, March 18, 2006

NORTHBOROUGH -- Folks will be lining up to twirl and tap at tonight's Northborough Contra Dance.

The dance, held at the First Parish Unitarian Universalist Church, is an old-fashioned New England dance, similar to square dancing. Contra dances are also held in several surrounding cities and towns, including Medway, Berlin, and Concord.

"You don't have to know anything to contra dance," said Jon Weinberg of Lancaster, a contra dancer since 1989. "If you can walk, you can contra dance."

The folk-inspired dance, held monthly from September to May, is done in lines with a partner, he said. Couples, singles and groups of all ages can attend the Northborough dance.

A caller walks the dancers through all of the moves. The dancers practice with a partner and another couple, and move down the line until they've danced with every couple in line, Weinberg said.

Weinberg plays for The Polymorphous String Band, which has been playing the monthly Northborough Contra Dance since about 1997. The band played at a Northborough Apple Fest, and the church contacted them to host a dance in town. Weinberg's wife, Lyn Paul, also plays with the band. He dances less now that he plays in the band, but he and his wife met contra dancing in 1991 and married last September.

The four-member band plays fiddle, mandolin, guitar, hammered dulcimer, bass and percussion for the Northborough event. "It's traditional music and an acoustic band," he said of the string band. More traditional New England contra bands also include piano, he said.

Weinberg said he became interested in contra dancing when he heard the music. "The music is actually telling you what to do," he said. "It's great fun and hard to do without smiling."

The dance attracts people of all ages and abilities, he said. "It's not uncommon to see young people dancing with old people."

At last month's dance, a group of students from Clark University attended, he said.

The caller adjusts to the group, choosing dances to fit their level. "A good caller is entertaining, has good crowd control without being a drill sergeant and adds to the dance," he said.

Those who want to have an inexpensive night of dancing, exercise and meeting "nice, friendly, folksy" people should try contra dancing, Weinberg said. "It's a fun, affirming time."

The Northborough Contra Dance is being held tonight, from 8 to 11 p.m., at the First Parish Church, 40 Church St., Northborough. Admission is $7 for the dance and refreshments. Loose clothing is recommended.

For more information on Northborough Contra Dance go to

(Lisa Gentes can be reached at 508-490-7461 or

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This page last updated on October 10, 2006.