Southern Pines Pilot, NC

Contradance Comes to the Sandhills

The Contradancers of the Sandhills will present a contra on Saturday, April 9, from 7:30 to 11 p.m. in the West End Gym.

Bill and Libby Hicks will provide the music, and the caller is Linda Cooper. Admission is $8 for adults, $5 for students, and free for children.

³We are thrilled to be hosting this event,² says Karen Poppele, who is in charge of publicity. ³Those of us who enjoy contradancing currently must drive to Carrboro, Durham, Greensboro, and beyond to find a dancing community. We hope to turn this first dance into a regularly scheduled monthly dance.²

The dance is sponsored by The Chairman, Hawkins and Harkness Jewelers, Java Bean Plantation, Letter-perfect Services, Nature¹s Own, Nita¹s Note-Niche, Southern Pines Electric, Diana Turner-Forte, and Steven and Patti Zoellner.

Contradancing is a type of American folk dancing. English country dancing (think Mr. Darcy and Miss Elizabeth Bennett from ³Pride and Prejudice²) was introduced to France in the early 1700s, where the French are believed to have changed ³country dance² to contredans, which translates, depending on which theory one believes, to ³opposites dance² or ³across dance.² The French term was then reintroduced as contradance in England and a young America.

Contradance blends elements of English country dancing and square dancing and has grown immensely popular across the country since the 1980s, spawning entire dance weekends ‹ even cruises ‹ dedicated to dances and workshops in dance and music. Couples dance in parallel lines, progressing up and down the line with other couples as they move in a series of repeated figures.

³The steps are easy to learn and include the balance, do-si-do, allemande, star, right and left through, boxing the net, California twirl, promenade, swing, and hay,² says Poppele.

All dances begin with a half-hour lesson. Before each individual dance, which typically lasts 15-20 minutes, the caller walks the dancers through the steps. The caller continues to prompt the dancers until everyone is comfortable with the steps, and then just lets the energy of the dancers and musicians take over.

Contras are almost always danced to live music, primarily Celtic in influence, but ³old-time² music and Cajun-inspired tunes are common.

³I¹ve seen a trombone up on the stage,² says Poppele. ³Bill and Libby Hicks are a terrific duet ‹ Bill is one of the original Red Clay Ramblers ‹ and Linda Cooper is gifted in her ability to gauge the dancers¹ comfort level with the steps. If you¹ve never danced a contra, you¹ll pick it up quickly, and even if you aren¹t a dancer, the music is fantastic.²

The West End Gym is located on Old West End School Road, 1/10 mile west of the 211/73 intersection.

³We ask that everyone carry in a pair of clean, soft-soled shoes for dancing to protect the wooden floor. It is a safe, smoke-free, alcohol-free environment, perfect for families, young folks ‹ people of all ages,² says Poppele. ³And, it is great exercise and a terrific way to meet people.²

For more information, call 690-1098.

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Produced by Charlie Seelig
This page last updated on October 16, 2006.