Monday, August 06, 2001

Tips for contradancing

There's only one way to know for sure if contradancing really is cardiopulmonary exercise. So I jumped in with both feet and got some instruction from "caller," Bill Pope.

Bill is a bicycle mechanic who lives in Deer Park. He lined me up with three other folks who were new and three contra regulars. My partner of the moment was very obliging and helped me with my technique. We did the do-si-do (which I did remember from elementary school), and the basic swing which I found a bit more challenging.

"Keep your eye on your partner's nose, or some other stable object," Bill recommended (in order to keep from getting dizzy.) As I collided with my dance partner, I glanced over at my fellow greenhorns and saw that they too were grinning at their own "klutziness."

After 15 minutes or so the music began and John asked me to dance.

We lined up with another couple in one row, and holding hands, gracefully began to do as the caller commanded. I have never experienced a dance quite like it. Fifty or more people moving in unison, like a sea of humanity, floating from one line to the next. The swings were fast and frequent. The nose staring really helped.

I asked John how many people attend and he said the average is 50 to 70 for the weekly Monday dance, and 80 to 120 people for the dance held the second Saturday night of every month.

But he recommends that beginners start on Monday. "We encourage people to come to the Monday dance until they learn how to do it. As the night goes on, the dances start out very simply and get more complicated. On Saturday, they start off about where we left off on Monday night, so it's hard for beginners to jump right into the most difficult dances."

I wandered outside and found one of the novice dancers taking a break.

Aaron Clatkin, a secretary at Northern Kentucky University, had been invited by a professor from work. I asked for his impression. "It's real interesting. I play in an Irish band and he talked me into coming tonight because the band was playing. I'm having a good time. I didn't think I was going to dance at all but I did the first two."

Would Aaron come back? "I might. It's very aerobic. It keeps you moving and gives you quite a workout. I didn't expect that. It's a lot more fun than lifting weights."

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