CONTRA DANCE PHOENIX - this is our "2nd Saturday" dance, at historic Kenilworth School. Live band! Half-hour lesson at 7 PM. Beginners welcome! Not too hard, not too easy! Directions before and during each 10-minute dance. Partners change every 10 minutes. Friendly, community dance. You can come by yourself and make new friends - or bring a friend or your friends - many people come each way.
Similar to Irish ceili dance, but no jumps. "Contra" has a fun move with 2 people spinning around each other quickly, if you both want. 20-minute break to meet people. Free snacks. Irish music or similar. Everyone is welcome! You are also invited to a group dinner available at 5 PM!
Please come ten minutes before 7:00, to park and walk to the dance hall. All are encouraged to join or help with the lesson. The admission fee is $8 general, and $5 for dancers age 25 and under.
We meet at the Kenilworth School, at 1210 N. 5th Ave, Phoenix, AZ. (Avoid Mapquest - it gives the wrong location in September 2011!)
SHORT DIRECTIONS I CAN MEMORIZE:
"I-10, exit North on 7th Ave, take first right."
Go to downtown Phoenix
Go North on 7th Ave.
Take the first right (onto Culver). (Go straight until you see the school.)
Park on the left. (Even if the sign on the parking lot is hard to see, the lot is for the school, and is well lit, and will be open until 11 PM. )
As you walk to the school, the entrance is on the left side, with the 2-story tall classical columns.
NOT TOO EASY, NOT TOO HARD!
Please ask for Bill or Dan at the desk and they will greet you.
If you happen to come after 7:00, someone will always be happy to give you individual lessons - just ask. But naturally it's nicer if everyone is learning the same moves at the same time. So this is why it is suggested: please come 10 minutes before 7:00.
We have dinners before the dance! Places include Pita Jungle, Pei Wei, and Sweet Tomatoes! Our restaurants usually accommodate a variety of diets. Please sign up for our email list, because about half the restaurants officially need RSVP's. To sign up, please say you wish to join the pre-dance dinner list, at
Pre-Dance Dinner List:
IN THE NEWS!
THINGS TO BRING:
A water bottle. We walk quickly. (If you don't have one, please still go! There are water fountains there just in case.)
A hand towel or headband. :-)
Please carry in clean shoes to put on at the dance. Should be soft-soled to not mark the floor. Please avoid heels - any heels worn should be wide, for you and for the floor.
Some people bring an extra shirt.
(You will be in a waltz hold, face-to-face with other people, just 1 or 2 feet away. So please allow time to get ready, so you can arrive 10 minutes early for the 7 PM lesson.)
THINGS TO WEAR:
A light short-sleeved shirt or blouse
A light pair of pants or a long skirt with pleats.
In my opinion, the most amazing part of contra dance is the "swing" (a spin). This is two people in a waltz hold spinning around each other something like a figure skater spinning in place. This can be a wild ride, or slow, however you want. (This spin is taught, but if you wish you can just skip this and just walk around each other.)
IMPORTANT TIP: Beginners on their first night should spin slowly (except maybe trying spinning quickly once to experience the fun). This is to avoid getting dizzy. I like to spin very quickly, but I did learn to avoid the dizziness after about one evening of spinning quickly. I think what I do is look at the other person around the eyes or around the forehead, and every few seconds look down or off to the side for a second.
1964 - CONTRA DANCE IS TIMELESS
Contra dances are similar to Irish ceili dances, except you don't have to jump. The dances are led by a "caller". The caller "calls out" the steps during the dance. Each dance is made up of a 1-minute pattern repeated about 10 times. Before each 10-minute dance, the caller leading the dance will take five minutes to explain the 1-minute pattern and walk you through it a couple times. Please listen carefully to the caller. These dances are definitely do-able, but it really helps to listen for what to do. If you need more explanation, that should be fine - please tell the caller or ask an experienced person to tell the caller. Then during the dance, the caller gives the directions.
This is a very welcoming & friendly group, and most everyone will be actively trying to help everyone else. There is no need to be perfect - please don't worry about footwork - but naturally, it helps to be in roughly the right place, so people might be pointing where to go, and it is normal if sometime during the night someone nudges you by your shoulder into the right spot, like to help you switch places with your partner. This is a community of people trying to help each enjoy this time-honored tradition, in a long history of contra dance going back to about the year 1700.
THE 1700's… TO TODAY!
If you are new and want to do a dance, just stand, and almost always someone will ask you. You can also ask someone to dance. Just say, "Hi, my name is so-and-so. [The other person answers.] Would you like to dance?". <--Then you can talk a couple minutes before the 10-minute dance.--> Women can ask men - and it is normal for women to ask men and for men to ask women.
If you want to take a break after a dance and watch one, people will still be friendly and probably still ask you to dance - you can just say you want you want to watch.
It's traditional to change partners almost every dance. Also, for beginners, it is encouraged to dance with experienced people your first couple ten-minute dances, so you can get off to a good start. During each dance we also dance with our "neighbors", and after a few dances you'll have danced with the whole other half of the dancers in the hall. This is what is meant by a "community" dance. Also, no partner is necessary - many people go with a friend or friends, and many people to go to make new friends. (And many people do both).
The evening comes to a close at 10:30. Usually many people hang out after just to talk and make plans.
There is a waltz just before intermission and one to end the evening. The waltz is considered to be easier than contra. Also, you can find an experienced person to dance with, and that experienced person will lead, so it is traditionally not taught. Here's a video if you like:
HOW TO WALTZ
The music is American old-timey folk music, similar to Irish folk music, and has a fiddle, and either a guitar or a keyboard. Then there can be an extra fiddle, or a drum/bodhran, string bass, tin whistle, hammered dulcimer, and sometimes even a flute or saxophone! We have several wonderful local bands. The bands include Clusterfolk, Pick & Holler, The Out of Kilters, and The Privy Tippers.
P.S.: For ADVENTURERS: after you have gone to a few dances, you might ask around at a dance and arrange to go on a field trip to a Tucson or Flagstaff-area dance. Those cities have dances available on almost every weekend that Phoenix does not. After a few more dances, you might go to an annual Dance Weekend near Flagstaff called "May Madness". Tucson has a weekend too - "Dance In The Desert", and Payson, Arizona, has one too - "Dancing on the Edge" (of Mogollon Rim). California has several. There will be 100 people at a weekend. Wherever you travel: you can easily find contra dances in almost every major city every month. New England dances are huge, with 200 people.
Welcome! Almost always 40-80 people! Almost always equal men and women within 5 or 10 people. You can come by yourself and make new friends. Friendly, community dance. Please join us!
We usually have a 5 PM dinner that you can RSVP for. For the dance: Half-hour lesson at 7 PM. No experience required. Dance is challenging but do-able. Directions before and during each 10-minute dance. Partners change every 10 minutes. Similar to Irish ceili dance, but no jumps. "Contra" has a fun move with 2 people spinning around each other quickly, if you both want. 20-minute break to meet people. Free snacks often available. Music is always live! Irish music or similar. Everyone is welcome! The events are run by Phoenix Traditional Music & Dance, PHXtmd.org.
We plan to send a welcome letter within a month or so, and then we may ask you if you have any questions or requests a couple months later or after you go to a dance.
We meet on 2nd Saturdays at historic Kenilworth School, and 4th Fridays at the Irish Cultural Center, both in Phoenix, Arizona.
For tips and VIDEOS, please click on a Meetup event on here!