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Valentine's Day CONTRA DANCE (40-80 people) - Beginners welcome!

Almost always 40-80 people, not just Meetup dancers. Almost always equal men & women, within 5 or 10 people. To know what to expect, and to see VIDEOS, click LEARN MORE or see below.

For VALENTINE'S DAY DANCE: Just some reminders - this is a community dance. It is very friendly and welcoming. We teach every dance. As it is a community dance, everyone dances with basically everyone of the other gender. The dance style is a traditional dance style involving a waltz hold.

There are people of all ages, and there are singles, couples, groups, and families. It's traditional to change partners almost every dance. To find a partner, you can ask someone, or you can usually simply stand up before a ten-minute dance, and someone will ask you to dance at least every other dance.

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. Especially for couples: please know there is a waltz at the end of each half - HOW TO WALTZ is below.

Official website: Phoenix Traditional Music & Dance (

This is our second Saturday dance at Kenilworth school. We have a live band! And Free snacks! A half-hour lesson starts at 7:00. All are encouraged to join or help with the lesson. Please come 10 minutes before 7:00, to park and walk to the school. 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!)


  • "I-10, exit North on 7th Ave, take first right."


  1. Go to downtown Phoenix
  2. From I-10:
  3. Go North on 7th Ave.
  4. Take the first right (onto Culver). (Go straight until you see the school.)
  5. 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 11pm. )
  6. As you walk to the school, the entrance is on the left side, with the 2-story tall classical columns.




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:

  • [masked]





  1. A water bottle. We walk quickly. (If you don't have one, please still go! There are water fountains there just in case.)
  2. A hand towel or headband. :-)
  3. 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.
  4. Some people bring an extra shirt.
  5. (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.)


  1. A light short-sleeved shirt or blouse
  2. 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.)




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:




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.

We hope to see you!

Our dances are "2nd Saturdays" and "4th Fridays".


We don't require any experience, but if you like…



You can join the

Please stay on Meetup to sign up to show that people are signed up.


You can stay on Meetup and turn off the 1-week and 1-day reminders:

  1. At the top of Meetup webpage, you can:
  2. Click My Groups,
  3. then E-mail Settings.
  5. select Email Settings,
  6. then please turn off just "reminders for Meetups".
  7. (Sometimes 2-week-early announcements will still be sent out.)


By the way, the Irish Cultural Center ( has a library and a genealogy center, and many great happenings, such as concerts, festivals, and classes including fiddle, guitar, and tin whistle.

Fellow groups who have held events at Phoenix Traditional Music & Dance include: the CulturalAZ Meetup group

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.


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  • Dave

    Hi Monica, we look forward to hosting you at your first Contra dance. And don't worry about so few people being signed up: very few people ever RSVP for our MU & Facebook events-but we always have a good turnout (50-100+).

    February 4, 2013

  • Monica

    This will be my first contra dance, very excited!

    January 6, 2013

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Your organizer's refund policy for Valentine's Day CONTRA DANCE (40-80 people) - Beginners welcome!

Refunds are not offered for this Meetup.

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