Good dance etiquette makes a dancer a pleasure to dance with! You feel safe, connected and in tune with the music and dancers around you.
Here are some tips for contra dance etiquette:
Most contra dancers are just great people. However, courtesy goes a long way – such as thanking your partner at the end of the dance. If you’re an experienced dancer, dancing a few sets with beginners helps to improve their skills and comfort level so that the dance experience is better for everyone.
- Maintain eye contact
You’ll notice that many contra dancers maintain eye contact with other dancers during the dance. Although it can be a bit awkward in the beginning, it creates connection with the other people and puts you ‘in the moment’ of the dance. It also helps with dizziness. Do as you are comfortable!
- Carry your own weight
Swinging can be hard work for your partner if you don’t carry your own weight. This means that your weight is above your own body, (not leaning on your partner) and you aren’t clamping too tight onto your partner or pulling/pushing down on their shoulders or arms. Not sure if you have this part of swinging down pat? Ask someone for advice.
- Give weight
This is different than carrying your own weight. Giving weight is when you provide a bit of resistance in your arm during a turn or swing. Keep a bit of flex/tension in your arm and keep it bent using it as a spring, rather than having it fully extended or loose. Giving weight is especially helpful in allemandes, balances, chaining across, and right and left throughs.
- Be on time
Just as it sounds, being on time is about getting to the next move and being in position on time. Listening to the music helps with timing and phrasing. When everyone is on time, no one is waiting for anyone else and the dance begins to flow!
- Dance at the skill level of your partner
A good dancer matches their level of dancing and style with their partner. This means being in tune with your partner and communicating with them – ask if they like to spin, do they want to go faster/slower? Create that connection and enjoy your partner!
- Flourishes and more complicated moves
You only need the basics to enjoy a contra dance. However, experienced dancers may challenge themselves by giving more weight, dancing faster and more tightly, or changing roles within a dance. They also add flourishes such as twirling, spinning multiple times, or adding more complicated moves. Don’t feel you have to do these – just watch and enjoy until you are ready to experiment!
Video: Becoming a good dancer – Contra dance etiquette