Beginners welcome, no partner necessary. Newcomers are always welcome. Come once, come now and then -- or give in to addiction for these fabulous dances and come every week!
Saturday Contra Dances
Time: 7:30 - 11:00 pm 7:30 - 8:00 Dance Basics Lesson 8:00 -11:00 Live Music Cost: $10 general admission /$8 for Tapestry members / $7 students / Free to ages 13 and under (must be supervised by an adult)
In a contra dance, a leader known as a caller teaches for 30 minutes before the music for the dance begins at 8pm. During this introductory “walk-through” period, participants learn the dance by walking through the steps and formations, following the caller’s instructions.
The dance figures are similar to those of Old-time square dancing except the figures are made up of lines of leaders and followers facing each other. These dances are lively social, easy to learn, and because each dance may last 5min, they can be aerobic. Although you will dance with a partner, it isn't necessary to come with one. All dances are taught and are usually done in "long-way sets" (partners facing in long lines down the hall). Please check out the calendar for a listing of Contra bands and callers. Many of the regular Tapestry contra bands play Old-time music (similar to bluegrass), but the music on any given Saturday contra may reflect music traditions from New England, French Canadian, Irish, Scottish, Cape Breton and modern compositions.
Saturday, Dec 7
Caller: David Kirchner. David has been calling contra and square dances for over 20 years as a mainstay of local dance communities in Washington DC and St. Louis. He has been a visiting caller at a number of national dance events and is happily calling now in the Twin Cities.
Music:Light of the Moon
Thursday, Dec 12 – TECHNO CONTRA
DJ Dr Bob, with Marc Scovill on lights. Glow necklaces provided.
Calling by Beau Farmer, a Tapestry favorite who is keen on developing a strong Techno contra scene here. Tapestry has newly been exploring the world of Techno Contra, with enthusiastic response from groups of young dancers showing up from all around the region. Come check it out!
Saturday, Dec 14
Caller: Robin Nelson. Another Tapestry favorite, Robin will infuse some variety into the dances this evening. She has called contra and square dances since 1984 for communities in New England, North Carolina, and the Twin Cities, and continues to delight us with new ideas.
Music: Greenwood Tree returns to Tapestry – expanded! Stu Janis on the magical hammered dulcimer and Bill Cagley on guitar will be joined by a fiddler for this occasion, to soup up their unique sound and provide new interest for the dancers.
Saturday, Dec 21
Caller: Beau Farmer. Beau is a favorite with musicians and dancers alike at Tapestry for his genial style, helpful teaching, big vocabulary of contra styles and frequent surprises. Sometimes one of his talented kids gets into the act and does a little calling too.
Music: Toss the Possum. Good news! Fiddler Rob Zisette is home for the holidays and will be at Tapestry tonight to treat us all to his energetic and creative approach to contra dance music, ably abetted by Laura Zisette on piano.
Saturday, Dec 28
Caller: Ted Hodapp. Ted splits his time between Washington DC and the Twin Cities, and we are always happy when his visits coincide with an opportunity to enjoy his high energy calling – and those terrible jokes too. Perhaps he will also play some accordion for us tonight.
Music: Danebodium. Longtime Tapestry fiddler Ken Steffenson is joined in this band by popular local folk duo Bob Dixon - mandolin and guitar - and Lynn Dixon - piano. There may be a fourth member tonight – stay tuned.
NEW YEARS EVE! Tuesday, Dec 31 – Further details in the Tapestry calendar.
Caller: David Kirchner. David has been calling contra and square dances for over 20 years as a mainstay of local dance communities in Washington DC and St. Louis, and now in the Twin Cities.
Music: Pat O’Loughlin and friends. Pat will be putting together a surprise “super band” for the occasion, comprised of musicians from other contra dance bands, to fill out the sound along with his concertina, banjo and percussion, providing a gala dance evening to ring in 2014.
Where does contra dance come from and how did it get here? by Roger Schaffhausen
Looking in the dictionary 'contra' is a Latin preposition meaning "against" . So did it come from the 'Contras' in Nicaragua to show their opposition to the Sandinistas? Or was it from lawyers who use the term 'Contra' which is used in legal citations? Last but not least could it have been accountants where a 'Contra payment" is made in cases where a customer is also a supplier and a payment owed is offset against a payment due. Fortunately it came from none of these!
There are many theories as to how Contra dancing came about and how it got it's name. I will present only two of them.
1) The precursor to Contra dancing was English Country Dancing which became popular in Queen Elizabeth I's court in the late 16th century. By the end of the 17th century English country dancing had gained a certain legitimacy. What might have happened next is described by James Hutson in his article "A Capsule Chronicle of Contradancing, Part One," from the Fall 1994 issue of Contra Corners, the newsletter of the California Dance Co-operative: The French, who thought that they invented country dancing (as well as anything else culturally significant), and who were miffed at the notion that the English should receive credit for anything, converted the name 'country dance' to French contredans (which conveniently translates as 'opposites dance'), then turned around and claimed that the English term was a corruption of the French! Later, the French term evolved in the young U.S.A. into "contra dance." 1
2) So why did the French corrupt it to "contre" or "contra"? Is it really only because that sounds like "country"? Or is it because the word means "across" and that is the formation used? ... I maintain that both theories are correct: The French corrupted "country dance" and the English reimported the word, but in the process it came to be applied only to the longways formation, and THAT was because of the meaning "across" for "contre".2
Contra dances crossed the pond and were fashionable in the United States until the early to mid-19th century, when they were supplanted in popularity by square dances and couple dances. By the late 19th century, square dances too had fallen out of favor, except in rural areas. When squares were revived (around 1925 to 1940, depending on the region), contra dances were generally not included. In the 1930s and 1940s, contra dances appear to have been done only in small towns in widely scattered parts of northeastern North America and particularly northern New England. Ralph Page almost single-handedly maintained the New England tradition in the 30’s and the 40’s.3 Ralph started calling contras, almost by accident. He was playing fiddle in an orchestra when he had to substitute for a caller who had come down with laryngitis. That day was December 5, 1930. From that beginning, he rose to the top of his field as an Eastern contra caller, becoming one of the country's first full-time professional callers in 1938. Ralph kept contra going in the northeast until it was revitalized in the 1950’s and 1960’s particularly by Ted Sannella and Dudley Laufman.4 Contra dancing found it's way to Minneapolis in the late 1970's with the start of Saltari in 1977. Saltri was the forerunner of Tapestry which started about 5 years later. 5
So the tradition is carried on at Tapestry on most Saturday evenings, come with or without a partner and beginners are always welcomed. For more info on contra, a good primer is put out by the Chattahoochee Country Dancers at http://contradance.org/html/new_dancer_info.php
1 Why the name 'contra dance'? Created and maintained by Gary Shapiro 2 Why is it Called Contra Dance? Copyright 1996-2004 Leslie Hyll_-Daniel Ludecking 3 Phantom ranch.net, folkdance, teachers 4 Contra Dancing, Wikipedia 5 Ed Stern, co-founder of Saltri