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, March 1
Caller: Beau Farmer. Beau is a favorite with Tapestry musicians and dancers alike for his friendly teaching, variety of dances, and some surprises throughout the evening.
Music: Fiddle Buddies. Fiddler Ken Steffenson has mentored Xander Nielson since Xander was about 10 years old. Now, years later, they will please us with their full twin fiddle sound, with a rhythm section backing them up.
Saturday, March 8
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: Moonlight Trio. This month Mary DuShane, longtime Tapestry fiddler, and Nick Jordan, mandolin, flute, whistle, foot percussion, together called the Moonlight Duo, again bring famed local guitarist Adam Granger into the Tapestry mix, for some lively contra tunes.
Thursday, March 13 – TECHNO CONTRA.
The Tapestry Techno Contra program keeps growing, this month featuring an eclectic variety of music programmed by Bob Walser as DJ, with calling by the ever creative Ted Hodapp of Washington DC and the Twin Cities, lights by Marc Scovill. This will be a great night, so come try Techno with us!
Saturday, March 15
Caller: David Kirchner. David has been calling contra and square dances for over 20 years as a mainstay of dance communities in Washington DC and St. Louis. He has been the featured caller at many national dance events and is happy to be based now in the Twin Cities.
Music: Possum Landing. Hot fiddler Tim Reese of Pigs Eye Landing teams up with creative piano player Laura Zisette of Toss the Possum to form Possum Landing. High octane tunes and perhaps guest players too.
Saturday, March 22
Caller: Robin Nelson, a Tapestry favorite who has been teaching and calling nationally since 1984. She will likely surprise us with a mix of dances tonight and perhaps some singing calls as well.
Music: Contratopia. These four great players, Patrice Pakiz and Pat O’Loughlin from the Twin Cities and John Goodin and Erik Sessions from Decorah, Iowa, don’t get to Tapestry nearly often enough for their many fans among the dancers. Do not miss!
Community Contra Band Night at Tapestry
Join the Community Contra Dance Band on Saturday March 29th for the regular Saturday contra dance. This will be Tapestry's first time opening the stage to all musicians that want to play for contra dancing. Any and all musicians and instruments are welcome to join the band if they can attend at least one of the two practices and play from our list of jigs and reels at a tempo of 115 beats per minute. We will play about 10 contra dances for which we have chosen reel and jig medleys made from the traditions of Ireland, Appalachia, and New England. In addition, we will play 2 waltzes. For this first Community Dance we require that you attend at least one of the practices to be held at the Brackett Park Building located at 2728 39th Ave. S. in Minneapolis, MN 55406. Practice nights are Wednesday March 19th and Tuesday March 25th from 7:00 until 9:00 PM.
For this initial Community Contra Dance Band we will have a core group of 3 experienced contra dance musicians to lead the practices and be the core group for the dance. Community musicians will play off mic for at least this inaugural dance. Contact Pat O'Loughlin via email at to sign up and get the official set list. Keyboard players must bring their own electric keyboard as an acoustic piano will not be available.
Ever dreamed of calling a contra dance? Here's your chance!
On Saturday, March 29th, we'll also be welcoming the budding calling talent in our community to step up to the mic. Beau Farmer, David Kirchner, and Robin Nelson (the "regular" contra callers) encourage all interested folks to contact one of them for mentoring and coaching. We'll help you find a dance to call and give you pointers on ways to successfully teach the walk-through and then call.
Ever dreamed of playing in a contra dance band? Ever wanted to try your hand at calling a dance? Now is your chance! Come learn these great traditions from Tapestry callers and musicians and then try them out at a real contra dance on March 29th.
Any and all musicians and instruments are welcome to join the band if they can attend at least one of the two practices and play from our list of jigs and reels at a tempo of 115 beats per minute. A core of three Contra musicians will lead the band and give pointers from their experience as long time players.
Any folks interested in calling are welcome to join the caller team! Beau, Robin and David will help you find a dance to call and give you pointers on ways to successfully teach the walk-through and then call. You'll get a chance to practice your skills with the other community callers at a practice dance before the real deal.
This is your chance to have fun while learning skills passed down from generation to generation of contra callers and musicians. Join us!
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. Saltari 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 Saltari