New to Contra

Remember... Have fun! If you're smiling, you're doing it right.

Beginner’s lesson 15 minutes before the start of the dance.

New to Contra Dance? Newcomers are sometimes a bit anxious or nervous about what to expect. Will it be difficult? Will anyone ask me to dance? What do I wear? What if I make a fool of myself?! We all were new at one time. This page is full of helpful information to make your first time so much fun that you can't wait to come back.

Do I need a partner? You do not need to bring a partner. Contra dancing is a community event and the tradition is that we trade partners after every dance, so even if you come with a partner, you will dance with many different people in one evening. Our experienced dancers are great at inviting the newcomers to dance. Dancing with an experienced partner decreases your confusion level and is the best way to learn to contra dance.

What do I wear? Contra dance can be very energetic. Wear cool clothing - short sleeves or sleeveless tops, and shorts or skirts. Contra dancers LOVE full skirts that are very flow-y. Your shoes should be flat or low heeled and something that will stay firmly on your feet. A smooth sole that can slide easily on the floor is ideal. NOTE: Please do not wear fragrance as some dancers have sensitivities to perfume and colognes. Please do wear deodorant. Contra is an energetic dance.

How do I learn the dance? There is a workshop for beginners 15 minutes before the dance. It is highly recommended that newcomers attend this workshop. You will be given a good foundation that will help you relax and have fun! You learn to contra dance by contra dancing. The other experienced dancers will lead you through the moves. Typically, the dances begin simple in the early part of the evening, with just a couple of basic moves. As the evening progresses, there will be additional moves taught and added so that by the end of the night, you will have experienced most of the basic moves. If you remember one or two of those after the dance is over, that's great! You'll get comfortable with more moves when you come back again. Before long, you'll be one of the experienced dancers helping the newcomers learn to contra dance!

Are the steps complicated? Contra dance is done with a smooth walking step. You simply walk in time to the music - one step for each beat of music. There is no fancy footwork required. There is a caller for every dance who walks the dancers through the moves before the music begins and continues to call until the dancers are confidently moving through the dance. If you can walk, you can contra dance!

What if I mess up? Even those of us who have danced for years sometimes forget what comes next or get turned around. When that happens, LAUGH! The dancers around you will lead you back to where you need to be with a smile. We’re all in this dance together.

What kind of atmosphere will I find at a Contra Dance? Contra dances are fun for all ages. Children are welcome to dance with us and there is child care provided for those children who do not wish to dance. There is no drinking or smoking at a contra dance. Contra dancing is a friendly and welcoming environment to meet new people. Contra dancers don’t just dance together. We are a community. We hope that you will join us!

Contra instruction videos:

  • Chattahoochee Country Dancers (CCD), the organization that sponsors contra dances in the Atlanta area, has produced an excellent series of Contra Dance Instruction Videos: Beginner Contra Dance Instruction Videos
  • See contra dancing in action and more advanced dancing at Contra Dancing Videos on Facebook, which features "short, edited videos of contra dancing with superior audio that show dancers, caller and the band": Advanced Contra Dancing Videos

Remember... Have fun! If you're smiling, you're doing it right. Beginner’s lesson 15 minutes before the start of the dance.