Tips for New Dancers

Top Styling Tips

  • Smooth and gentle: Move with an easy walking step.

  • Timing: Dance each figure within it’s musical phrase (general multiples of 4, 8, or 16 counts).

  • Giving Weight: Keep arms firm to support each other through the figures.

  • Alert: Be sensitive to others’ needs and preferences.

  • Eye Contact: There’s lots of eye contact in contra dancing. It’s part of the safe, playful flirtation that is part of our dance culture, and it reduces dizziness during swinging. However, if the strong eye contact makes you uncomfortable, look at your partner’s ear or shoulder to reduce dizziness without directly looking them in the eye.

Other Hints

Everyone asks everyone, so ask experienced folks to dance with you. You will learn faster and it can be flattering for your partner to be identified as someone you can learn from. They’ll help guide you during the dance and accelerate the learning process.

Some dancers book ahead, so if you ask someone to dance and they are not available, ask if they’ll save the NEXT one for you. If they do not care to book ahead with you, take it in stride and ask someone else.

Many of the twirls, dips, and cuddle-style holds you see others doing are flourishes. Learn the basics before trying to put in extra flourishes. Notice the smooth dancers who help those around them to look good and enjoy themselves. This will help you develop your sense of what good dancing is. Flourishes are added by mutual consent with each partner, by dancing with that person several times and developing an understanding of what the other enjoys and where the other’s boundaries are. Flourishes should not interrupt the flow of the dance for others.

Points of style can be absorbed gradually while you enjoy the dancing. If you make a mistake or miss a figure, don’t worry about it – it’s just a dance. Smile and, instead of rushing through the botched figure, just skip it and go on to the next. That’s what the experienced dancers do. It’s more important to the people you are dancing with that you be ready for the next figure than for you to complete or correct a past figure.