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Cincinnati Contra Dancers


Contra Dance Terms

It is much easier than this sounds, but for those who like more words:

CONTRA: French for 'opposite'. At the start of a dance partners make two long lines, Gents in the left line, ladies in the right line opposite your partner. (Left and right are based on looking at band.)

TOP: (of the hall): End of the hall closest to the band.

HANDS FOUR: After lining up in long lines, the top four people take hands in a circle, the rest follow.

OPPOSITE or NEIGHBOR: Opposite sex person in your circle of four (who is not your partner.)

Number Ones (Active Couples): After taking 'hands four' have their backs to the band, gradually work down the hall.

Number Twos (Inactive Couples): Face the band, gradually work way up to the top. Partners usually change sides when reaching the top or bottom of the hall.

PROPER: Traditional beginning in long lines with Gents in left line; Ladies in right.

IMPROPER: #1 couples cross over. Caller will indicate if you need to do this.

LONG LINES FORWARD & BACK: Two lines of dancers walk towards each other 4 steps, then back 4 steps.

CIRCLE (LEFT or RIGHT): Join hands and circle left or right.

STAR (LEFT or RIGHT): Put designated hand on wrist of the dancer in front of you and circle four places.

ALLEMANDE (LEFT or RIGHT): Join designated hands (in a hands up grip) and rotate once around each other. (Make the hand connection firm but not arm wrestling.)

GYPSY: Same as an allemande but without touching hands. Maintain eye contact. Flirt if you wish.

DO-SI-DO: Pass right shoulders till you are back-to-back then return passing left shoulders. Some dancers may add optional spins as they travel around each other.

SEE-SAW: same as do-si-do but pass left shoulders to start and go counterclockwise.

BALANCE: Step on right foot for two counts, then left for two counts. Often leads into a swing.

SWING: Take ballroom position with right hips almost touching. Walk around each other clockwise. Use eye contact to avoid dizziness. Add speed and the buzz step (pivoting on right foot) if you wish. Always end with the Lady on the right of the Gent.

LADIES CHAIN: Ladies take right hands in a handshake fashion and pull past each other to give left hand to the opposite Gent waiting to give her a courtesy turn. Repeat if it is a full chain over and back.

COURTESY TURN: Gent uses his left hand to receive the approaching left hand of the Lady and guides her counter clockwise to place her on right of the Gent. Meanwhile the Lady places her right hand behind her back connecting with the right hand of the Gent. A common variation is for both dancers to raise left hands, allowing the Lady to freely twirl clockwise. The Lady has the option whether or not to twirl, signaled by keeping her left hand down. All this happens neatly in 4 beats.

RIGHT AND LEFT THROUGH: Both Gent and Lady walk across the set by pulling by right hands (or passing right shoulders) with their opposite, followed by a courtesy turn.

HEY: A weaving figure in which you walk across the set passing people by alternating shoulders until you run out of people. Loop around the last person you pass and reenter passing the next person by the alternate shoulder. Most often you pass the same sex person with the right shoulder, opposite sex with the left. When confused, just go back where you started if it is a full hey.

PROMENADE: Partners join right hands and left hands in either skaters position or raised to shoulder height.

CALIFORNIA TWIRL: Gent raises joined inside hands; the Lady walks under to changes sides and direction.

BOX THE GNAT: Lady and Gent take right hands, balance, raise joined hands, Lady walks under to switch places.

CAST OFF: From the center of the set, each active dancer dances forward 3/4 of a turn to a position one notch down the set. The active dancer usually attaches appropriately to the inactive dancer and they rotate as a pair, but in some contexts the inactive dancer must instead play follow the leader, or conceivably even remain stationary.

BECKET FORMATION: A variation of the basic contra formation. After taking hands four with Number Ones crossed over, rotate the set one place to the left (clockwise).