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August 26, 2008



Ah, how I love old-fashioned dances! I am very fond of contra dancing, which I discovered when I came to college. It's high-energy, accompanied by live music, and it features lots of twirling. It's so delightful.


Do they still teach square dancing in school as part of PE? I remember we had a unit on square dancing just about every year in 4th, 5th, and 6th grade in the 80's.

Emmanuel Williams

When I was a young teenager growing up in England I belonged to an Anglican youth fellowship, and we had square dances every other week. This was just before Bill Haley and Elvis. When I look back on those evenings I realise it was a way for us - both sexes - to have a degree of contact with one another within secure, familiar parameters. We could touch and look and smell and laugh and move together within a recognised convention.
On this theme, I wrote this poem about an older kind of dance. I hope you don't mind if I include it.


There is a grace formality bestows
A courtly elegance of melody and limb
Choreography of patterned pause and flow
Defining and refining content with its form.

Beneath the costume and the powdered hair
Behind the gracious smile and lowered glance
Red blood brims and bellows in its lair
Shadow partner in the ritual of dance.

For we have learnt what you may never learn
You whose passions pull you to the chase
That fire held in check most deeply burns
And love grows strongest when it's held in place.

Emmanuel Williams
(I hope you welcome men to this website.)


Anyone who would like to dance with people under 80 should look into swing dancing. Where I go, most of the dancers are in their 20s. Just last Sunday, two of them announced their engagement at the dance.

Yes, the behavior is better than it is at high school dances, from what I've heard about them. Lindy hop, especially, takes skill and practice to do it well--and it's a lot of fun. The few people in the scene who grind are widely known as creeps.

I agree with dancing with various people. It makes you a better dancer, and you get to make friends.



My PE class (I'm 20, so I feel moderately qualified to answer your question, having gone through that less than 10 years ago) didn't have a square dancing unit, but my fifth and sixth grade class did have something Lori mentioned: swing! I fell in love with swing dancing; it is just so fun. We went to camp my fifth grade year, where the we learned square dancing.

Lori is right: swing dancing is where it's at for my generation. I was at a farewell barbecue/hang out night just this weekend for a dear girlfriend, who is something like a sister to me, who is now at Ithaca College in New York. When it got dark outside, we just turned on the stereo and danced. And just for fun--no ridiculous party, no couples (though I finally got to meet her new boyfriend), just people having fun. Her older sister and I were teaching people swing, swapping partners...

I appreciate this post, and you just made me smile thinking of the joy of dancing with no strings attached--for fun.


Swing rules. "Grinding" isn't even part of the swing portfolio, and "creep" is a polite way to put the disdainful view such auslanders earn themselves. I'm nowhere near good enough to call myself a lindy hopper, but east coast swing is fairly simple and rhythmic. If your partner isn't comfortable with twirls, lifts, and throws, there's a basic step and dance position to return to until they feel comfortable with you.

-A twenty-year-old guy

Rofgio de la Mancha

Yup, dancing is where it's at.

I've been taking some ballroom lessons since October last year, and it's a great way to spend time with people of all ages.

Regrettably, I won't be able to keep up with it due to the time constraints at college, but I hear they have a swing club, so I hope to join that to get my "fix".

I do like swing, though, even if it is hard to learn. A movie with a really cool swing scene in it is "Blast from the Past" with Brendan Fraser and Alicia Silverstone.

We had to learn swing last year as part of a ballroom dancing class. It was great fun, and I'm still friends with my dance partner. And one thing I love about my current situation (officer/older sister in a youth community) is getting to pitch in or attend youth events/parties/concerts wherein kids can just meet each other and have fun without risking dignity.

Headless Unicorn Guy

And these are all styles of contact dancing! Where you actually touch your partner!

I noticed the sexual revolution coincided with a switch in dance styles from ballroom/swing/contact to a non-contact style that could be done in isolation or with a partner (who is partner solely by the definition the two dancers are facing each other while each dancing alone).

And after 40 years of this completely non-contact dancing, we find the introduction of "freaking" as a form of contact dancing.

All or nothing contact. All or Nothing extremes.


Just an innocent question...I thought Orthodox men and women do not touch anyone other than their spouses, and this would also be true for unmarrieds. Could you please clear this up for me? Thanks!


When I entered high school in 1980 square dancing was one of the first things taught in physical education class. Quite frankly I found that being forced to dance with people you didn't like (or more honestly people who disliked you) quite horrible.

Alexandra Foley

Thanks everyone for all the comments. I was recently watching Becoming Jane (a semi-fictional account of Jane Austen's one love) and found out where the term "contra" dance comes from. According to the movie (and I'm too lazy to simply google it to verify) contra comes from the French for "country", as in country dance. I like that.


I love the "jane austen" era, especially the dances. I do wish we had balls and fun events of that sort. I'm glad you had a great time square dancing!!

--Mia from www.aspiring-homemaker.blogspot.com


Ah, English country dances (barn dances we call them, this side of the Pond) are just about the most fun you can have with your clothes on. Scottish ceilidhs are similar but the actual dances are different and the evening often ends with a fight due to vast quantities of alcohol having been consumed...

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