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Contra comes to town

A social dance form with roots in country, Scottish country, and 17th century French dance styles will be introduced to Gisborne when American contra dance comes to town.

Contra dance does not even require you take a partner. Dancers form couples, and the couples form sets of two couples in long lines starting from the stage and going down the length of the dance hall. Throughout the course of a dance, couples progress up and down these lines.

The dance is led by a caller who teaches the sequence of figures in the dance before the music starts. Auckland-based dance caller Lenny Bloksberg has teamed up with local musicians to lead the Contra Dance workshop in Gisborne next month.

Contra dance hails from North America, the Old World dance traditions of Ceilidh and country dancing that has been given fresh legs in the new colonies of the Eastern United States. Since the 1960s the social dance form has enjoyed a revival throughout North America and is now popular in Australia. American-born and raised Lenny Bloksberg has been part of introducing the craze to New Zealand.

Contra is simple and energetic: a never-ending whirl of circles, stars, swings and do-si-dos to live music. By the end of the evening you will have connected with everyone in the dance hall.

Contra addicts say it’s the most fun you can have standing up.

For event organiser, Jane Luiten, who runs a monthly community dance in Gisborne, the community aspect has strong appeal. “There is no fancy footwork,” she says.

“If you can count to eight, you can dance — and there’s no faster way to feel connected and free.”

Contra Dance is traditionally danced to live music from a scratch band. Gisborne folk musicians have banded together as the Contrabandits for the event next month. Four-part harmony a cappella group Savvy! will perform at the Sunday event.

Contra Dance workshop, Saturday November 2, St Andrews Church Hall, 1-3pm, $10.

Contra Dance party with Savvy! a cappella performance, Sunday, November 3, Wainui Beach School Hall, 3-7pm, $15.

Tickets at the door or contact Jane Luiten through Facebook page Good Folk: Dances from Planet Earth.

CONNECTED AND FREE: Community dance organiser Jane Luiten of Good Folk: Dances from Planet Earth, seen here in action at the Auckland Contra Club earlier this year, invites you to the very social contra dance workshop next month. Picture supplied