Country Dance New York will present a special free contra dance tonight, June 16, 2012 from 8:00 pm to 10:45 pm at the Chinatown YMCA's Houston Street Center (273 Bowery, near Houston Street, Manhattan).
Contra dancing is having a renaissance around the country, thanks to a thriving youth scene; high energy, joyful, acoustic music; and fast-paced, aerobic dancing. There is plenty of swinging your partner and lots of fun, flirting and eye contact. Some men wear kilts or skirts. Women dance with men, men dance with men, and women dance with women.
No previous experience is required. From 7:30 pm to 8:00 pm there is a beginner's workshop, and the caller walks everyone through the patterns of each dance.
Dynamic live music will be provided by the popular, New York-based dance band, Grand Picnic. Grand Picnic plays high-energy contra dance music, combining the rhythmic drive of old-time Southern tunes with French Canadian and New England fiddle music. The band is comprised of Sam Zygmuntowicz (fiddle, mandolin), Michael Gorin (fiddle), Bill Peek (piano), Marco Brehm (bass), and Jody Kruskal (Anglo concertina, percussion). Their enthusiastic music-making reveals deep respect for tradition enlivened by creative improvisation and a bit of playful irreverence. The highly regarded caller Donna Hunt, known for her enthusiastic and clear teaching throughout the Mid-Atlantic states, will lead the proceedings.
Contra dancing started in New England in the 1700s, but the modern version is a far cry from the Virginia Reel-type dancing done in schools years ago. The current dancing is done in long lines of dancers facing their partners and moving briskly in patterns to live music, sometimes changing partners.
Admission is free to this special June 16th contra dance. Those interested can call The Dancephone at 212.459.4080 or visit the Country Dance*New York website, www.cdny.org for more information. Attendees are asked to bring a separate pair of clean, soft-bottomed shoes for dancing.
Photo courtesy Country Dance New York.