I'm in Germany, and I'm speaking for the next few days at a Conference run by the European Callers and Teachers Association.
Several of my sessions are about Contras, and speaking to the Contra Coordinator as we drove to the hotel I realised we had very
different ideas about what a contra is. I say it is an American (or American-style) dance, longways duple or triple. He classes
three-couple dances (such as Ted's Triplets), four-couple dances and circles as contras. He even classes my dance "Sting in the
Tail" as a contra. This is for two three-couple sets side-by-side and involves siding into line, set and turn single. I would
regard this quite definitely as "Playford"-style, and I think Americans would categorise it as English. But what is a contra? I
know the hot-shots would say that it's longways duple improper or Becket with a partner swing and preferably a neighbor swing, but
is that your definition? What about an early American dance such as "The Young Widow" - is that a contra? Can a dance in waltz
time be a contra? I think of a contra as mainly danced to reels or jigs, though I know there are a few to slip-jigs. Within
reels I would include marches and American hornpipes, which are smooth, but not English hornpipes which I would dance to a
step-hop. And not Strathspeys. I would say contras are done to a walking step, apart from the swing which is often a buzz step.
But do you agree with me?
Answers fairly quickly please!
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