My first sampling of English country dance and contra dance

By “accident”, today I participated in my first sampling of both English country dance and contra dance. Abby and I went to a large birthday celebration in which many of the guests were musicians and dancers, and hence there was live music performed by friends and someone who taught and called dances.

I hadn’t intended to participate, despite having the idea of trying contra dance planted in my head three months ago, but out of a sense of etiquette and opportunity, did participate in a couple of the “easier” dances.


As I expected, I was totally confused. It was hard for me to remember what was what, turning in a circle, moving down the line with a partner, rotating around, switching places, all that stuff. The instruction went by way too fast for me. Afterwards, I could remember very little of anything that I did.


However, I left the party being far less “afraid” of English country dance and contra dance. I muddled through just enough that I knew that if I applied myself, I could get it, and maybe even enjoy it. It is often hard to know up front whether a new activity will be enjoyable, because I (like most people, I believe) can’t enjoy something when I’m doing it way too badly. I can enjoy something that I’ve grown minimally competent enough to appreciate it. I still don’t know yet whether I could enjoy English country dance or contra dance.


I’m currently planning to attend in July the annual Mideast early music workshop. They offer a class in English country dance, so it’s possible I may want to take that class, if they start from the very basics. However, given time constraints, I would rather be taking music classes at the camp rather than dance classes.


Sampler lessons like the one at the birthday party today are nice for exposing a total beginner to something new, as an appetizer toward deeper learning, but as I learned in the past, real learning requires sustained and detailed work on basics, with incremental mastery resulting from repetition.

(Update of 2013-01-23)

It turns out that I did attend the English country dance at the Mideast early music workshop in July 2012.

Also, Abby and I went to our first contra dance workshop in October 2012!

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