Monday, January 28, 2013

Home with the Girls in the Morning

Example of a Contra Dance
Is a beautiful music recording from one of our favorites guests, Bill Hunt. 

We got a copy of "Home with the Girls in the Morning" by Orion, courtesy of Bill hot off the press! I have asked permission to play it for our guests while they dine. The first thing that I noticed when I put on this cd was a happy feeling. This is happy music y'all! Bill and his band Orion play for Contra Dances here in Virginia. What is a contra dance? How did I know you would ask! We have readers from all over the USA and World, so I best explain!  

To hire this band or perhaps secure your own copy of this great CD email Joe Healey: jhealey - at - (remove at and insert @ symbol). They are selling them at dances primarily, but I am sure if you wanted one you could get it!

Contra dance (also contradance, contra-dance and other variant spellings) refers to several partnered folk dance styles in which couples dance in two facing lines or a square. Sometimes described as New England folk dance, contra dances can be found around the world, though they are especially popular in North America.


At the end of the 17th century, English country dances were taken up by French dancers; hybrid choreographies exist from this period using the steps from French court dance in English dances. The French called these dances contra-dance or contredanse. As time progressed, English country dances were spread and reinterpreted throughout the Western world, and eventually the French form of the name came to be associated with the American folk dances, especially in New England. The application of the Gallicized name may have led some to believe erroneously that the form of dancing originated in France.

Contra dances were fashionable in the United States until the early to mid-19th century, when they were supplanted in popularity by square dances (such as the quadrille and lancers) and couple dances (such as the waltz and polka). By the late 19th century, square dances too had fallen out of favor, except in rural areas. When squares were revived (around 1925 to 1940, depending on the region), contra dances were generally not included. In the 1930s and 1940s, contra dances appear to have been done only in small towns in widely scattered parts of northeastern North America, such as Ohio, the Maritime provinces of Canada,[4] and particularly northern New England. Ralph Page almost single-handedly maintained the New England tradition until it was revitalized in the 1950s and 1960s, particularly by Ted Sannella and Dudley Laufman.

In the 1970s, Sannella and other callers introduced movements from English Country Dance, such as heys and gypsies, to the contra dances. New dances, such as Shadrack's Delight by Tony Parkes, featured symmetrical dancing by all couples. 

Contra dance events are open to all, regardless of experience. They are family-friendly, and alcohol consumption is not part of the culture. Many events offer beginner-level instructions for up to half an hour before the dance. A typical evening of contra dance is three hours long, including an intermission. The event consists of a number of individual contra dances, divided by a scattering of other partner dances, perhaps one or more waltzes, schottisches, polkas, or Swedish hambos. In some places, square dances are thrown into the mix. Music for the evening is typically performed by a live band, playing jigs and reels from Ireland, Scotland, Canada, or the USA. The tunes are traditional and more than a century old, or modern compositions which follow the same form as the traditional pieces...more here.

Interested in going to a Contra Dance? Where to find Contra Dances? Click here. Looking for a Contra Dance close by The Claiborne House? Here is one in Floyd Virginia, just up and over the Blue Ridge Parkway from us! 
You may recall Bill from this previous photo from The Claiborne House front porch