San Antonio Contra Dancers
We're dancing again!
Our schedule has changed; see details below.
You're invited . . .
to come dance with us. Contra dancing is easy, informal, social, and lots of fun. No experience, partner or special clothes are required. You can learn the basics in 15 minutes and enjoy dancing to live (and lively) music the rest of the evening. You'll meet friendly, kind people and get some great low-impact exercise.
Our regular dance is now on the fourth Saturday evening of each month, from 7:00 until about 10:00. We dance at the MARC (formerly International Folk Culture Center) on the campus of Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio, Texas. (Maps and directions are below.) We request a donation of $10 per adult for the band/caller/venue. Kids & OLLU students/faculty dance FREE. (Call for volunteer opportunities if you're low on funds.)
If you’re coming for the first time, we recommend that you arrive by 7:00, to get an introduction to the basics. The caller walks the group through each dance before it begins, demonstrating figures as needed for new dancers. Inexperienced dancers are encouraged to dance with more experienced partners at first. Our experienced dancers welcome newcomers and help them get comfortable with the dance figures. Following contra tradition, we encourage dancers to change partners after each dance.
Since contra dancing involves close contact with all the other dancers, not just your partner, we ask that you take appropriate health precautions. We strongly encourage COVID vaccination, but some dancers have good reasons not to be vaccinated. When you arrive, we ask that you sign in, indicating that you take responsibility for your own health. If you aren't feeling well, please join us when you've recovered.
We welcome dancers of all ages. Children should be old enough to learn the dance and keep dancing for several minutes until that dance is over.
Most of the evening is contra dances, but we have an occasional change of pace with a circle, square, or mixer, and we typically enjoy a waltz before the mid-evening break and at the end of the evening.
We recommend that you bring a water bottle to stay hydrated. During the break we have time for socializing and potluck snacks. Feel free to bring something to share if you’d like.
Our dances are free of smoke, drugs, alcohol, and FRAGRANCES. Please refrain from wearing perfumes or other scented products like deodorants or hair spray.
The sprung floor of our dance hall makes it ideal for dancing. Please help us protect it by wearing clean, soft-soled shoes.
See our Facebook page for special events and schedule changes.
What is Contra?
Contra dance is a folk dance done to live music, with a caller. It's related to English Country Dance and American square dance, but it has many traditional and modern variations. Its informality makes it ideal for beginning dancers, but its variety provides enough challenges that experienced dancers enjoy it for decades.
Here are a couple of web pages containing good descriptions of what to expect.
Contra Tips and Etiquette
From a web page by Gary Shapiro:
This is [insert current year here]. Women can ask men to dance. At a contra dance this is certainly true and has been for some time. It might be just as common as men asking women, or more so. Women will sometimes dance with women, and men will sometimes dance with men. In general, especially for the men, this happens only when a gender imbalance exists in the hall (men tend to be real chicken about dancing with other men otherwise).
Contra dancers make eye contact whenever possible. This adds to the connectedness of the dance, and helps reduce dizziness, especially during the swing.
More web pages with tips:
Our resident caller is Lissa Bengtson. Lissa was Director of the International Folk Culture Center at OLLU for more than 10 years, and has many years of experience with teaching and leading international folk dance as well as calling contra dances. She enthusiastically encourages new dancers and is skilled at making everyone comfortable.
& John Roby
Amy and John manage our dances. They arrange for guest callers and band members. John has also occasionally done the honors as caller.
The Amazing Contra Dance House Band
Our new house band, led by John Roby, features Brian, Peter & Sarah, fiddle; Kelly, whistles; Kevin & John, guitar; Tom, bass. After our pandemic hiatus, they're eager to again provide the lively music that keeps our feet moving.
How to get here
From U.S. 90, take the exit for S. General McMullen Drive. Go north 0.8 miles on McMullen Drive.
Turn right onto Castroville Rd. At the next light (0.8 miles), turn left onto 24th St.
Follow 24th St. around the curves to OLLU.
At the far side of the campus, turn left onto Providence Rd.
The International Folk Culture Center, where we dance, is the second building on the left (marked as IFCC on the map below).
To park, continue to the end of Providence Rd., turn left on Elm Rd., turn right at the circle, turn right at the next drive, go to the end, and park in Lot B (red arrows on the map).
Walk to the IFCC (solid red line on the map).