2017-02-16 / Life in Leelanau

Traditional dance keeps roots alive

Dancing was in the stars on Saturday at the Solon Township Hall, where a waltz workshop was followed by a contra and square dance event sponsored by the Bayside Travellers Traditional Dance Society, a group whose aim is to promote traditional music and dance.

Contra is a folk dance that originates from English, Scottish and French dance styles, with some African influence from Appalachia thrown in.

A social dance that men or women can attend sans partner, the contra is danced in lines, with couples progressing up and down the lines, eventually pairing up with each couple in the line.

Similar in some ways to square dancing, the steps are shouted out by a caller who explains them and walks the dancers through the sequence before starting.

Contra dancing and square dancing have the same roots, with both drawing on traditional folk dancing. Both are also group-oriented dances that share many of the same moves — promenades, do-si-dos and allemandes.

They differ in that a square dance set is made up of four couples, while the number of couples in a contra dance set is only determined by the length of the dance hall.

The Bayside Travellers hold dances on the second Saturday of the month from October through June, usually at the Gilbert Lodge at Twin Lakes Camp in Traverse City.

All ages are welcome and for those who are worried that they have two left feet, all dances are taught at a skills workshop held about an hour before the dance.

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