What is Contra Dance?

Contra Dancing is a modern version of what people used to do at Barn Dances across America.  It comes from English Country Dancing and similar dances in France, Scotland and elsewhere, that go back at least to the 1500s in Europe.  The dances are to live music, typically old-time Appalachian, Irish or New England string music, and to modern cousins of those styles. 

They are energetic dances, and the tempo is usually a moderate to fast walking pace.  At a contra dance, in addition to contras, you may encounter a variety of dances such as squares, circles, waltzes, and others.

Each dance is usually taught by a caller, who then calls the moves during the dance.  Comfortable shoes with smooth rubber soles are a good choice for footwear, but others wear a variety of shoes or just bare feet.  Lightweight and comfortable clothes are recommended.

An Introduction to Contra Dancing

A newspaper article on Contra Dancing

NPR News piece on the youth movement in contra dancing

A Blog by a local writer about her experience at a contra dance


Instructional Videos:
Contra Dance Moves I
Contra Dance Moves II

Videos of the Contra Dance in Tallahassee on December 14, 2011:
1) A Contra  
2) A Square  
3) Another Contra

Video of the Contra Dance in Tallahassee on January 13, 2023:
Click on the YouTube icon, on the left side of this page

Videos of other Contra Dances, mostly in Tallahassee

An answer to the question "Can you Contra Dance to almost any kind of music?"
Contra Dancing to Swedish techno hiphop, video from the Youth Dance Weekend 2008.

Conduct Guidelines

These conduct guidelines are intended to promote a fun, safe and comfortable atmosphere for our events.

Be respectful of other dancers, the band and caller.

Ask the person you are dancing with before dancing too close, swinging fast, adding extra turns or spins, doing a dip or lift, or using a lot of strength while dancing.  If the other person seems to not be cooperating with what you want to do, don’t make them.

Be considerate of the dancers around you, when doing a dip or lift, or adding extra turns or spins.

Apologize as needed, if accidental inappropriate touching occurs.  Physical or verbal harassment is not OK.

Accept when someone says ‘no’ to a dance.  You can say ‘no’ to a dance too.

Inappropriate behavior will be addressed if it arises.  We reserve the right to refuse admittance, or ask an individual to leave, if needed.

If there are any concerns that you may not be comfortable addressing on your own, please speak with a Dance Board member.  Several of them will be wearing yellow name tags during the dance.

(Adapted with permission from The Old Sod Folk Music Society (Ottawa))

Contra Dances Elsewhere

Gainesville Contra Dances  The regular GODS dance in Gainesville has resumed.  In addition, there are dances at the Dancing Fish near Gainesville, check their website here.

Jacksonville Contra Dances  Dances in Jacksonville have not yet resumed after Covid.

Tampa Contra Dances

Other Florida Contra Dances

Atlanta Contra Dances

Bay St. Louis Contra Dances  Dances have started in coastal Mississippi!

Contra Dances in the Southeast

Dance and Music Weekends


Georgy-Alabam Square Dance Weekend near Birmingham, AL, mid-January -- has not yet resumed after Covid

Florida Snowball in St. Petersburg, FL, late January

Dancing with the GODS in Gainesville, late February

Palmetto Bug Stomp in Charleston, SC, mid-April

Gamble Rogers Folk Festival in St. Augustine, FL, late April-early May

Florida Folk Festival near Lake City, FL, Memorial Day weekend in May
with contra and other kinds of dancing every night, and a smorgasbord of music

Mentone Dance Weekend north of Birmingham, AL, third weekend in August

Florida State Fiddlers Convention near Keystone Heights, FL, late October
with music the whole weekend long

Fall Ball in Tampa-St. Pete, FL, late October

Atlanta Dance Weekend in Atlanta, GA, mid-November

Music and Jams

Tallahassee Old-Time Jam at Blue Tavern - 2nd and/or 4th Saturday of each month, 4:00 -6:00 pm, 1206 N. Monroe St.  See the Facebook page, or contact Mary at maryallgire "at" yahoo "dot" com

Irish Music Sessions at Blue Tavern - 3rd Saturday of each month, 4:00 -6:00 pm, 1206 N. Monroe St.

FSU Old Time Ensemble - A music course at FSU open to the community as well as regular FSU students, with public performances

Friends of Florida Folk organization of musicians and other folk artists in Florida

Other Dancing around Tallahassee

Hot Pepper Steppers Appalachian Clogging

Mountain Dew Cloggers Contemporary Clogging

Tallahassee Irish Step Dancers

Big Band Swing

FSU Swing and Lindy Hop

Carolina Shag and Swing

Ballroom Dancing

Last revised 9/15/23