Jo Mortland’s First Contra Dance Weekend:
I had been contra dancing on and off for a couple of years before I attended my first weekend event in 1994. Even though I was familiar with the community, the impressions from that weekend were remarkable, and have stayed with me ever since.
The weekend was held in Champaign, Illinois. One of the local dancers had a small barn on his property and had installed a plywood floor so that people could come to play music and dance. Having grown up expecting men NOT to participate much in dancing, I thought, “This is VERY cool!” The afternoon workshops were held in the barn.
That night, after the main dance, we were invited back to this same barn for a talent show. We sat in lawn chairs in the wee hours of the morning, tired, sweaty from dancing hard, relaxed and happy. A few people sang songs for the group, one man did card tricks, and another read a very funny poem.
I felt like an alien. I looked around the group and thought, “What IS this?” It was very different from any other kind of social gathering I had attended. I lay awake later that night wondering why it had felt weird. I realized that this community is not alcohol based, not technology based, not consumer based. There was nothing in that evening that the media tells us we need to have a good time! No wonder it felt odd!
I LOVE the contra world. People get together to have fun and be good to one another. We share our knowledge and talents. Competition and the battle between the sexes are not present. It is irrelevant how you dress, what you drive, what fills your time when you aren’t on the dance floor. Touching is not only allowed, it’s necessary! I am thrilled to be a part of this healthy addiction!