The Asheville Contra Community – Folk Music’s Hottest Dance Scene

Dancing With Wild Angels

Asheville’s contra dance community is probably the top contra dance destination among North American dancers. Asheville boasts two weekly dances, both crowded with as many young, hip dancers as traditional dancers of a certain age.

The flourishes are stylish and sometimes daring, and often well executed; flirting’s intense, and the playfulness ubiquitous across generations. Most visiting dancers agree that the dancing is the highest quality they’ve experienced. (Check the video links at the end of the post for examples.)

At the same time, there is always a large number of newcomers being taught the folk dance & welcomed into the community. There are, of course, cliques and popular dancers, but on the whole, the contra community in Asheville and around the world is warm and welcoming.

Indeed, it’s a group that defines community. The connections extend well outside the dances; people support each other in times of need and celebrate one another’s successes and milestones.

Contra dancing is a style of folk dance that shares some figures with both English Country Dancing and Square Dancing. Couples dance to calls facing another pair in long lines. When the pattern is completed the couple moves up or down the line. By the end of the set, they will usually have danced with every other couple in the line.

The steps are easy to learn, it’s a smooth walking dance, and the dances are taught and then called, making it very easy for beginners to learn and enjoy their first dance.

The nature of the dance is very social. People switch partners after each dance and couples who come together usually dance mostly with other partners, so singles are easily integrated into the group. The dance is also gender blind when it comes to finding a partner. Women ask men as often as the reverse, and all genders dance together some of the time.

Every Thursday night the Old Farmers Ball dances in Bryson Gym, at Warren Wilson College. A beginner’s lesson at 7:30 makes it a perfect place to learn the dance. Anyone can learn to do this simple dance and feel confident dancing the rest of the night. Admission is $6 for non-members. Here’s the weekly schedule.

On Monday night, there is a dance at the Grey Eagle Tavern on Clingman in downtown Asheville. The dance starts at 8 pm and costs $6. There’s no lesson, but most dancers feel comfortable here by the second time they dance. The callers are always sensitive to newcomers.

There are numerous other dances in the region, including several dances a month at the beautiful River Falls Lodge in Marietta, SC, less than an hour’s drive from North Asheville. In the other direction, there are several dances in Jonesborough, TN. These are very new dance friendly communities, as well; newcomer lessons are always held before the regular dances in both communities.

The region also boasts several very popular dance weekends in the region, including Moon Dance at Table Rock Park and Summer Soirée at Warren Wilson College and the twice yearly Contrathons and Dance Weekends hosted by the Historic Jonesborough Dance Society.

Great Videos of Asheville Contra Dancing

Enjoy the dance!
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4 thoughts on “The Asheville Contra Community – Folk Music’s Hottest Dance Scene

  1. Any folk dancing for Fri., Sat., or Sun. Jan. 15, 16, 17? Asheville, Henderson, Brevard area. Please call (843) 290-4488 or email Laurabushdancer@ thank you!

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