Contra Dances

Take hands four from the top and…

“Contra Dancing:
for the women, it is flirting without intent;

for the men, it is handling without commitment.” MR

Please credit Merri Rudd as author if you use these dances. Thanks!

An excellent reference site with 100’s of dances available is Michael Dyck’s contra dance index. Also, Alice Milmoe of Florida has designed an excellent software program called Caller’s Helper. It contains 200 dances by many famous callers and allows you to enter your own dances as well. All dances can be printed on 3×5 or 4×6 index cards or full sheets. For example, you could cut and paste the text of one of the dances below into Caller’s Helper and generate the dance onto an index card. Very cool! At $50, it’s a bargain. Email Alice at: Caller’s Helper for ordering information.


Duple improper formation by Merri Rudd, written 6/11/06

A1 1’s down the outside and come back up the outside (16)
A2 1’s gypsy each other (8) and unwind into…circle left with neighbors 1x (8)
B1 Neighbor balance and swing (on sides of set), end facing across (16)
B2 Hey for 4, women passing right in middle to start (16)

Based on Ted Sanella’s THE TOURIST; an uneven dance, but note that 2’s have 24 beats to swing in A1 and A2 as long as they stop, facing up, in time to circle.


Duple improper formation
by Merri Rudd, for Karen and Greg, married July 17, 1999; dance written 2/23/04

A1 Couples do sa do, all sliding left to start (8); Circle left once (8)
A2 Neighbor allemande right 1½ (8); ladies allemande left 1½ (8)
B1 Gypsy (by right shoulder) own and swing (16)
B2 Circle RIGHT 3/4 (ladies leading this!!) (8); Balance the ring (4), all California twirl to repeat (4)

This dance sequence tells a story of dating (hand in hand), double dating, seeing others, ladies’ night out, eyes for each other only, running out of the church (the circle right), etc. It flows well through its “story.”


Becket formation
by Merri Rudd, for Tom and Joanne 4/24/94
easy and often used at weddings and other simple dances
published in CDSS Magazine, CDSSN n148p19a 1997

A1 Circle left 3/4 (6); swing neighbor (10)
A2 Ladies allemande right 1½ (8) to swing partners (8)
B1 Ladies chain over and back (16)
B2 Long lines go forward and back (8); forward again and couples shift left along
the lines to face a new couple across the set (second forward and back is “forward 4 steps, fall back 2 steps, shift left 2 steps”)

Alternate B2 (for more advanced dancers): As couples (with own), right and left through straight across (8); right and left through on right diagonal (if no one’s there, STAY PUT!) (8)


Duple improper formation
by Merri Rudd 11/27/92
first dance I ever wrote, great for ending the evening

A1 Gypsy and swing neighbor (16)
A2 Long lines forward and back (8); gents allemande left 1½** (8)
B1 Balance and swing partner (16)

B2 Half promenade (8); circle left 3/4, pass through (8)

*”Chama” is pronounced “Cha’ (like cha-cha) mah.” It’s a town and river in northern New Mexico where this dance was composed.

**Variation for A2: ladies chain once; right and left through back
(you might call this version the RIO GRANDE REEL)

**2nd Variation for A2: Long lines forward and back; gents gypsy each other 1 1/2, tightly if they dare!!
(a dancer suggested calling this version the RIO PUERCO REEL, puerco being “pig” in Spanish, but I thought that might be kind of rude)


Duple improper formation, double progression
by Merri Rudd, written 7/25/98 for Esty McLane’s Birthday
have a doctor explain all the birthing imagery in this dance

A1 Balance Neighbor forward/back by R hand (4), box gnat to change places (4); Ladies Alemande L 1 1/2 (8)
A2 Swing own (on man’s side) (8) , circle L 3/4, pass thru up or down line (8)
B1 Gypsy/swing new Neighbor (16)
B2 Cir. L 1/2 (4), roll partner away with 1/2 sashay (4) (be sure facing up/down line when rolling); Balance circle in and out (4), 2’s arch, pop actives thru (4) to REPEAT


Becket formation, an advanced dance that makes partners exclaim when reunited.

by Merri Rudd 4/11/94
for whatever reason, an even number of couples seems to enhance this dance

Santa Fe fiddler and caller Will McDonald phoned me and said he dreamed a dance where you were so far away from your partner, you couldn’t imagine reuniting. Then he asked me to write the dance.

A1 Left-diagonal, ladies chain* (8); Right-diagonal, ladies chain* (8) (to a gent who is a trail buddy for the dance)
A2 Straight across, the ladies chain (8); long lines go forward and back (8)
B1 On left-diagonal, as couples (lady with the guy who courtesy-turned her in straight-across chain), pass through*, instead of courtesy turn, turn toward the one you passed thru with (you’re still facing out) and alem. RIGHT about 3/4 to send men into left allemande (8); gents allemande left 1½ (to meet partner) (8)
B2 Balance and swing partner (16)

*If no one’s there, stay put!!
**Person of one gender pulls by or passes by trail buddy of opposite gender.


Becket formation
by Merri Rudd 5/22/06
for whatever reason, an even number of couples seems to enhance this dance

I dreamed this version the morning of May 22, 2006 after returning from calling Prescott, Arizona’s 15th annual MayMadness Dance weekend with Seth Tepfer, Hotpoint String Band, and the Privy Tippers.

A1 Left-diagonal, ladies chain* (8); Right-diagonal, ladies chain* (8) (to a gent who is a trail buddy for the dance)
A2 straight across the ladies chain (8), long lines forward and back (as you come back, roll ladies away with 1/2 sashay to gent’s left side) (8)
B1 Rt. and left thru on left diagonal** (8); LADY courtesy turns gent (it is, after all, convoluted, but she really just has to walk him forward to face across and send him in for…); Gents allemande RIGHT 1 1/2 (8)
B2 Bal. and swing own (16)

*If no one’s there, stay put!!
**YES! The gent is on the lady’s right during the left diagonal right and left through.

Questions? Comments? Please contact Merri at merridancing @ gmail .com (had trouble with spammers, so you’ll have to type the address. Thanks!)

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