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"No partners necessary" dances happening in quad-cities

Contra Dance is becoming increasingly popular amongst the Quad-communities, generating about 60 participants at the monthly dances hosted by Folk Happens. It uses "successive neighbors," so one does not need a partner to participate.

This means singles, couples and whole families can participate in a fun evening of dancing and socializing.

"The expectation is you have different partners to dance with," said Bruce Hardwick, member of the contra dance organization, Folk Happens.

In this type of dance, parallel lines of dancers stand opposite, or "contra to," their partners and follow the instructions of a Caller. Over the course of the dance, individuals move up and down the lines interacting with each other, and meet back up with their partners at some point during the dance.

Hardwick organized an evening of contra dancing this past Saturday in Prescott Valley specifically for young people from PV and Chino Valley, that drew about 40 dancers.

Of the 60 people or so who usually come to the monthly community dances, about 80 percent are age 25 or younger, he said. Even so, he'd like to see more young people - especially males of all ages - learn the dance and study to become callers.

"They take some time to groom," Hardwick said about callers, the leaders who instruct and direct the dancers in steps and formations.

"The caller will call the dance two or three times so the dancers can walk through before adding the music," said Pat Eubanks, who started contra dancing in 1990. She has seen dancers aged 2 to 80 participate in events.

Annessa Annis, 18, said she finds the contra dances to be "open, friendly, and easy to learn."

In fact, many members of the Folk Happens organization say contra dances are family friendly and couple friendly. Whether one dances or sits out to watch, they say it's great fun.

"It's easy to meet new people, especially older people. You can hang out with them, and it's a good way to socialize," said Rachel Eddolls, 14.

Younger brother Zach Eddolls, 12, finds himself watching most of the time. In order to participate more, he said there would need to be more guys.

Females outnumber the males and often will dance the man's role. In some organizations, one partner wears an armband to distinguish the lead dancer.

Everyone's energy and expertise levels are different. Contra dancing is vigorous exercise, so wearing layers is good. One doesn't need to be in excellent physical shape, and anyone can sit out a dance at any time. Pants or skirts and smooth-soled shoes are the only "outfits" needed.

Membership in Folk Happens is $12/individual and $18/family per year. General public admission for dances is $8, or $6 for members of any contra dancing group. Teachers and students (non-members) are $6. Members who are teachers or students pay $4. Families pay for two individuals only. First-time dancers will receive a free pass to their next dance. Anyone bringing a "newbie" earns $1 off.

Hardwick said members of the group are available to teach at summer camps, family reunions, and barn dances. All they need is space to dance, a caller and a band.

For more information, call 928-925-5210 or visit folkhappens.org. They meet on the fourth Saturday of the month, Nov. 23, at the First Congregational Church, 216 E. Gurley Street, Prescott, with a lesson at 7 p.m., and dancing from 7:30-10 p.m.


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