Updated: March 6, 1999        Visitors:  Hit Counter       Return to Fool's Fest Page

a Fool's history of How contra DAncing Got its name


For Seth's contra joke collection, the following was overheard at breakfast at the 1999 Gypsy Meltdown:
A contra dance is a cross between a church social without the religion and an orgy without the hard sex.

From Newsgroup:  rec.folk-dancing, with thanks to the contributors:

Subject: Re: Origin of the word "contradance"
From: "Richard Maurer" <Richard1Maurer [@] worldnet.att.net>
Date: 2/26/1999 3:05 AM Eastern Standard Time
Message-id: <01be615e$8e6ed1c0$2e36480c [@] default>

Here is the story as it was told to me:

Thirty some years ago, folks in the
back to the land movement in New England
started doing what became today's contra dance.
They could not arrange for any traditional musicians
to play for them, so they started the tradition that
one person in the first couple would sing their mantra,
and the set would dance to this music.
These early dances became known as mantra dances.

Well folks will innovate even a good thing.
They found they liked it better if both the man and the
woman of the first couple sang their mantras. Besides
more volume, it was a pleasure to hear the harmonies.
And there was a magic to the music we do not hear
these days, with the song starting at the front of the hall,
and winding towards the back, then coming back up.
These dances became known as co-mantra dances,
later shortened to contra dances.

Richard Maurer
Sunnyvale, California

Subject: Re: Origin of the word "contradance"
From: The Martins <martini [@] user2.teleport.com>
Date: 2/27/1999 3:00 AM Eastern Standard Time
Message-id: <SCNB2.2670$hC.1235025 [@] news1.teleport.com>

This is utter nonsense. The amount of misinformation out there is
unbelievable! As any scholar will tell you, American contra dances were
originally English country dances done at great speed. Since the dancers
often left contrails, American wags nick-named the English dances
"contrail dances". Over time this was shortened to "contra" dance.

Bill Martin

Subject: Re: Origin of the word "contradance"
From: Bob Stein <squeezer [@] voicenet.com>
Date: 2/27/1999 2:38 PM Eastern Standard Time
Message-id: <270219991438195350%squeezer [@] voicenet.com>

Hah! Academic poppycock!!!

The real origin of the word "contra dance" comes from American
idealists working in Nicaragua. As these people came in contact with
the "contras" in this country, they picked up a new form of
dancing--which involved dressing up in fatigues and standing in lines
facing opposing lines. Each dancer carried an AK-47, which was to be
utilized at certain crucial points during the dance. These points or
figures ("Los figueroas", in Spanish) were prompted by a caller ("El
jefe", in Spanish). Whoever was left standing with minimal wounds at
the end of the dance won the right to make the political speech for the
cadre for the next week.

This dancing was brought back to America, but was deemed too violent.
In ways too convoluted to explain here, somehow the dancing became
associated with Anglo-Celto-Franco music and with American-style square
dance calling ("Square-dance calling" in English). The only thing to
remain of the original Nicaraguan dance is the opposing line formation
and the name: "contra dancing".

There. I hope the "booboisie" have been sufficiently enlightened.

 Martins wrote:
American wags nick-named the English dances
> "contrail dances". Over time this was shortened to "contra" dance.

No, no. I have the button saying "dance contras, don't aid contras",
which proves it started out as a revolutionary peoples' movement. The
movement eventually became stylized into a dance.

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