This is the fifth in a series of Dance Spot posts highlighting different places to go dancing.

Dance Spot: Palo Alto Contra
Price: $5 students; $10 non-members
Time: 2nd & 4th Saturdays 7:30pm for beginners lesson; 8-11pm dancing
Location: First United Methodist Church, 625 Hamilton Ave, Palo Alto, CA 94301

After I seeing my blog post on Stanford Ceili, a friend suggested that I try out Contra. Curious, I looked up videos of Contra dancing, which my husband thought looked like the dance in Hunger Games.

A further search led me a facebook post by Seth Tepfer on the choreography. Excited, I dragged PatrickDSC00576, who had just moved here from Seattle, to Palo Alto Contra on Saturday night. Patrick had done a bit of line dancing in high school in Virginia and agreed to give it a try.

I showed up at 7:30pm, and announced it was my first time as I paid the $10 fee. In return, I got a second time free ticket! I then joined the beginners lesson, in which Chuck Abell, the guest caller for the night, walked us through important terms and moves. There were several people here for their first time, plus a few getting a refresher or helping beginners learn. When class ended, Chuck encouraged newcomers to dance with old-timers so that we would learn faster.

The dancing began at 8pm to a live band. An experienced dancer immediately asks me to dance, and was very helpful in leading me to the correct spots during the dance. I saw that Patrick was also being helped. Similar to Ceili, the caller first walked us through the dance sequence before the dance begins, and then called out the moves during the dance. Once I started remembering what the terms meant, I could easily keep up with the dance.

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As the song ends, my partner quickly found another good dancer to lead me, and he in turn found my next partner. So I was well mentored for three dances in a row. By then, the dance floor was getting filled with two lines down the entire length of the room. Joyce, one of the organizers, says it gets twice as crowded when a well-known caller or band comes.

Half way through the night, the band takes a break and Waltz music is heard over the speakers. A dancer tells me that one of the musicians have been dancing Contra since age 15, and now also plays music at Contra. I take the chance to teach Patrick and enjoy a dance with a fellow dancer. The dancefloor is rather clear compared to earlier because not everyone dances Waltz and some dancers take a break too.


As the night goes on, the dances becomes more and more complex. Patrick and I also had more trouble keeping up. Thankfully, everyone was very friendly and didn’t complain about us messing up the line. Though next time, I definitely need to partner with experienced dancers for these complex dances.

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