May Heydays at Evesham:
Colin Hume's opinion on Contras

The title makes it clear: this is just my opinion — feel free to ignore it.

But if you live in the States or some other country you may not be aware of what the dancing in England is like.

Most dance clubs in England don't specialise in Contra.  They do a mixture of "Playford" (however you choose to define that), traditional English, Contra, Square and unclassified: the proportions vary depending on the caller.  I know of only five Contra groups (plus one in Scotland) though there may be a few more.  There is no emphasis on the swing as being the most vital part of the dance.  In fact the most popular contra in England for at least 40 years has been Devil's Dream which has no swing — it's often used as the finishing dance of an evening.  Also popular is Bucksaw Reel (Becket Reel) which has a partner swing but no neighbour swing.

Many people will just swing once around and then stand there with their hands out waiting for the circle left or lines forward and back.  They don't see the point of a long swing; they'd prefer something more interesting.

It seems to me — and remember, this is just my opinion — that a lot of choreographers in the States think: "Balance and swing neighbour, circle left ¾, swing partner - now, what shall I do in this one?"  And half the dance is already gone!  I believe dancers in England would like something interesting rather than something frantic.  And they don't demand that the ones and twos do the same thing, or that no-one stands still for more than 8 beats (though they wouldn't want to be the "inactives" standing still for half the dance).  And they don't like dances which are predominantly clockwise, so a sequence like "Swing partner.  Circle left.  Slide to the next couple.  Circle left ¾.  Swing neighbour" would not be well received!  My repertoire when I'm calling in England is very different from when I'm calling contras in the States or Canada.

Most clubs don't do gender-free, neither larks and robins nor positional — it's still men and women (or in my case usually men and ladies).  You're welcome to use those terms in your dance description, but it will probably be called as men and women at the competition.

Colin Hume