Contra dance is a type of folk dancing similar to square dancing. A caller teaches each dance before it actually starts and then calls out the steps while the music plays. With a lesson offered by Nelson at 7 p.m., newcomers to community dancing easily caught on to the simple moves.
The event was a huge success. Natalie Hanson 07 found the dance to be one of the best community-builders Ive experienced in my time at St. Olaf. She said, I often hear students complain that we are somewhat isolated on the Hill, and this was an amazing opportunity to address that complaint. Somewhere in those three hours of holding hands, spinning in circles and skipping around the room with complete strangers, a kind of adrenaline-induced, intimate connection formed between all the students, families, dance enthusiasts and musicians in the room.
Even the musicians were impressed. In more than 25 years of playing for folk dancing, I have been involved in only a few events with anywhere near the level of energy that I saw generated at the Northfield contra dance, said Pat OLoughlin, Contratopias band leader. I cant even remember how many years its been since it last happened. OLoughlin, like many others, hopes the Northfield Winter Stomp will act as a springboard to an ongoing Northfield dance tradition.
OLoughlin may get his wish; the Northfield community has already taken a second leap. The Northfield Winter Stomps high turnout and positive feedback led to the creation of the Northfield Contra Dance Association, made up of a collaborative group from St. Olaf, Carleton and Northfield. The association will organize future contra dances in Northfield and encourage participation in the events by both campuses and Northfield community members.
Professor of Dance Ann Von Bibra helped prepare the St. Olaf community for the Northfield Winter Stomp by holding contra dance lessons during two sessions of Community Dance Hour prior to the event, and the Northfield Contra Dance Association also hopes to provide similar learning opportunities.
The Northfield community is ensuring that the event will not be the last of its kind. The second annual Northfield Winter Stomp is tentatively scheduled for next February, and Suzie Nakasian, Carleton professor of religion and self-proclaimed contra-dance enthusiast, hopes to see a Spring and Harvest Dance take place this year, possibly outside and under a tent.
I would encourage everyone to attend any future contra dances, regardless of your dance experience, Hanson said, and I hope to see more St. Olaf students at the next dance.
To learn more about contra dance opportunities or be added to the contra dance e-mail alias, contact Von Bibra in the Dance Department.