san francisco bay queer contra dance
a little bit folky a little bit flirty a whole lot of fun
frequently asked questions

What is contra dance?

Contra dance is a traditional American social dance, born in New England but now roaming free across the country and the world. For a more detailed description, check out our About page, watch the videos in Media or try following some Links.

What does "gender-free" mean? And what's up with the armbands?

Traditional contra dancing has two roles: "gentlemen" and "ladies." Gender-free contra dancing recognizes that which role you prefer to dance at a particular moment has nothing to do with your gender, and so we call our roles "armbands" and "barearms," and do indeed have lovely red armbands for the dancers in that role.

The roles differ in small but tricky ways, so we encourage beginners to stick to one role their first time out. Once you get the hang of it, feel free to switch over the course of the evening (or occasionally for our more intrepid dancers, within a single dance).

Do I need to know anything about dancing to come to a queer contra?

Not at all! Contra dancing has a very gentle learning curve, and all dances are taught from scratch. Before each dance, the caller will talk all dancers through a practice round or two, and then continue to call out prompts during the dance itself.

Callers do tend to start out with easier dances early in the evening and then build on those, so if you're a rank beginner be sure to arrive promptly to start with the basics.

Do I need a partner?

Nope! It's tradition in contra dancing to mix around throughout the evening and dance with many different people (in fact, in some circles it's considered scandalous to dance with the same person twice in one night...strictly one-dance stands for them).

It's usual to ask strangers to dance, and for strangers to ask you to dance, even if you do come with a partner, so don't be shy to ask someone you've never met before to dance.

What should I wear?

Comfortable clothes you can move in (and sweat in) are a must, as are comfortable shoes. You can get extra style points for swirly skirts (on any gender) and shoes that make a satisfying clunk when you stamp your feet during the dance, but neither is necessary.

What else should I bring?

A water bottle is convenient for quick swigs in between dances, though tap water and cups are usually also available. We always welcome snacks for our food table. But most importantly, bring yourself and your friends!

I identify as trans. Will I be welcome at queer contra?

Absolutely. Queer Contra Dance is committed to providing a trans-inclusive environment. We always have gender-neutral bathrooms at our dances, and welcome any suggestions to make our community as trans-friendly as possible.

Do I have to be l, g, b, t or q to come?

Everyone is welcome at Queer Contra Dance! However you identify yourself, if you'd like to give gender-free contra dancing a try and have an affinity for the unconventional, you should fit in fine.

What is Contra Cafe?

contra cafe

Contra Cafe is our friendly post-dance social hour at the Lake Merritt Dance Center starting around 10:30 p.m. Wind down, chat with other dancers, and enjoy the endlessly interesting personalities who frequent Queer Contra Dance. Snacks are served.

All this talk of dancing has me fired up...when's the next dance?

Check out our Calendar for a full schedule of upcoming dances!