San Francisco Bay Queer Contra Dance

What is contra dancing?

Contra dance is a type of American folk dance done to live fiddle music. It is very beginner friendly; there's no fancy footwork, and a caller teaches and prompts the dances. It's also very difficult to describe, so check out this video.

All our dances are called with larks and ravens as the names for the two dance roles. That means you can dance with everyone.

For a more comprehensive introduction on how a contra dance event is organized as well as hearing some contra dancers talking about dancing, check out this video.

History

San Francisco Bay Queer Contra Dance began with a kitchen table conversation among friends. Their conclusion: the Bay Area needed a friendly, folksy venue for queers and friends to meet and contra dance. So, in April 2004, "the little dance that could" sprang forth. While the original monthly dance has retired, the vision for the organization is still going strong.

Queer Contra Camp, a weekend at Monte Toyon, a camp facility in the redwoods near Santa Cruz, debuted in 2008. The camp was a wild success, and now occurs annually in April.

Circle Left began in January 2013 with the goal of specifically attracting young people and queer people. Our monthly dance is high energy and holds a strong sense of community. Originally we used "bands" and "bare arms" to distinguish the dance roles, but we were one of the first dances to switch to larks and ravens. Now many dances across the country (and several in the Bay Area) are using those terms.

Hands Four started in April 2019. Some of us on the Peninsula have been crossing the bay to Circle Left every month over the years. To bring the same energy and spread the love of the community to our side of the Bay, Hands Four shares the same goal of attracting young people and queer people, and de-genderize dancing roles so that everybody can enjoy dancing with everyone else. We also use larks and ravens calling.

What our dances look like

Who Are We

Alan

Board, Camp

Mark

Camp

Doe

Camp

Asher

Camp

Laura

Board, Camp, Circle Left

Margaret

Board, Circle Left

Yoyo

Board, Circle Left

Weiwei

Board, Hands Four

Dane

Board, Hands Four

Kelsey

Hands Four

Code of conduct

We want all people to feel safe and comfortable at Queer Contra Dance. Harassment of any kind won't be tolerated. If someone's behavior is offensive or harassing during the dance, we encourage you to speak with one of the organizers.

Resources

Gender-free Contra in-depth

A few links to more in-depth discussions on how gender-free contra has been evolving in the queer and folk communty
  • Gender Free Dancing is for Everyone
  • Gender-Free Role Term Usage
  • Genderfree Contra Dance Term FAQ
  • Other Gender-role-free Dances in the U.S.

    There are several contra dance groups across the U.S. which don't fuss about gender. Also check out the lists compiled by Jeff Kaufman for regular dances and longer events using gender-free terms.

    Lavender Country and Folk Dancers (LCFD) is also a good source for more information about gender-free dancing.