New England folk dance drew crowd

This Saturday evening, the St. Matthias Church hall will transform into a lively dance space for the Halifax Contra Dancers.

The group, run by Eliza West and Jonathan Franklin, meets once a month, teaching and practicing traditional New England style contra dancing.

By Laura Hubbard

Dancers wait for further instruction from Jonathan Franklin at Saturday's Contra Dance (Laura Hubbard photo)

The St. Matthias Church hall transformed into a lively dance space for the Halifax Contra Dancers, Saturday evening.

The group, run by Eliza West and Jonathan Franklin, meets once a month, teaching and practicing traditional New England style contra dancing. This style, a fast folk dance, is instructed by a caller and danced in lines, as well as pairs.

“If you’ve ever seen a Jane Austen movie, that’s what we’re doing,” said West. “It’s faster, livelier, it’s very energetic.”

West and Franklin, both from New England, have taken over the Halifax Contra Dance group after the Smokin’ Contra Band – a popular group within the dancing community – asked for a break.

“We’re both from Vermont,” said West. “We’re trying to get that strong New England style dancing going. And for me, I wanted to dance more, and the only way I could dance more was to start planning the dances and making it happen.”

Contrary Motion – a folk quartet familiar with the style West is looking for – will accompanied the dance, which had a fairly large turn out. The dance last February was disappointing in numbers.

Related links
Event Information for Saturday’s dance
Smokin’ Contra Band
St Matthias Anglican Church

West said the attendance at that dance was a bit lower than expected, but it fell during spring break.

“It’s building more in the student community, which is nice, because it’s an easy spot for the dance to grow.”

Interested dancers don’t need prior knowledge of folk dancing but should be prepared for an aerobic exercise. West suggested bringing a water bottle and wearing leather-soled shoes, which many of Saturday’s dancers did.

“At this point, we’re trying to build a community. When we came to Halifax, the dance was at a simpler level than we were used to and we want to see if we can get the dancers here dancing like we do back home.”

West urges people to come out next month and see if contra dancing is for them.

“It’s a small community right now, but it could get bigger, and so everyone should come out and try it,” said West. “There is a big enough population in the Halifax region to support a really great dance community, and I think we can make it happen with a little bit of elbow grease.”

Watch part of Saturday night’s dance, as Jonathan Franklin calls and Contrary Motion provides the music:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3aRCjXQ4M1Y

For more images of Saturday’s Halifax Contra Dance, please view the gallery below: