Learn the art of contra dancing at Chilliwack barn dances

'You don't even need a partner. Most people will end up dancing with everyone in the room by the end of the night,' says organizer.

Organizers with Chilliwack Barn Dancing include Jonathan Hall

Chilliwack Barn Dancing is a new group in town geared to sharing and promoting the art of contra dancing.

“It’s a great way to build community,” said Valerie Flokstra, vice chair of the group’s board of directors.

“You don’t even need a partner. Most people will end up dancing with everyone in the room by the end of the night.”

Contra dancing is like square dancing. But it differs in that two lines of dancers will face each other while a caller yells out the dance moves like “dosido” or “swing your partner.”

Their first family-friendly, alcohol-free event is set for Nov. 14 at Chilliwack United Church hall.

The hope is that contra dancing will blossom into an ongoing monthly activity for new members, “hopefully forever,” Flokstra said.

She tried it out in Vancouver last year and was hooked immediately.

“I love the community spirit,” she said. “I also love the historical aspects of it as someone who has always been fascinated by historical fiction.”

Flokstra said it helps take her mind off studying chemistry and physics at UFV.

“I definitely have a heart for the music as well.”

Contra dancing to traditional Irish music dates back to pioneer times in North America and back to the Europe of old.

“Contra dancing was what 18th century pioneers did for fun when they came together for barn-raisings and harvest events. They’d work hard all day and then someone would pull out an old fiddle and everyone would dance!”

It was known as Country Dancing in England, and Contra Dance in France. You may have seen people lined up to contra dance to old-time jigs and reels if you’ve ever seen the TV show, Little House on the Prairie.

“We didn’t want to name our website, Contra Dancing and went with ‘Chilliwack Barn Dancing’ as a group name because no one knows what contra dancing is yet,” Flokstra said.

It’s a good way to get some exercise, and takes no real dancing experience or talent.

“If you can walk in a circle, you can do it. It’s a series of simple moves.”

The first practice the group held was at her house.

“It was a bit squishy but now we have the talent and experience needed to open it up to all of Chilliwack to join us.”

The nearest place outside of Chilliwack to find contra dancing is in Vancouver. The local group has joined the Canadian Square and Round Dancing Society to make it all official.

“It would be a great thing for Chilliwack and I think it will really bring people together.”

The Nov. 14 event is one of four dances they’re organizing for the second Saturday of each month at 7:30 p.m., with future 2016 dates set for Dec. 12, Jan. 9 and Feb. 13.

Beginners are welcome. They even offer a half-hour lesson at first to get everyone up to speed.

Admission is $8 per person or $20 per family, and dances will be held at Chilliwack United Church Hall, 45835 Spadina Ave. See more at Chilliwack Barn Dancing.

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