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Contra Dancing in Anchorage, Alaska
Valuable Information for Newcomers, and Experienced Bears alike.
Face it, we were all newcomers at one time.

In an effort to make newcomers feel at home, this Newcomers page is to familiarize new dancers with what to expect at a typical Dancing Bears event.

For a Visual, play the instructional YouTube videos showing at the bottom of the Page!
The Dancing Bears always welcomes newcomers! We enjoy a rich history of dancers who have been members for as many as twenty years, as well as the full range of members to brand new dancers. Newcomers, experienced or not, are part of what allows for the richness of experience. 

Annually, we schedule a Newcomers Dance where admission is free to all new dancers. This is a time to encourage friends to try dancing, and to welcome others in the community who have come to check us out. 

Types of dances: you will probably see four basic types of dances here: contra, square, round, and couple. Contras are danced in two lines, which face one another. Depending on the number of people at the dance, there may be two or three facing contra lines. The men will usually be on one side and the women will be facing them on the other side. Square dances involve four couples, each of which forms one side of a square. Round dances are danced by the whole group in one figure and are a great "icebreaker," for usually you will dance with every other partner in the figure. Couple dances are those danced by individual couples: waltz, polka, two-step, and hambo. A basic rule for all dances is for the lady of each couple to be on the right side of the gent. 

Choosing partners: you can dance with one partner all evening, but most people change partners after each dance. Feel free to ask anyone in the hall to dance--inexperienced dancers can ask betters dancers; women can ask men; some women enjoy leading and ask other women to dance; you may even dance with someone you don't know yet. It's a good way to meet new friends and learn about dancing. 

Getting into sets: the caller will announce what type of dance will be next. Join a contra line at the end farthest from the music. Join a square at any open position. To complete a square, hold up the appropriate number of fingers to let others (and the caller) know how many more couples you need. It is usually easier to hear the caller and band closer to the stage, but dance in different places in the hall. You'll meet more people that way and will find that the acoustics vary from one spot to another. 

Walk-through: each dance (with the exception of couple dances) is walked through before it is danced. During the walk-through, the caller will explain the main figure and any tricky sequences. To help the caller, please remain quiet and attentive. Even if you know the dance, don't walk through the dance ahead of the caller's instructions: it is confusing for both the caller and nearby dancers. Don't use this time to instruct your partner on the fine points of dancing or catch up on the skiing conditions. We often do two dances each time we are in a square set, so keep your partner and stay in place after the first dance is completed. If you become confused during the walk-through, please raise your hand immediately and ask the caller to explain whatever is confusing you. 

While dancing: use a light, walking step to the music, rather than skipping or hopping. Dance with the others in your set: that is, give weight on the allemandes (hand-turns), smile and look at your partner, help those who become confused. Hold hands gently. Dance with consideration, friendliness and joy. Some dancers modify the standard dance figures with extra turns and twirls. This is fine, so long as these variations don't confuse or inconvenience others, or cause someone to be late or in the wrong position for the next movement. If you get confused, regroup and try to start again. Going at a "double time" to try to catch up rarely works. "Better never than late!" After each dance, thank your partner and those with whom you've danced. If you wish, you may choose to applaud the music or the caller. Talk to the caller during the break if you have any questions about a particular dance, a dance figure or dancing in general. 

General comments: direct questions and comments about Dancing Bears or the running of dance to the Dance Manager or Honcho. Someone sitting at the door can tell you who that is. Our halls generally prohibit smoking and alcohol use and require that children be supervised at all times. Please honor these requirements.

 Become a Bear: it's easy! A $15 annual fee brings you mail notice  of upcoming events and reduced admission to dances, not to mention the good feeling of supporting a healthy form of socializing and exercise in the community. To join, see the people at the front door. Dancing Bears is a non-profit organization, and is always looking for volunteers. Talk to the Dance Manager if you are interested. 

Welcome . . . We're glad you came!
   Each of the following videos will take you in to a series of instuction of basic contra dance movements.  Enjoy!