Contradance counters Friday culture

Some of us seem to find ourselves trapped in a mundane Friday night routine: getting dressed in a skin-tight outfit wavering between appropriate and inappropriate; pregaming with the same friends you do every weekend, playing a few rounds of beer pong where, as a requirement, someone will undoubtedly complain about Keystone’s inferior quantity; and heading off to Goodrich or Perry to shake your bottom to the repetitive bass beats and blaring lyrics of some nameless DJ. Last Friday, I decided to break the tedium and make the most of my last few weeks in Williamstown by checking out an event that I’d never bothered to attend before: the contradance. I thought I was just dragging a few friends with me down to Mission dining hall for the sole purpose of avoiding another game of Kings. In actuality, I had no idea of what I was getting myself in to.

We arrived at the contradance in full Goodrich-party style – short black skirts, lacy tops, impractical shoes and all the accoutrements associated with a crazy Friday night. In contrast, the other contradancers were clad in long, flowy peasant skirts as they gracefully pranced around in bare feet. I could easily picture them frolicking in grassy fields, drinking soymilk and enjoying freshly picked blueberries while scratching bunnies behind their ears or hand-feeding tweeting sparrows. My look was a bit out of place, and I found myself unsuccessfully willing Julia Roberts to appear in her Pretty Woman outfit so my skirt wouldn’t be the shortest in the room. Unfortunately, she remained absent, so I decided to ignore my outfit and just dance the night away.

I hovered around the edges of the dancers, waiting for the next song to start so I could claim a place. What I didn’t realize was that these songs are no Ne-Yo tune where two short verses and a few choruses can make a song; the fiddle and guitar melodies stretched on for so long I wished I’d brought my iPod so I could brush up on my Brickbreaker skills. When the fiddler finally struck up a new song, I gratefully hopped in place at the end of the line and tried to look like I knew what I was doing. “Left palm out, turn in a circle!” my neighbor instructed. “Now promenade!” another person called. Promenading along Mission dining hall’s bland carpet floors may seem as misplaced as sipping fine champagne out of a red Solo cup, but I suppose that is the life of a college student.

My favorite part of the dance was undoubtedly the spinning portion. My partner and I spun so fast that if I’d accidentally let go, I’d have flown into the couple next to me and we’d all have crashed to the floor like dominos. Luckily, I was able to avoid such a catastrophe on my very first visit, and so hopefully I won’t be booted out the door should I ever show up to dance again. Note: Contradancing requires decent balance. Fellow dancers are encouraged to arrive before engaging in those few games of beer pong where the statement, “Oh, just one more round!” is certainly the kiss of death.

Once I had learned the basic steps, I realized that I always seemed to be in the wrong place or spinning in the wrong direction. I knew I was a beginner, but was I really that inept? I pondered the situation with a slightly hurt ego, and after a few more turns discovered the culprit: my left-handedness! I naturally turned in the opposite direction as my fellow dancers, put out the wrong arm and promenaded in the completely opposite direction that I should be. After 18 years of having to oddly maneuver my computer mouse, being unable to use scissors and bending my arm uncomfortably around to write on a right-handed desk, would I receive no relief? On one hand, I could post a WSO thread ranting about the unfair treatment and discrimination towards left-handed people, and require an event to be held where the contradance moves are all performed backwards. Or, I could just do everything in the way that felt most unnatural. I opted for the second solution, and my dancing thankfully improved once I realized what my weakness was.

All in all, my contradance experiment turned out to be a success. I met some new people, listened to some wild fiddling and learned some dance moves that I’m sure will blow everyone away at my next Goodrich extravaganza. Plus, I didn’t tip over or accidentally smack anyone in the head, so my dignity remains (mostly) intact. I highly recommend contradancing as a way of banishing those end-of-year blues – or just to spice up any weekend. Promenade away!

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