Contra dancing comes alive on Whidbey

If you’re looking for a new social activity, contra dancing might be the thing for you.

If you’re looking for a new social activity, contra dancing might be the thing for you.

The wholesome, old-fashioned form of dancing with multiple partners to lively fiddle music has made a recent comeback on Whidbey Island. Johann Steinke, organizer for the recently revived Whidbey Island Contra Dance, said about 50 people attended the group’s last event.

“The band loved it. The caller said it was a really good vibe on the island,” he said. “We had a huge age range, from age 4 to 84.”

The next dance is 6-9 p.m. on Wednesday, May 22 in the Coupeville Recreation Hall. The first hour of the event is reserved for teaching newbies how to dance. Attendees can bring a suggested donation of $10 for the band, caller and hall rental, but it is not expected to be able to join in on the fun. Participants are also invited to bring a healthy snack.

The Luddite Ramblers will play jaunty music as caller Joe Michaels directs the dancers, who move up and down the line in groups of two and four.

Contra dancing has mixed origins from English and Scottish country dances, as well as French dance styles, of the 17th century. Steinke compared its easiness to square dancing. No complex moves are required.

“It’s very simple moves,” he said. “If you can walk, you can do it.”

A tallship captain by trade, Steinke’s first contra dance was in 2008. Since moving to Central Whidbey with his family, he became interested in the dance again and took over organizing it.

“It’s such a great way to meet people from all different age groups and do something fun,” he said. “It’s physical, it’s a little bit of workout.”

There are moments when everything clicks, he added, and it is truly magical. The family-friendly activity is open to all ages and is a great way to get people out of their own bubble.

More contra dances will be held throughout the summer on June 19, July 24 and Aug. 28 at 6-9 p.m. in the Coupeville Recreation Hall.

People can also join the Whidbey Island Contra Dance, a public group on Facebook, for more information and updates.