Where are the dances held?
Dances are held at the lovely, historic, Thelma Boltin Center in downtown Gainesville, FL. The center was named for Thelma A Boltin, Florida folklorist and educator and founder of the Florida Folk Festival. The Thelma Boltin Center features sprung wood dance floor.
How much does it cost?
The dances are a suggested donation of $10 for adults and youth aged 16 and older. Children under 16 are free.
When are the dances?
Dances are regularly held the first Sunday and third Saturday of each month. Sometimes additional dances are held. More information on our contra dance and waltzing schedule is found on our Monthly Dances page.
How difficult is contra dance?
Contra dance is done with a lively, walking step. You simply walk in time to the music – one step for each beat of music. There is no fancy footwork required. There is a caller for every dance who walks the dancers through the moves before the music begins and continues to call until the dancers are confidently moving through the dance. If you can walk, you can contra dance!
How do I learn the dances?
There is a workshop for beginners 15 minutes before the dance. It is highly recommended that newcomers attend these workshops. You will be given a good foundation that will help you relax and have fun! Typically, the dances have more simple patterns in the early part of the evening, with just a couple of basic moves. As the evening progresses, there will be additional moves taught and added so that by the end of the night, you will have experienced most of the basic moves. If you remember one or two of those after the dance is over, that’s great! You’ll get comfortable with more moves when you come back again. Before long, you’ll be one of the experienced dancers helping the newcomers learn to contra dance! And remember that even those of us who have danced for years sometimes forget what comes next or get turned around. So, when that happens, LAUGH! We’re all in this dance together. The contra dance mantra is, “If you’re having fun, you’re doing it right!”
Do I need to bring a partner?
You do not need to bring a partner. Contra dancing is a community event and the tradition is that we trade partners after every dance, so even if you come with a partner, you will usually dance with many different people in one evening. Our experienced dancers are great at inviting the newcomers to dance. Dancing with an experienced partner decreases your confusion level and is the best way to learn to contra dance.
What do I wear?
Contra dance can be very aerobic. You will be happiest wearing cool, comfortable clothing — short sleeves or sleeveless tops, and shorts or skirts. There is no “proper” way to dress for contra; you’ll see a little bit of everything. Your shoes should be flat or low heeled and something that will stay firmly on your feet. A smooth sole that can slide easily on the floor is ideal. NOTE: Please do not wear fragrance as some dancers have sensitivities to perfume and colognes. Please do wear deodorant.
What kind of atmosphere will I find at contra dances?
You will find a welcoming and inclusive atmosphere at contra dances. Children are welcome to dance with us. There is no drinking or smoking at contra dances. Contra dancers don’t just dance together. We are a community. We hope that you will join us!
Are dogs allowed in the Boltin Center?
No, the City of Gainesville does not allow dogs (with the exception of service dogs) in the Thelma Boltin Center. Please contact the City of Gainesville Parks Recreation & Cultural Affairs if you have further questions about this issue.