Appendix: Dance Types


This refers to a dance in a longways formation based around couples. It may be either duple or triple, proper or improper. That is the factual part, and is the technically correct definition of a contra, but for the purposes of this database I have not used the term in this way. It is the distinction which I make between contras and other long longways dances that involves the subjective section. I have reserved the term contra for dances that flow well, and which tend to use some of the more complex moves, which are not one of the traditional English village dances of "Playford" sets, but which typically have an American heritage. There is also some bias towards more recently composed dances in my use of the term. I consider that contras are also typified by moves such as two couple stars and circles, right and left throughs, ladies chains, reels for four, half promenades and swings. For example I classify Centrifugal Hey as a contra, whilst I don't classify Soldiers Joy as one.


This refers to dances in a square set, but which consist of a complete dance rather than just a figure or chorus (see the following definitions).

square figure & square chorus

A square figure refers to the figure part of an American Style square dance. The basic rule is that it must be in a square formation. Although a square figure can be performed on its own as a complete dance, it is normally coupled with a square chorus to form a complete dance. The figure typically, though not necessarily, involves a progression, whilst the chorus is a 'break' which does not normally involve a progression. Apart from the style of the dancing, I find it hard to draw a distinction between New England squares and Western squares, and have not introduced different categories for the two styles.

circle contra

To be in this category the dance must be in a round formation (surprise surprise!), either sicilian or concentric circles, couple facing couple. It must also be couple based. As with our definition of a contra, the rest of the classification is subjective and is based on the fluidity of the dance and the difficulty and types of moves.

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