On Contra Dancing
Sean C. Capparuccia
8 November 2013
The history of civilization would not be complete without reference to dance. It has always been an intricately laced thread that weaves in and out, forward and back, and do-si-do’s throughout each generation. Granted there have been times when the community dance has given way to a more refined (ahem!) style that was reserved for those who were perhaps more coordinated, uninhibited, exhibitional, or limber. And these types of dances served well to entertain the spectators with "ooh’s" and "aah’s" but they also created a seemingly uncrossable line between the ones who "could" and the ones who "couldn’t."
But history shows us that the good things, the things that belong to all people, will come 'round and chain its way again through the community, wooing and drawing people together again. Contra dancing does just that. It recreates, in its simple way, the true interactive nature of the dance that resides deep within man’s bones. These are "social dances rather than performance dances" (Mary Dart.) These are dances made up of simple and natural figures and movements that rely on only one thing to work: belonging.
Marx and Engels would have done well to spend more time at dance halls and balls rather than in dark corners. Oh, aye, in both places they talked of revolution but in the dance halls true utopian socialism had a proper boundary - the dance floor. Marx didn’t believe in boundaries, nor did he believe in the individual’s pursuit of happiness wherein a sense of belonging is realized. His socialism does not create belonging, but enslavement. As a dancer you belong - you don’t own the dance and you aren’t subservient to the dance. Friend, you are the dance. Here is community and charity the way it should be. You reach out for the right hand of your Neighbor and then pass him off to the left hand of your Opposite. There is no indebtedness to the Set nor is there any unlawful taking from the Set in order to make up for your own deficiency. Nobody is owed anything, but all join together to make it happen.
And then the dance is over. Swings cease; hands are let go; and the music plays its final strain. Yet we are all the better for it because before we could let go in the end, we let go of ourselves just a little bit and became an integral moving part of the Thing. There was no sacrifice of position, no sacrifice of morals, no sacrifice of integrity. But only a gaining of time spent in a community that spins round and round as the earth spins and the galaxies spins, and the universe spins, and everything comes round right.
Contra dance is surely becoming popular again. Is it phenomenal? I would have to say…. No. There is nothing phenomenal about contra dancing just as there is nothing phenomenal about growing food or hunting. Granted, most people hunt their food at a supermarket but I don’t suspect they look at gardeners or hunters as phenomenal people. The deeper question here is not "Will the dance die if I don’t participate?" That would be kind of like, "Will gardening perish if I don’t grow my own food?" Vegetables will always grow; animals will always be hunted; dances will always be danced. These things, and so many more, are part of our collective DNA, part of the imago Dei. The deeper question is, of course, "Will I be a part of the Dance? Will I belong there?"