Where even the wallflowers dance

Monthly contra dances start up again this week, offering fun for all ages and experience levels

By Lyndsie Kiebert
Reader Staff

Community. Tradition. Fun. 

Experience it all by attending a contra dance in Sandpoint, and get a glance into what makes dance organizer and caller Emily Faulkner love bringing contra dancing to Sandpoint.

“Contra dancing is my ticket to joy,” she said. “(It) works every time.”

Contra dancers shake a leg at a recent dance at Sandpoint Community Hall. Photo by Emily Faulkner.

Contra dancing is an old New England dance form characterized by live music and the fact that there’s no need to bring a partner — every dancer will pair with a different partner for each number. Figures are taught and called for each dance, so prior dancing experience is not required. The next contra dance is this Friday, Sept. 14, 7-10 p.m. at the Sandpoint Community Hall.

“In the most old-fashioned form of the tradition, new people are attended to by the experienced dancers, and wallflowers are noticed and invited to dance,” Faulkner, a New England native who has been teaching contra dance in Sandpoint for seven years, said. “One doesn’t languish on the sidelines for long, and I’m trying to keep (that tradition) alive.”

Sandpoint contra dances are sponsored by Faulkner, Lost Horse Press and Sandpoint Parks and Rec. Lost Horse Press Publisher Christine Holbert said she first experienced contra dancing some years back in Clark Fork. 

“I just said, ‘wow, this is so much fun — why don’t we have these on a regular basis?’” she said.

At that Clark Fork dance, Holbert met Faulkner, and with some organization, the current run of Sandpoint dances took shape.

“Little children can learn (the dances), all the way through older folks. We love the fact that people bring their babies, and for teenagers it’s a safe environment,” Holbert said. “There are so few things for teenagers to do in this town, so I’m happy to be sponsor.”

Faulkner said contra dancing is for anyone “who can walk, count to eight and knows their right from their left.”

“It’s very satisfying to bring people together to dance,” Faulkner said. “Community building is about dropping the superficial boundaries we have between each other. So you’re a homeschooler? So you’re a hippie? So you’re fourth-generation Bonner County? So you’re from California? Apart from dancing to really good music, you’re interacting and it’s non-verbal. I’ve made a lot of friends that I wouldn’t have otherwise.”

Contra dances are held at the Sandpoint Community Hall, 204 S. First Avenue, on the second Friday of each month from September through July. Suggested donation is $5 per person. Faulkner recommends comfortable, breathable clothing, as the dances can be “fairly vigorous” at times, she said. Newcomers should arrive promptly at 7 p.m. for an introductory dance.

Learn more by finding Sandpoint Contra Dance on Facebook, and call (208) 263-6751 or email [email protected] with any questions.

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