Event FAQ

Dance Frequently Asked Questions

What is the history of Cajun/Zydeco dancing? Zydeco as a dance style has its roots in a form of folk dance that corresponds to the heavily syncopated zydeco music, originated in the beginning of the 20th century among the Francophone Creole peoples of Acadiana (south-west Louisiana). It is a partner dance that has been primarily danced socially and sometimes in performances.
How do I do Cajun/Zydeco Dance? The follower usually mirrors the steps of the leader, however, in some figures the steps may be completely different, allowing for self-expression and improvisation. Because of the very lively music, the overall style is small sidewise steps with relatively steady upper body and no hip swinging, wiggling or jumping. There are exceptions to this rule, but feel of the zydeco is very real and consistent.
Do I need a partner? You can attend Cajun/Zydeco events without bringing a partner. Although you dance with a partner in each dance, that person can be anyone (any gender) that comes to the dance.
What is Contradance? Contra dance is a folk dance made up of long lines of couples. It has mixed origins from English country dance, Scottish country dance, and French dance styles in the 17th century. Sometimes described as New England folk dance or Appalachian folk dance, contra dances can be found around the world, but are most common in the United States (periodically held in nearly every state), Canada, and other Anglophone countries.[1]
Do I need a partner to attend? Contra dancing is a social dance that one can attend without a partner. The dancers form couples, and the couples form sets of two couples in long lines starting from the stage and going down the length of the dance hall. Throughout the course of a dance, couples progress up and down these lines, dancing with each other couple in the line.
How do I learn the dance? The dance is led by a caller who teaches the sequence of figures in the dance before the music starts. Callers describe the series of steps called "figures", and in a single dance, a caller may include anywhere from 6–12 figures which are repeated as couples progress up and down the lines. Each time through the dance takes 64 beats, after which the pattern is repeated. The essence of the dance is in following the pattern with your set and your line; since there is no required footwork, many people find contra dance easier to learn than other forms of social dancing.
What else should I expect? Almost all contra dances are danced to live music. The music played includes, but is not limited to, Irish, Scottish, old-time and French-Canadian folk tunes. The fiddle is considered the core instrument, though other stringed instruments can be used, such as the guitar, banjo, bass and mandolin, as well as the piano, accordion, flute, clarinet and more. Some contra dances are even done to techno music. Music in a dance can consist of a single tune or a medley of tunes, and key changes during the course of a dance are common.
If you’ve seen a Jane Austen film, you’ve had a glimpse of this graceful dance form that appears in many of her novels, including “Pride and Prejudice”. English Country dance movements flow in sync with beautiful music, much of it created by early classical composers, including Purcell, Handel, Corelli, Arbeau, Susato, O’Carolan, Vivaldi, Mozart, Praetorius, Telemann and more.

Why Do English Country Dance?

Easy to Learn If you can walk, you can do English Country dancing. The dance figures are simple and easy to learn. You can start having fun almost immediately.
A Fun Form of Exercise For many people, exercise can be boring or tedious. English Country dance is a fun and almost effortless way to gain the benefits of aerobic exercise.
Opportunity to Socialize English Country dance is a very social activity. We do about 12 dances at each event, changing partners at the start of every dance. Because of changing partners and the progressive patterns of the dance, you get to dance with almost every person in the room.
No Partner Needed You can attend English Country dance events without bringing a partner. Although you dance with a partner in each dance, that person can be anyone (man or woman) that comes to the dance.
Uplifting, Joyful Music English Country dance music is light, upbeat and joyful. Many of the tunes were composed in the 17th and 18th centuries, but new tunes are still being created. You’ll find your mood and spirit rising when you dance to this lively repertoire.
Enjoying the Moment At an English Country dance, you will quickly forget your cares, letting your inner child out to play. You will find pleasure in the simple joy of moving to music.
Modest Cost The best things in life are free – well almost free. The costs are minimal – about $12 per event (though you might want to invest in some new dance shoes). Also, where else can you attend a live music event for $12?
Who can attend a Family dance? All are welcome: young and old, new dancers and experienced ones! Bring yourself and your children or grandchildren. Dances are geared especially for family units to do together, but as friendships develop, children often venture away from parents to dance with their peers. These dances are often held during the afternoon so that children can have a better chance to participate.
What is it? We lead simple, fun dances anyone can do to live music. Dances are designed so that children who are uncomfortable dancing with people they don't know yet can stay with the person they chose to dance with - a parent, grandparent or friend. Dance repertoire is from the US and more than 60 countries!
Do I have to know how? No prior experience is necessary to enjoy the dance. All of the dances are taught and walked through, and when the musicians play, the caller continues to prompt the dances. There is usually much laughter and fun, and "mistakes" are treated as a part of that fun.
What age is most appropriate? Children and adults of all ages are welcome. We've seen 4-year-olds who get awfully good at this, and the average age at most dances is 4 - 7. Some parents even dance with their babies and toddlers in a carrier! We choose dances that are fun for kids to do with their parents or each other, so please come prepared to join in!
Who can attend a Community dance? All are welcome: young and old, new dancers and experienced ones! Bring yourself and your children or grandchildren. Most community dances are held during the evening, so younger children rarely come in large numbers.
What is it? We call simple, fun dances anyone can do to live music. All of the dances are designed so that participants can learn and enjoy dancing with minimal teaching. Many dances are from the 19th century, and may include basic contras, squares, and circles from the US and many other cultures.
Do I have to know how? No prior experience is necessary to enjoy the dance. All of the dances are taught and walked through, and when the musicians play, the caller continues to prompt the dances. There is usually much laughter and fun, and "mistakes" are treated as a part of that fun.
What age is most appropriate? Adults and children of all ages are welcome. We've seen 6-year-olds who get awfully good at this, but it's probably better for children age 7 and up.
What is Swing dance? Swing dance is a group of dances that developed with the swing style of jazz music in the 1920s–1940s, with the origins of each dance predating the popular "swing era". Today, swing dancing encompasses various types of steps like Lindy Hop, Charleston, Balboa, Blues, and Collegiate Shag. There are also line dances that are choreographed and most dancers learn over time at the local dances like the Shim Sham.
How do I learn to dance? All of our DFO events have a beginner’s lesson included in the price of admission. Some festivals like ALBS only have a beginner dance prior to the evening live bands so consult their schedule.
What if I don’t have a partner? Swing dancing is a very open, safe space where many people come without a partner. If you have a partner, you are encouraged to rotate in lessons if you feel comfortable and to dance with everybody. All genders can ask each other for dances so don’t be shy!
What should I wear to a swing dance?
--Clothing: We recommend comfortable, casual clothes that allow movement. Dancing is exercise, so be prepared to sweat! If you are particularly prone to perspiration, we suggest bringing an extra shirt to change into (for your own comfort and out of courtesy for your dance partners) and a bottle of water so you can stay hydrated. Additional hygiene tips include layering your clothing, avoiding sleeveless/backless shirts, applying deodorant/antiperspirant before dancing/during breaks, and using breath mints.
--Shoes: Comfortable, supportive shoes with a non-marking sole are best. We recommend soles made of leather, suede, or smooth rubber, or sneakers without much of a tread. Avoid running shoes (they are often too "sticky" due to their tread) or shoes with high, thin heels.
What is Sacred Harp? Sacred Harp singing is a tradition of sacred choral music that originated in New England and was later perpetuated and carried on in the American South of the United States. The music is printed in a four-shape shape note notation first seen in a book published right here in Albany, N.Y., in 1802. Each shape corresponds to a syllable (fa, sol, la, mi) and refers to the degree of the major or minor scale being sung. The songs are traditionally sung at all-day singings and singing conventions loudly (but with rhythmic accent), joyfully, and without vibrato, in the style of traditional southern singers.
What if I don’t know what I’m doing? We help newcomers learn the style of singing. There are no auditions, rehearsals, or performances, just singing for joy when you wish to do so.
Where can I learn more? At FAQ from our singing friends in Sheffield and South Yorkshire, U.K and FAQ from the Pacific Northwest Sacred Harp Singers
What is Adirondack Dance Weekend? Adirondack Dance Weekend is a three-day contra and English dance weekend taking place every September on beautiful Lake George in the Adirondack Mountains of NY. ADK is an all-inclusive event which provides meals, lodging, live music and dancing.
What else is available? Dancing, singing, and all-around good fun for a weekend! Great dance floors (and darn good snacks). Need a break from the great dancing? We can’t imagine why, but kayaks and canoes are available to get you out on the water.
What is ALBS? ALBS is a Special event sponsored by the DFO and stands for Albany Lindy & Blues & Swimming. It is a social dancing exchange that in swing dancing culture means a weekend or longer festival where social dancing is the primary focus. ALBS has had workshops in the past, but primarily focuses on live music, house parties, and dancing at a lake on Saturday afternoon - hence the swimming. It typically occurs in the summer months around July.
What is the cost for ALBS? There is a full-weekend cost, early bird pricing for those who purchase within the first few weeks of registration opening, and at-the-door costs for those who can’t commit or only want to come to a few of the various dances
When is ALBS? ALBS typically occurs in the summer around July and has dances on Friday night, Friday late-night (12am-4am), Saturday afternoon, Saturday night, Saturday late-night (12am-4am), and Sunday afternoon and night.

Also see our Culture of Consent page