Looking for an old fashioned, knee slapping good time for your family? Give contra dancing
a whirl. It’s a high energy social dance with roots in English country dances.
My friends finally convinced me to give it a try and it was an amazing experience. I smiled the entire night as I danced and twirled and stomped across the floor of the River Falls Lodge
on River Falls Lodge Road near Jones Gap State Park
Every Saturday people come from all over South Carolina’s connecting states to the Lodge to dance on the first, third and fourth Saturdays of the month. Built as a dance hall originally in the 1940s, the structure was out of use and rundown for many years. It’s now been refurbished and brought back to life to serve the same purpose once again.
If you’re going, don’t worry if you have two left feet! Experienced dancers walk you through the night’s steps during a beginner’s lesson. Every week, new bands play and the steps change, so I’d say even if you’ve been to a contra dance before, get there early for the lesson at 7:30 p.m. People start pouring in around 8 p.m. and grab their partners. I’d advise snagging a perfect stranger who knows what they are doing. It’s normal to switch partners for every dance, so keep switching it up. And even the best dancers miss a step or two on the dance floor. No one notices and everyone keeps moving.
By the last dance around 11 p.m., the floor is packed. It’s the most fun workout you’ll ever have. Dress to sweat! Admission is $5 for ages 14-17 and $8 for 18 and older. All ages are welcome.
Visiting South Carolina and want to experience contra dancing? Find a dance near you.
They are all over the state. Here are three of the regular contra venues:
In the upstate:
Dances on second Thursdays at McGee's Irish Pub
116 W. Orr St., (864) 261-6401. Dances start with the instruction period at 7:30 p.m., with dancing from 8 to 10 p.m.
In the midlands:
Dances are held at Lake Murray Contra Hall
at 640 Devils Backbone Road, on the first Saturday of the month. During the summer, lessons begin at 7:30 p.m. and dancing begins at 8 p.m. Lessons begin at 7 p.m. and dancing begins at 7:30 p.m. for fall, winter and spring dances.
On the coast:
Dances are held on the first and third Fridays of each month (unless otherwise noted on the website) at Felix Davis Community Center at Park Circle
in North Charleston. Admission is $8 (children younger than 10 are free). Beginner lessons starts at 7:30 p.m., and dancing begins at 8 p.m.