Cartwrites: Joy of dance

Posted Wednesday, October 31, 2012 in Features

Cartwrites: Joy of dance

by Steve Cartwright

A few early birds drift in, finding a seat, changing shoes or going barefoot. The band is warming up. Before long, the crowd has swelled to 50 or 60 dancers, and the caller says "find a partner and line up for a contra!"

Eager dancers, young and old, newcomers and experienced, take their places, ready for an evening of lively music, plenty of exercise, and the warm hand of your partner - in your hand or around your waist. This is an old-fashioned tradition that appeals to teens and twenty-somethings, as well their parents. Maine is a hotbed of contradancing, where the revival of these old-time line and square dances, polkas and waltzes, has spread across the state.

These photos are from the Thomaston Contradance, held the fourth Saturday of the month at the historic Thomaston Academy on Main Street. The band was The Red Hots with caller Delia Clark, all from Vermont. A couple from Cushing, Gregory Moore and Kathleen Starrs, gave a free lesson at the session.

People are swinging, stomping and just having a fine old time, smiling, laughing, sweating. It's a lot of exercise but you hardly notice. You have to experience a contradance to really understand the spirit of it. It's community. It's wholesome physical touch, trusting others who in turn trust you. It's an emotional uplift...maybe bliss is a better world. Dancers just exude happiness, along with some sweaty dizziness. It's real, not virtual, and you realize afterward, standing in the moonlight outside the old school, that you've just been part of something local that is also universal, a metaphor for the dance we call life.

More information on this dance is available at Thomaston Contradancers on Facebook. For statewide contradance listings, visit

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