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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Northfield Contra Dance is something to stomp about

<ve you longed for a Carleton dance that doesn’t feature midnight topless-ness? There’s no need to “say a little prayer” for more tasteful Sayles dance decorum—tonight’s 3rd Annual Northfield Harvest Stomp contra dance promises to be an evening of (fully-dressed) line dancing and rollicking live folk music.

Unlike many forms of social dance, no prior knowledge or even physical coordination is required. “If you don’t know how to dance, don’t worry—they tell you what to do,” said Marjorie Harrington ’10, the student liaison for all things contra dance. In contra, much like square dance, a caller shouts out each move to the crowd.

Another appeal of the dance form is the lively music that accompanies it. Contratopia, a well-established four-man contra band that plays regularly in the Twin Cities, has provided live music for past Northfield contra dances, and will be playing at the Harvest Stomp tonight. Harrington describes Contratopia’s “vigorous and folky” repertoire as “music that basically grabs you by the shoulder and says ‘dance with me.’”

The Harvest Stomp is part of a new and growing Northfield tradition of contra dance, the non-partnered folk dance that originated from 17th-century English country dances. Contra, which is based on long lines of couples that break off to dance with adjacent pairs in square formations, is widely enjoyed by folk-dance enthusiasts across North American and beyond. Northfield is currently in the midst of a contra renaissance of sorts started by Suzie Nakasian, Kelly Scheuerman (the spouse of English professor Peter Balaam and ACT Center Assistant Director, respectively), and the other members of the Northfield Community Contra Dance Association nearly three years ago. Since the first Winter Stomp in February 2007, the organization has put together regular winter and fall dances in Northfield, as well as three Earth Day dances in the Sayles-Hill Great Space.

Tonight’s dance and past Northfield contra dances are what Nakasian calls a “mix of colleges and community,” bringing students from Carleton and St. Olaf Colleges together with Northfielders of all ages and backgrounds. Harrington agreed, saying that she has “danced with six-year-olds and danced with Oles” at Northfield contra dances. This sense of community-building is reinforced by the generous funding of the Carleton Student Association (CSA), which provided $700 of the total $1490 cost of the event. Thanks to this contribution, admission to the dance is free for Carleton students.

The Harvest Stomp contra dance will be held at the Northfield Armory (519 Division St., just down the block from Rueb ‘N’ Stein) from 7:30-10:30 pm, with a lesson for all participants beginning at 7:00.

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