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Queer Contra Dance Comes to St. Luke's

Queer Contra Dance Chicago Debuts at St. Luke’s on Thursday, March 7, 2013

ContraDanceCo-founded by Chicagoans Peter McDowell and John Legge, Queer Contra Dance Chicago will hold its first monthly dance on Thursday, March 7, 2013 from 6:30-9:30 pm. Contra Dance is a form of folk dance, similar to square dancing, but with lines of dancers rather than squares. In our gender-free version, instead of typical male-female gender roles, dancers determine their own role as a leader or follower. The first dance will feature live music by members of the local band The Cosmic Otters, who specialize in Irish and Scottish contra dance music, and the caller will be John Legge.

Contra dance is a centuries-old New England folk dance tradition.  It’s the rowdy red-headed stepchild of English country dance, similar to the kind of dancing you see in Jane Austen movies.  Contra dancing is done to live traditional fiddle music in a variety of styles, from lilting Celtic-inspired tunes to rollicking bluegrass.  All dances are taught by a caller, who “calls out” instructions throughout the dance.

Queer contra dance takes the traditional division of the dance into “gentlemen” and “ladies” and gives it a queer twist. Instead of gender roles, dancers choose whether or not to wear an armband, which determines their role.  The “armband” role corresponds to the traditional gentleman’s or leader’s role, but there’s not much difference between the two roles.  The caller uses the term “armbands” or “bands” to refer to the dancers wearing armbands, and “barearms” or “bares” to indicate those without armbands.  (Description courtesy of Lavender Country and Folk Dancers)

According to co-founder McDowell, who also co-founded the monthly BURLY night at the Burlington Bar in Logan Square:

“Contra dance is a great way to bring all types of queer and non-queer people of different backgrounds and ethnicities together to have fun and to interact with each other with live music. I’m excited about continuing to build queer community in Logan Square around this lively and addictive activity.”

Pastor Erik Christensen, St. Luke’s Lutheran Church of Logan Square adds:

“St. Luke’s firmly believes that music and all the arts build community across lines of difference by bringing people together in an environment of creativity, self-expression, and joy.  We’re proud to have queer contra dancing coming to St. Luke’s, and excited to see how we can be part of supporting a diverse, inclusive neighborhood.”

Admission to Queer Contra is a sliding scale of $ 0-10, payable at the door. No advance planning or experience is needed and no one will be turned away for lack of funds. Potluck snack and beverages encouraged. For more information, contact Peter McDowell at or look for Queer Contra Chicago on Facebook.

Schedule for Thursday, March 7

  • 6:30-7 pm – Lessons for Newcomers
  • 7-9 pm – Contra Dance for Newcomers and Experienced Dancers
  • 9-9:30 pm – Potluck Refreshments

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