- Written by Marcus Chiaretto
- Published: 22 December 2017
On the first Saturdays of February, March, and April of 2018, the Montague Common Hall will be alive with the sound of fiddles and the stomping of feet. The Rainbow Contra Dance of Western Massachusetts offers a lively celebration of a New England tradition with a modern twist. In traditional contra dance, as with many forms of American folk dance, there are normally two roles: the leader, usually a male role, and follower, usually a female role. In gender-role-free contra dancing, a movement that developed in Boston during the 1970s, dancers are free to choose roles as they please, regardless of gender – in fact, many dancers swap between leading and following. Dancers often use a colored band to indicate whether they prefer to lead or follow.
Upon first glance, contra dancing can seem complex and difficult to follow. Luckily, the gender-role-free contra dance group that meets in Montague is highly accommodating, and includes a mix of beginners and seasoned contra dancers alike. As with many of the activities in the region for LGBTIQA folks and friends, people from all walks of life come to share in the fun, and the contra dancers do their best to accommodate individuals of all ages and ability levels. In addition to being a wonderful community-building activity, it’s highly affordable at a sliding scale rate of $7 to $10 and, for young people and students, only $5 with student ID.
During a pause between songs, the dancers find new partners and introduce one another. “Oh, it’s so much fun!” says one long-time attendee of the dance, explaining the appeal of contra dancing and why more people should try it. “And it’s easy to pick up if you’ve never done it before. Just find yourself a leader who knows what they’re doing and you’re good to go!”