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Reel des Accordeonistes

April 30, 2024

Marcus Jensen '27

Before coming to Oberlin, I had never heard of contra dancing. Granted, this lack of knowledge is not especially surprising considering how little I had been involved with the folk music scene in Minneapolis, but I was still intrigued by the activity once I saw the posters going up around campus in the fall. Being fortunate enough to have friends who were very familiar with contra, I went to my first dance and loved it… at least well enough to stick out the learning curve. For those of you unfamiliar with contra dancing, the activity is something like a cross between the sort of dancing seen in Pride and Prejudice (the 1995 version, thank you very much!) and square dancing (though the latter can be included in a contra dance if one is so inclined). Contra dancing is generally done with a partner in either groups of four or long lines while a caller reads out instructions. In your pair, one person is the leader (the ‘lark') and one is the follower (the ‘robin') and you go through the dance as dictated by the caller. Fortunately, there are beginner’s lessons held before every contra event, which helped me out immensely, and soon they became a monthly staple of my schedule. So much so, in fact, that I am taking over the organization of the monthly dances next year as the current head studies abroad! (Yes, I am still very much learning about the tradition and the music that goes along with it, but I can organize an event with the best of them, dammit!)

Fast forward through the winter (complete with an unofficial dance held in the basement of Harkness — a co-op housing option on campus — and my first time playing in one of the student bands that supply music for the dances), and suddenly everyone is talking about the Dandelion Romp, something that I had (yet again) never heard of before, but (yet again) revolved around contra dancing! A whole weekend of it, in fact, complete with official bands (shoutout to Elixir and the Engine Room - highly recommend checking them out wherever you get your music from!), workshops, and a whole heck of a lot of people. So many, in fact, that the gym barely held everyone. There were rainbow skirts and bedazzled glasses and what can only be described as stomping boots galore — one attendee brought their dog, another their baby (both of whom were absolutely delightful). The only downside was how sore I was come the following week (mark my words and do NOT wear sandals to even one of the dances…). Everyone was having a great time, and it was, in short, a weekend of rollicking, absotively fabdabulous fun that I cannot recommend highly enough to any and everyone even slightly interested in the concept.

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