Contra dance Jan. 4 in downtown Grand Junction |

Contra dance Jan. 4 in downtown Grand Junction

Sharon Sullivan
Contra dancers twirl around at a Grand Junction community dance held at La Puerta Ballroom.
Ron Young |


WHAT: Community Contra Dance

WHEN: Saturday, Jan. 4, 5-6:30 p.m. Family Dance, followed by contra dance at 7:30 p.m.

WHERE: La Puerta Ballroom in GJ

COST: $14 per family, $6 adults; $4 kids for Family Dance; $8 adults, $5 students, and $4 for ages 10-17

INFO: 970-260-5852;; Or check out “Grand Junction Community Contra Dance” on Facebook.

Dancers from around the Western Slope on Saturday, Jan. 4, will converge in downtown Grand Junction to engage in old-time country contra dancing.

In the lovely La Puerta Ballroom, the Celtic band Fifth Wheel, comprised of Connie Smith on keyboards, Norm Ashley playing fiddle, and Mick Wilson on clarinet, will perform lively music that will make you want to, well, get up and dance! It starts at 7:30 p.m.

If you don’t know the steps, don’t worry. Caller Ron Young talks people through what are basically the “walking” dance movements.

“Contra dancing has been around for centuries. It comes from the English long dance tradition,” Young said. “It was here in North America before we were a country.

“It’s the same dances to the same music both our founding fathers and founding mothers used to dance to.”

Contra dancers form two long lines with partners facing off. The caller guides the dancers through the “walking steps,” with each person eventually dancing with everyone in the line.

It’s not overly complicated, yet organizers recommended dancers be 10 or older for the main event.

If you’re a family with younger children, the Jan. 4 dance is also an opportune time to get started. A family dance from 5-6:30 p.m. will proceed the regular contra dance at 7:30 p.m. A new dancers’ workshop is at 7 p.m.

Family dances take place once, sometimes twice a year. They include line, circle, square and partner — “slightly easier dances,” said Tom Davis, the caller for the family dance.

Davis has taught folk dancing for 25 years, and teaches at Scenic and Broadway Elementary schools.

Smith and Ashley will perform the music for the family dance.

Smith founded the community contra dances in November 1999, after she got tired of driving to Hotchkiss for dances.

“So we put one on here,” she said. “It was so well received. It’s been going strong ever since.”

Smith, the keyboardist, said she takes particular pleasure in seeing young adults who first came as children years ago.

“It’s a great way to interact with people of all ages in the community,” Young said.

Besides several contras, a couple of waltzes, a polka and occasionally a demonstration of other dances — such as Irish step dance — are featured.

Since establishing these regular Grand Valley dances, contra dancing has also become part of the curriculum for the ballroom dance class at Colorado Mesa University.

The dances, held in January, February, March and May, and again in the fall, draw people from all over the region — Cedaredge, Montrose, Olathe, Moab, New Castle, and Glenwood.

La Puerta Ballroom is located upstairs of the Margery Building, 523 1/2 Main St., Grand Junction.

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