Learn the contra with Northwest Ohio Traditional Music and Dance

. March 8, 2017.
Few who attend the dances are contra experts, which adds to the fun. Beginners are more than welcome to join in and learn the community dance.
Few who attend the dances are contra experts, which adds to the fun. Beginners are more than welcome to join in and learn the community dance.

If you’ve ever seen Downton Abbey, or nearly any film that is set in early England, you’ve likely watched couples facing one another and dancing down a line of people. The style, called contra dancing, is alive and well here in Toledo.

From New England to Toledo

Northwest Ohio Traditional Music and Dance (NOTMAD), is a local nonprofit that brings contra dancing and a variety of traditional music genres to Rossford and Bowling Green once a month.

When asked how the organization came about, NOTMAD Vice President Lucy Long explained, “In the mid-’90s some people moved to Toledo from areas with strong contra dancing
traditions.” (Typically New England).

“A variety of music can be used for contra dance; it just has to be music that’s really rhythmic,” Long said, adding that the NOTMAD bands are all volunteer-based and include string bands performing “old mountain music” and even a traditional Irish band.

“It takes an incredible amount of time, and the bands donate their time to the community,” Long said. And she understands the time commitment— not only is she the vice president of the organization, but she is also a member of one of the bands that plays. “If I’m not playing, I’m dancing,” Long said.

A dance for everyone

Recently, contra dancing has seen a resurgence and long speculated that could be due to the health benefits dancing offers, such as stress relief and physical exercise. Many colleges have been particularly helpful in the recognition of contra dancing, and Long mentioned that NOTMAD’s dances often have college-age participants. The dances are not just for adults, however. “We go out of our way to make sure kids and all ability levels are welcome,” Long explained. The whole purpose of NOTMAD is to bring the community together and to offer social events for everyone to enjoy.”

Very welcoming to beginners, they hold a 30 minute intro class before all dances. Even while the dance is in progress, a caller is prompting the dancers with moves they can expect next. “The whole point is to have fun. People will help you out, and if you get mixed up,that’s fine!”

NOTMAD meets the second Saturday of each month at the Rossford United Methodist Church (270 Dixie Hwy., Rossford) and the fourth Saturday of the month at Plain Congregational Church (16011 W. Poe Rd., Bowling Green).
Intro class begins at 7pm, dance starts at 7:30pm.
For more information, visit NOTMAD’s Facebook page.
$6 for adults, $4 for students, 12 and under is free.