Contra dancers will line up at Rockport Church on Saturday |

Contra dancers will line up at Rockport Church on Saturday

More than 120 years ago, the Rockport Church and Social Hall was not only used for worship.

The church, which is now part of the Rockport State Park in Wanship, was used for weekend contra social dancing and people would line up and dance to live music and have a grand old time.

Four years ago, the music and dancing returned after the church was fully restored and renovated, said Danielle Montague-Judd, who co-organizes the contra dances at Rockport.

A contra dance will be held in the Rockport Church on Saturday, Oct. 6. The official dancing will begin at 8 p.m.

"The building had been in a state of neglect for several decades and the park manager at the time got the ball rolling for the restoration," Montague-Judd explained. "We started planning the dances in the fall of 2007 and started officially in April, 2008."

Contra dance is a form of social dance, but the name is confusing to people who usually identify social dancing as ballroom and waltzing.

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"It is a funny name and nobody exactly knows how the name originated," Montague-Judd said. "One of the ideas was that it was an English dance and the French picked it up and gave it a French name."

One interpretation of the word ‘contra’ means "facing each other."

"That’s what the groups do," she said. "They are in lines facing each other at the beginning of the dance."

The nice thing about contra dance is that people don’t need a partner.

"It’s not like ballroom or other social dancing where one person has the same partner throughout the whole evening, because we form lines and constantly switch partners as we dance down the lines with everybody," Montague-Judd said.

If that sounds confusing, there’s no need to worry, because the event on Saturday will begin with a workshop at 7:30 p.m., she said.

"The caller, Rob Snow, will go through the common terminology and the common moves and we do a walkthrough of the dances before we do them at full speed," Montague-Judd explained. "The workshop is a good way for people new to the dance form to get their feet wet and learn the dances."

The music that evening will be provided by acoustic band Loose Shoes and a community band that is open to any acoustic musician.

"If there are any musicians who want to play, they just have to contact me and I can give them an overview of how the dance music and evening works," said Montague-Judd, who also plays the fiddle in the community band. "We encourage everyone to come over and try it out. Contra dance is great exercise and an interesting way to connect with the past."

The dances at Rockport, which usually are held the first Wednesdays in October and April, often attract between 20 and 40 people.

"If we have a lot of dancers, we make two groups," Montague-Judd said. "I think it is wonderful to connect the music with the dance. It’s a great way to spend an evening and participate in a lo-tech form of entertainment."

Admission is $5 per person.

"The money is used to pay for the musicians and caller and to help with the church upkeep, cleaning and maintenance," Montague-Judd said.

An Autumn contra dance will be held at Rockport Old Church at Rockport State Park in Wanship on Saturday, Oct. 6, at 7:30 p.m. Teaching workshop will begin at 7:30 p.m. Dancing will run from 8 p.m. until 10:30 p.m. Single dancers are welcome. Admission is $5 per person. For more information, contact Danielle at , Sharon, or visit

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