Rachel Shapiro Wallace leads popular American Dance workshop at Sidmouth FolkWeek

American dance at Folk Week. Picture: Maria McCarthy

American dance at Folk Week. Picture: Maria McCarthy - Credit: Maria McCarthy

Experienced caller leads popular workshop on American Dance or Contra, which is growing in popularity in the UK

Queer Contra Dance, Oakland, CA Caller is Rachel Shapiro Wallace, Band is Sassafras Stomp (Adam Nord

Queer Contra Dance, Oakland, CA Caller is Rachel Shapiro Wallace, Band is Sassafras Stomp (Adam Nordell, Johanna Davis), Picture: Doug Plummer - Credit: Doug Plummer

By 9.30am on the morning of Sunday 5th August 2018 a long queue of enthusiastic dancers had formed outside the Blackmore Gardens Marquee, all keen to make the most of a three hour American Dance workshop with Rachel Shapiro Wallace, an experienced caller and workshop leader who has appeared at a wide range of events in the USA and at Chippenham and Shrewsbury Folk Festivals.

She was accompanied by Contrasaurus, a young, vibrant and talented contra dance band from the Midlands.

The workshop was one of a series of seven running from Saturday to Friday. Participants had the opportunity to experience dances that might be familiar or new to them and also to brush up on various aspects of technique.

American Dance, which is also known as Contra, has roots in quadrilles and English Country dance. It has a dedicated and growing fan base throughout the USA, in the UK and in other parts of the world.

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The Sunday workshop involved Rachel calling various American Dances including Trip to Wilson by Will Mentor and Joyride by Erik Weberg. In the first part of the workshop some guidance on the relationship between the moves and the music was given and Rachel introduced exercises to help dancers improve their momentum, flow and timing.

After a break the session moved on from the workshop element and focused on the calling, dancing and the fresh and exciting tunes of Contrasaurus. The atmosphere was vibrant and high energy, showing why so many people find American dance so enjoyable and even addictive. Some of the moves are similar to ceilidh dancing but there are plenty of differences too, which makes it an intriguing dance form to learn and master. The American Dance scene is a friendly and inclusive one and if those new to it ever find their moves going a little awry, they will always be helpfully guided by more experienced dancers.

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Other topics covered during the workshop series include partner connection, gender free dancing and figures borrowed from other styles of dance.

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