The World of Social (contra) Dancing?

 Contra Dancing Buttons


What’s new in the world of social (contra) dancing? Not a lot some may say, but ask younger dancers and they will say, quite a bit. This dance form has been an American tradition since late colonial times.

Not content to be forced into binary gender roles, 25 years ago gender neutral contra dancing pioneers rolled out the rainbow carpet to create an inclusive community where dancers could choose which role to dance, leadfollow/boygirl/ladygent, and which role they wanted to dance and with whom, rather than the typical gender binary role of social dance communities. Several thriving gender neutral contra dances have since emerged from Boston and Western Massachusetts, to New York City, Atlanta, Seattle and the San Francisco Bay Area.


Fast forward a few years. Not content with dancing at local dances only, LGBT people started moving out into mainstream contra dance world, but still faced harassment, and glowering looks from other dancers who were confused when they saw someone of the same gender dancing in the opposite roles. While some dances/dancers were accommodating to gender fluid dancers, some dance halls provided aprons for men who wanted to dance the women’s position, and neck ties for women wanting to dance the mens part.

A new influx of younger gender fluid dancers has brought a new breath of life into the contra dance scene. Young people are very content to dance with who’s coming at them despite the other dancers gender presentation.
After a public conversation on social media, Button Deals created our first prototype. Button Deals then worked through several other wording and designs for us to create this current version. Our Social Contra Dance Buttons are sent freely to contra dancers across the country and to local dance organizers to put out for patrons to wear to indicate to others, that they are available to dance either role. Further, the buttons help promote conversations about gender roles and perceptions on the dance floor. Two same gender people dancing together are not as likely to be asked “who’s the Girl”, or a man and women swapping roles are not as likely to be told that they are mixed up and need to change position. Over 8,000 buttons have been distributed nation wide since 2013.

The current production is sponsored in part by the Legacy Fund of the Lavender Country Folk Dancers. For more information on Gender Neutral contra dancing please visit LCFD.ORG or

About the blogger:
Mark Galipeau is a third grade teacher in California, and organizer for Queer Contra. He serves as a board member for the County Dance and Song Society. CDSS.ORG.


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