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2013 Winter Issue 7 (March 1, 2013)

Northfield Community and Students Folk Dance the Night Away at Contra Stomp

March 3, 2013
By Drew Higgins

Last Friday night, Carleton students, St. Olaf students, and Northfield residents gathered at the Northfield Armory on Division Street to partake in the 7th Annual Northfield Winter Stomp.

The Stomp is a contra dance, which is a type of partnered folk dancing somewhat similar to square dancing. Presented by Carleton and the Northfield Community Contra Dancing Association, the event was free for all Carleton students.

Instruction began at 7 pm, but the dancing continued on until 10:30 pm. On how the night went, Bettina Wiesenthal ’14 commented, “I spent my Friday evening with a bunch of friendly folks dancing energetically. The organized dances were taught wonderfully and functioned so systematically that every move seemed to work out with such elegance despite the raucous crowd of hooligans.”

Indeed, the atmosphere of the Stomp was spirited and easy-going, with all-levels of contra dancers mingling. Not only did skill level vary, but attire did as well; some participants wore normal, casual wear, while others donned long, flowing dresses.

All ages were also represented, from young kids to Northfield High School students, college students, and adults from the colleges and community.

Contra dancing was developed in Colonial America, as a byproduct of merging dance forms between the English and French courts. The term comes from the French “contredanse”. Contra is particularly popular in North America and especially in New England, and typically includes a “caller” who calls commands to the dancers. The Stomp’s caller was Robin Nelson, who clearly instructed participants in the various moves, some of which included “do-si-do,” “allemande,” “promenade” and “swing.”

The music, which is typically upbeat and includes a plethora of fiddles and banjos, was provided by the contra-music band, Contratopia. Made up of two Minnesotan and two Iowan musicians, Contratopia has been a popular choice for the Stomp in the past, and participants certainly seemed to enjoy the lively playing as they hopped and glided across the gym floor.

Part of the fun of the event for Carleton students was meeting Northfield residents in a relaxed, collaborative environment.

Charlotte Beal ’16 said, “It was really cool to meet people from the Northfield community! It’s a terrific event in that in brings all kinds of people together.”
Contra-veterans, contra-newbies, and contra-converts left the armory at the end of night content and excited for the next Northfield Stomp, which may in fact be hosted at Carleton in the future. During a break between dances, Robin Nelson announced that Contra Dancing Association is looking for a larger space to host their Earth Day Contra Dance.

She asked Carleton and St. Olaf students to urge their respective colleges to consider offering their facilities to the community. If so, this wonderful past-time and event could be made even more accessible to our Carleton community.

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