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Contra Dance – A Bibligraphy

Copyright © 1993-2007 by Cynthia Van Ness, All rights reserved

A Note to the Reader

This bibliography was compiled in 1993 as an assignment in
library school. It does not attempt to be exhaustive and does not list every
book, article, or recording about contra dance. The author will make
small improvements and updates to it as time permits.

Dance researchers should also see Ted Sannella’s Annotated Bibliography from his book, Swing the Next.

USEFUL SUBJECT HEADINGS

When researching this form of dance in an index or a library card or online catalog, relevant items may be found under any of the following headings:

  • contra dance
  • contradance
  • contredanse
  • country dance
  • dance–folk
  • folk dance
  • longways
  • New England contra dance

All of these terms, with varying degrees of accuracy, describe contra dancing. In addition, information on these dances is often subsumed under headings for Square Dancing.

CONTRA DANCE HISTORY: SELECTED BASIC TEXTS

Harris, Jane A.  Dance a While: Handbook of Folk, Square, Contra, and Social Dance,
6th ed. New York: Macmillan, ©1988

The chapter on contra dance by Ralph Page, pp.165-169, gives a detailed history, discussing the influences of Ireland, Scotland, French-Canadians, and the Tudor royal family. A sidebar gives a biography of Ralph Page, who founded the New England Folk Festival Association and published several dance books. He has been called the Dean of American Contra Dancing.

Nevell, Richard.  A Time to Dance: American Country Dancing from Hornpipes to Hot Hash,
New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1977

While this title isn’t about contra dancing per se, it has a chapter about New England contra dance history, with interviews, photographs, and first-person narratives. The extensive bibliography is one of the only annotated ones available on contra dance.

BIBLIOGRAPHIES

Keller, Kate Van Winkle.   A Bibliography of Eighteenth Century American Social Dance. New
York: Country Dance & Song Society, 1988

Not seen by this writer.

New York Public Library.   Dictionary Catalog of the Dance Collection. Boston: G.K. Hall, 1974.

This 10 volume set lists the complete holdings of the NYPL dance collection as of 1974. Entries are arranged by subject. Under the heading “Square, Round and Contra Dancing” are hundreds of entries on 19 pages. Citations are given for monographs, articles, microforms, and audio recordings. Entries are analytical; that is, an entry often refers to a particular dance or dance step discussed in an article or monograph.

Occasionally, an entry supplies a summary or other descriptive information.

New York Public Library, Dance Collection.   Bibliographic Guide to Dance. Boston, G.K. Hall, 1975- .

This annual is a supplement to the Dictionary Catalog of the Dance Collection, above, with the same subject arrangement.

DICTIONARIES & ENCYCLOPEDIAS

Buckman, Peter.   Let’s Dance. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, ©1978.

Entry on p.268 gives succinct one-paragraph definitions under the headings Contra and Country Dances. Contra is often called and subsumed under “country dancing,” which some dance encyclopedias consider a misnomer.

Chujoy, Anatole, comp. and ed.   The Dance Encyclopedia, rev. and enl. ed. New York: Simon &
Schuster, 1949

Entry on p. 224 under Contredanse is not as descriptive as Buckman, above, but it does mention Playford’s The English Dancing Master (cited elsewhere in this bibliography).

Leisner, Tony.   The Official Guide to Country Dance Steps. Chicago: Domus Books, ©1980.

This title, fully indexed, includes contra steps, as well as the Schottische, the Hambo, and other forms of country dance.
Not seen by this writer.

Queen City Contra Dancers Buffalo NY

Queen City Contra Dancers Buffalo NY

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