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Contra Dance to go ‘Gluten Free’ in first event of brand-new year

Contra dancing can provide a new method of fitness for 2019.


The Historic Jonesborough Dance Society will kick off the 2019 contra dance season on Saturday, Jan. 5, at the Historic Jonesborough Visitors Center, 117 Boone Street.

The guest band is Gluten Free. Calling the dance will be the ever popular Tim Klein from Knoxville.  Admission for the dance is $7 for adults and $5 for students and children.  A beginner’s lesson is offered at 7 p.m.  The dance runs from 7:30-10:30 p.m. with a waltz and Klondike Bar break at 9 p.m.

“This is our 14th year in Jonesborough.  It’s hard to believe that we have produced close to 400 dances in that time, but we are even more thrilled to start the year with such amazingly talented band and caller,” said event organizer, David Wiley. “Many area citizens still do not know what contra dance is all about. It’s similar to square dance, but the formation and flow is vastly different.”.

The movement is just a walking step that requires no fancy footwork.

The group’s winter promotion to attract new dancers is an offer to all comers to “Buy one ticket and get one free for new dancers.” The BOGO offer is intended for those who have never tried contra dance before, according to Wiley, who is also president of the Historic Jonesborough Dance Society.

“Bring a friend who has never danced and they get in for free,” he said.

“Contra dance is a way for all citizens of the area to rededicate themselves to New Year’s higher ideas and ideals for diet and exercise changes. We know from the experts that most people start the year with ambitious goals for weight loss, smoking cessation or other behavioral changes during the first ten days of the New Year,” Wiley added.  “The problem is that many of these commitments fade away in the short term.  Our contra dance program, even though it is held only twice per month can jump start anyone toward their goals. We had 30 dances again 2017.  In and of itself, 30 dances won’t make or break anyone’s fitness program, but for many, it made a difference.”

Gluten Free is a band from Asheville made up of Laurie Fisher on fiddle and Chelsey Henley Cribbs.  Laurie Fisher is a popular musician, dance caller and music teacher.  She plays fiddle, keyboard, guitar and bass and has performed and called in Jonesborough on many occasions most recently with her band “BOOM CHUCK”.   Chelsey Henley Cribbs is a recent graduate of Florida State University with a Master’s Degree in Fine Art majoring in piano.  She teaches piano in Asheville and is being mentored by Fisher to learn to play for contra dances.

Tim Klein hails from Knoxville.  He has contra danced for many years and has become one of the most entertaining and talented dance callers in the country.

Come to dance or come to listen.  No partner is necessary.  It is customary at contra dances to change partners after each dance.  As always, our dances are smoke, alcohol and fragrance free.  Families, students and singles are welcome.  All dances are taught by the caller. No previous dance experience is necessary.

Contra dancing can be aerobic! Most dancers like to wear short-sleeved shirts and skirts, pants or shorts, depending on the season. Don’t forget to dress in layers – what may be comfortable at the start of the evening might be too hot by the second or third dance. Some folks, who find that dancing really makes them sweat, bring a spare shirt to change into at the break. Generally, contra dancers are an informal bunch and dress to reflect that.

Please wear comfortable shoes. The most important feature is a smooth sole that will slide across a wooden floor. Contra dancers have used jazz shoes, leather dress shoes, bare feet, duct-taped bare feet, character shoes, dance sneakers and regular sneakers with or without suede glued to the sole.

Contra dancing is social dancing. The best way to improve your dancing is to dance with people who are more experienced than you. More experienced dancers know this, so you may be surprised to get many invitations to dance from people you haven’t met before. Although contra dancing is a couple dance, it is, in the larger sense, a “team sport.” If new dancers get to dance frequently with more experienced partners, they learn the basics faster and everyone has more fun.

Usually, people change partners after each dance. Men ask women to dance and women ask men to dance. Sometimes men dance with men or women dance with women.

One surefire way to make sure you have a partner for the next dance is to ask someone. Otherwise, rather than sitting down at the side of the hall, stand up and walk toward the front of the hall. Some people take sitting down to mean that you would like to rest.

For more information on this dance event or any upcoming events, please contact David Wiley at (423) 534-8879 or visit, or Historic Jonesborough Dance Society on facebook.