Open gifts, eat dinner, go dancing

There's usually not much entertainment happening on Dec. 25, other than board games, TV and movies.

But Olympia’s contra-dance community produces dances the first, second and fourth Saturdays of each month. And the fact that tomorrow is Christmas won’t stop the music.

“By afternoon, a lot of people are ready to watch football on TV, and that doesn’t seem strange to anybody,” said David Kaynor, who’ll be one of the callers for the Christmas dance. “They’re glued to the TV watching highly paid guys run into each other.

“This is just another thing people can do,” added Kaynor, who lives in Montague Center, Mass., and often visits family and friends in Olympia. “There are plenty of people who are ready to get out and move their butts by 7 o’clock. If nothing else, they can work off the food they ate earlier in the day.”

So Kaynor and Lindon Toney of Olympia, who organizes the fourth-Saturday dances, decided to give it a shot. “Many people have been positive about the idea,” Toney said.

Toney’s band Riffraff will provide the music, which includes Scottish, Irish, French Canadian and old-time tunes. (Contra is always done to live music.)

Like the idea of working off the food but aren’t sure what contra dancing is, let alone whether you can do it?

The name is believed to come from the name country dancing – in French, contre dancing.

The dance form evolved from court and village dances in Europe, Kaynor said. “The colonists did it in New England,” he said.

It’s similar to square dancing, except it’s done in a long line. “A lot of the moves are the same,” Toney said.

“I’m careful about comparing it to square dancing,” he added, “because there are square dance clubs that are very particular about making mistakes. Contra is much more laid back.”

That means it’s friendly to beginners. “You can do it from the very first time you dance,” he said. “People mess up and go the wrong way, and it’s part of the fun. People are laughing and making mistakes, no big deal.

“A lot of men don’t dance because it’s intimidating,” he said. “In contra dancing, you have somebody up there telling you what to do, so you don’t have to think about what’s cool and what’s not.”

That doesn’t mean experienced dancers won’t be interested, though: “There is a skill to the dance,” Toney said. “As you get dancing more, you find that there are little nuances that make it fun and interesting.”

There are people of all ages at dances, he said, from kids to senior citizens.

No partner is needed. And the dance offers a great opportunity to mix and mingle.

“The dances are laid out so that after you go through a tune once, you and your partner end up facing the next couple down the line,” Toney said. “So if you are a man, you end up dancing with all of the other women in the line.”

Christmas contra dance

What: Olympia contra dancers gather three Saturdays a month for the traditional folk dance. They’re not taking the day off Saturday just because it’s Christmas. The dance will feature music by Riffraff and a dessert potluck.

When: Lesson at 7:30 p.m. Saturday; dance begins at 8.

Where: South Bay Grange, 3918 Sleater-Kinney Road N.E., Olympia

Tickets: $8

Information: www.olympiadance.org

Also: The dancers are also hosting a New Year’s Eve dance at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 31. Tickets are $12.