Contra (English country dancing), square, and circle dances can be taught and are easily learned. We can mix in some walzes too. It's OK to come without a partner as the group dances are mixers.


Who remembers Apple Island?

Dark of the Moon Contra-Band grew out of the initiative of several women who were closely associated with Apple Island, Madison's women's space. One had attended a contradance in Paoli with a band including Mike Briggs and caller Norma Briggs (who are both Prairie UU members) and was so taken by the community feeling that comes with this kind of dancing that she thought there ought to be a women's contradance band and regular contradancing at Apple Island.

Eventually an ad was placed in Isthmus and several women showed up for the first practice in January of 1995. Subsequently, the new band, as yet unnamed, played for a number of women's contradances at Apple Island. After Apple Island lost its lease, the band played for dances at places like Wil-Mar Neighborhood Center and Grace Episcopal Church.

More recently, Dark of the Moon Contra-band has played at outdoor events like the Farmers Market, Monroe Street Days, Schumacher Farm Harvest Days, a rendezvous and sesquicentennial celebration for the Town of Dekorra, and at the Capitol Square for Wisconsin's Sesquicentennial celebration. The band has also played for Maple Syrup Days at the MacKenzie Center in Poynette, at graduation, wedding and reception parties, for elementary and high school students, at a senior citizen meal center, and for church benefits.


Current band members are Mary Mullen (guitar and harmonica), Bonnie Gruber (fiddle), and Ingrid Lind-Jahn (fiddle). Sometimes the band will include Inna Larsen (fiddle), Jeff Larsen (guitar), and Mike Briggs (keyboard). Our usual caller is Norma Briggs but we have also worked with several other callers.

Original band members were: Myrtle Wilhite (fiddle), Peggy Lewis (oboe), Katjusa Cisar (recorder), Becky Leidner (guitar and banjo), Susie Grindrod (recorder), Anna Bose (fiddle), and Mary Mullen (guitar and harmonica).
Other women who have played in the band are: Ann Pooler (guitar), Debra Amesqua (guitar), Marjorie Ward (mandolin, guitar), Mary Waller (fiddle, accordian), Jenn Wilgocki (fiddle), Karen Fischer (fiddle), and Jennifer Parke (fiddle).


You may be wondering what contradance is. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the Nicaraguan contras. It is, instead, English country dancing. English country dancing has nothing to do with country line dancing. Actually, contradance is something like square dancing or like the Virginia Reel that you may have learned when you were very young. It is like the Virginia Reel because it is done to reels and jigs played by a live band, you do have a partner who stands across from you in a line of dancers, and dancers advance up the line as the dance progresses. Contradancing is like square dancing because the dance is made up of a series of figures or moves that are repeated with different partners, and the dances are taught and called by a caller. A nice thing about contradancing is that you ask a different person to be your partner for each new dance and even in mixed company it is considered perfectly OK for women to have women partners and men to have male partners. In fact, in most contradances even if you have a partner of the opposite sex you end up dancing with a person of your own sex for some of the figures.

Music is usually pretty snappy and often has roots in the British Isles. Waltzes and polkas often are a part of a contradance evening as well.

- Mary Mullen

More on Contradancing from the Internet