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Contra dancing in Sautee-Nacoochee
Dancers swing to instructions, mountain music
Bethany Davis spins around her partner Charlie Jameson during a contra dance on Saturday at the old gym in Sautee-Nacoochee. - photo by Tom Reed

Check out the slideshow on the contra dance at

One Saturday night a month, the old gym behind the Sautee-Nacoochee Center in White County comes alive with the sound of mountain music and swirling of dancers following a contra dance caller. Contra dancing is a blend of folk and square dancing and is practiced all across the country.

Starting at 7:30 p.m., dance participants may learn the dances and walk through some of the moves and variations. Dancers arrive individually, by couple or as a group.

On a typical night of dancing, about 70 to 80 dancers of all ages will attend. Most participants are residents of the Sautee-Nacoochee Valley area, but dancers also drive from Atlanta, Gainesville and Athens. Similar dances are in Athens and Atlanta.

The dance usually lasts about three hours with an intermission for dancers to catch their breath.

Before each dance, the caller explains the moves and a little history about each one. He tells the dancers where each person should end up and when to change partners and in what direction everyone should move. Once the dance starts, the group flows easily and blends together as the music plays and the caller says when to make a change. Mistakes are rarely seen, but even if a dancer makes a wrong step, it is easy to fall back into the routine.

Community dances are organized by volunteers as are the “Learn & Dance” class on the first and third Tuesdays of the month. The next Saturday night dance will be July 27. Admission is $9 for adults, $7 for Sautee-Nacoochee Community Association members, $5 for students and free for children younger than 12.

For more information, call the Sautee-Nacoochee Center at 706-878-3300.