square dancing contra dance barn hoedown ceili kayli caller dancing traditional Grand Rapids Ann Arbor Lansing Kalamazoo lakeshore Detroit southeastern west Michigan Civil War ball Regency Federal 1812 Red Hat Society vintage Victorian formal ballgown folk music family fun daddy daughter mother mommy son high school teenager youth string band Irish Scottish English reels jigs schottishe waltz polka fan dance Missavage Dunnam Karen Lovett Hall new years eveeve

"Good evening, and welcome to our dance."

Halloween 2012 marked my 31st year as an avid contra dancer; I've been at this more than half of my life.
And I called my first dance on November 11, 1991. 23+ years of dance calling!


Besides calling your dance, I can help with event planning, scheduling, publicity, ideas for decorations and refreshments, formats, themes, emcee work, even reading door prize ticket numbers. And I'm often available on short notice. I bring my own PA system, and your choice of recorded music or a live string band. A gracious 19th century Victorian dress ball...a haybale hoedown in a barn...a casual party for beginners...a wedding reception or anniversary party...an adoption celebration... a scout or school party...a homeschool graduation...a holiday party for the office...a dance society series event...pinata music and guidance... What do you need? We'll make it happen!

Most of my dancing fun takes place in Michigan; I'm based in Grand Rapids. To check my availability for a particular date, just click the Upcoming events link. I sometimes travel several hours to call a dance event. With access to a network of callers throughout the country, if I'm not available, perhaps I can help you find someone who is.


Spread the fun!
Calling dances is personally rewarding and helps build community. Something you'd like to get into? I'd be happy to lead a workshop for several, or offer a mentoring program for one. Especially Wayne - Oakland - Macomb, with a combined population of 5.3M
(source: Detroit Regional Chamber)
Contact me here

inflat-o-cactus
At a summer camp hoedown. My cactus can come along; let me know!

This video, shot in "caller cam," shows a wide variety of dance events.

  • a monthly contra dance; lots of younger dancers all decked out for Halloween
  • the ever-popular Fan Dance at a Civil War ball
  • a private party in a barn
  • a high-level monthly contra dance where we test the dancers on their ability to shift modes on the fly

What is contra dancing?

Dances I've composed

Other fun dances

Upcoming events

Photo album

Dance links

Articles

Dance resume

What is contra dancing?
It's fun, easy, vigorous, and a great way to meet people! Traditional American country dances (such as the Virginia Reel) are performed by pairs of dancers facing in opposing lines. The maneuvers are similar to those used in square dancing. A friendly patient caller provides a walk-through prior to each dance set, and prompts along with the music. There's no "leader" or "follower;" everyone follows the calls. You get to dance with everyone else in your set. And when the music stops, thank that partner and find a new one-- you'll get to dance with everyone else in the hall!
A contra dance usually features live music by a talented string band performing jigs, reels, hoedowns, polkas, and waltzes. There're a few square, circle, and couple dances as well. No partner or previous training is needed; experienced dancers will welcome you, ask you to dance, and help you through the figures. Soft-soled shoes and comfortable casual attire recommended. (Hoopskirts are optional.) If you can walk, you can dance.
Come join the fun! There are contra dance communities throughout the USA, mostly in large urban areas or towns with higher education. Use these links to find a local dance near you!

In Michigan

Michigan dances

West Michigan calendar


My upcoming events

Come to the Lovett Hall
contra dance

Nationwide
Going on vacation?
Find weekend events via these links

Dwayne's Contra Dance Page

with clickable map and tacky music!

Ted Crane's Dance Database         The Dance Gypsy

dosado.com        Caller and Cuer Database

Fun at the Civil War Ball --->
A "german" is a Victorian dance party parlour game. This one is called "Puss wants a corner." Five ladies randomly change seats, while a gent attempts to gain a chair. When he succeeds, the lady who is left standing dances with him, and another couple joins in.

I get letters...
Last night I went to a contra dance for the first time in my life. I had a wonderful time! The members of your group were so friendly and patient and welcoming in teaching a complete newbie the moves. The final "big circle" dance was so joyful and inclusive, I thought, "This is what heaven will be like!" Thanks for a great evening!   --Sara Reinders
On behalf of the 8th Arkansas, our guests and patrons, I would like to take a moment to thank you for calling our "Mid Winter Ball" (formerly the Valentines Ball) in Lansing, Michigan recently. I believe it was our 12th. We have contracted you along with the Golden Griffon Stringtet for the last several years, and have no plans to use anyone else in the future. The 8th Arkansas "worries" a lot of little details to try and give our guests and patrons the most memorable evening of Civil War dancing possible. It is a huge "worry" relieved to know that the dance calling is in your capable hands. Your instruction before each dance is thorough, clear, and easy to grasp. Folks that are new to this style of dancing pick it up right away. Some of us who may have forgotten appreciate the patience you have. I have been to more than a few dances and balls, and I can honestly say you are the best. Yours in service, --Silas T. Walker, Captain, Commanding, 8th Arkansas co. K

The evening really went well and your part of it was just perfect. Thanks so much for doing such a great job. It was so much fun to see children, teens, and "old folks" laughing and dancing together. The best social functions I have ever been to have included square dancing; there is just something so much fun about it. I'm glad you had such good feedback. We really have a very warm group of people at the church. I didn't even get any negative feedback about "Baptist" dancing. So, thanks again for all you did for us.  --Rich Liverance, pastor, Kentwood Baptist Church, Kentwood
Karen was engaged to call the dance at the Fayette, Ohio’s Thistle Ridge Civil War reenactment. I cannot say that Karen did an unusually extraordinarily good job because her usual is extraordinary. She has an excitement to her that she projects and that makes it difficult for anyone who enjoys dancing to stay sitting. Her vibrant personality spreads through the crowd getting even spectators involved. I have heard from a number of people, both spectators and participants, that they return to events year after year largely because of the dances that she calls. One lady in our group said that she would be traveling all the way to Fremont, Ohio in large part because Karen will be calling the dance there. That will be about a five-hour drive for her...Personally, I always look forward to events where I know Karen is calling because I know that all will have a great time. --Dennis Whiting, 21st OVI, 4th Mich. Co. A

Singles' Hawaiian house party; recorded music.

Thank you so much for coming to our Girl Scout banquet! You were awesome! ... I really like the way that square dancing gives the dancers the opportunity to interact with other dancers, besides their own partner or troop. I got great feedback from everyone and we all really enjoyed your entertainment and teaching. Thanks again!  --Barb Huneau, Utica

I just wanted to send a great big thank you to all of you for a very nice evening. All I had was great comments on the band and how it was very easy to dance with the caller. I had a great time and so did all the people at the Ball. Thanks again and I hope to see you soon.   --Ruth Ann Vuk, 5th Texas regiment, Co. "A"
I have never had any qualms about recomending you. I've heard positive feedback from everyone about your professionalism and that you deliver what they wanted: fun!  --Steven J. Gold, Oak Park
I like your style in getting people up and dancing.  --Kevin King, Erie, Penn.
Last year was my first time to that (Civil War Valentine's) ball. I had so much fun both times and it is nice to know that I can easily dance the dances I don't know. There was a girl with us whose first Civil War experience was this ball and I know that a large part of why she enjoyed it so much was that the dances were easy to learn and that is thanks to you. So thank you again. --Melissa Hunt, Cedarville, Ohio
Our committee would like to thank you for such a great job on prompting our dancers. Even when the lights went off you kept the evening going. What a woman! I'm sure we will be in touch soon about next year. Again..."great job!"  --The Marshall Civil War Ball Committee,  Marshall
Thanks for the great calling that you did at the dance here in Grand Rapids. I especially want to compliment your teaching style. Having people do something and then explaining it to them is a great way to do it when dealing with adults. Your dances were superbly chosen, too. As usual, the crowd was a broad mixture who ranged from rank novice to VERY skilled and experienced. The dances were challenging enough for the hard core and easy enough for an interested beginner. Your patience is also commendable...you handled it with dignity and aplomb. You are the best contra caller that I know and my favorite caller as well. You have thought about the dances and about people's learning style and you work into your teaching and calling something for most of the learning styles while also conveying useful information about the dance itself.    --Mike McGuire, Grand Rapids

Open mic night in Grand Rapids. I picked up this dance
the previous week from a caller visiting Lansing.


A Red Hat hoedown at a hayride farm

What a great dance last Sat. and you really "revved" it up! You did a terrific job and varied the usual set happenings which do seem to follow a pattern. The one part I hate is when the end is built up and only contains a waltz which some may not participate in. That is a let-down. You left the waltz thing in (which couldn't be different) but gave everyone a good and special time at the ending. It was very inclusive. Thanks.   --Dawn Swartz, Ann Arbor


Have I told you how much I appreciate working with you as a caller? ... We appreciate that you're not married to certain tunes and you're not constantly micro-managing our tempos. We also appreciate your pre-dance preparation so that you don't overteach the dance or teach all the dance except one small part or teach the dance then scrap it and teach another. We like working with you. Thanks for making us your band of choice so often.  --Jim McKinney, Golden Griffon Stringtet

More videos...just click to watch

At a chili cook-off benefit dance. Music by Fiddlefire

A family reunion dance to recorded music

The Fan Dance...a big hit at every event

Welcome spring with a Maypole dance


Comments? Feedback? Dance gigs? (When the spamblocker contacts you, just reply with a dance reference in the subject line.)

E-mail me here
Karen Dunnam at gmail.com

Dance videos on my YouTube channel

10/25/2014