Contra dances by Yoyo Zhou

Here are some dances I've written. If you enjoy them, please let me know! I'm always interested in hearing feedback on what works and what doesn't, especially helpful teaching notes. If a dance needs a name, suggestions are welcome.

The ones that have actually been tried with real dancers have sometimes undergone revision. The usual disclaimers apply: nothing is ever truly original, and I hope to give credit to others where it's due. If you borrow pieces to write your own variations, I'd appreciate some attribution, but also, please share whatever you come up with!

These dances are grouped into sections. Within sections, they are ordered by date of composition.

Moon and Stars

Bread and Butter

Light and Shadows

Twists and Turns

Odds and Ends

Pen and Paper

I'll use the convention of only annotating moves with their time (in counts) if it's not obvious how to break up 16 (as 6+10, 8+8, or 16). Also, neighbors are numbered - N1 is the current neighbor, N0 the previous neighbor, N2 the next neighbor, and so on. The neighbor number increments when the dance begins again, so N2 becomes N1 and so on.

Cross trail thru - pass by right shoulder across, left shoulder up/down.

Swing thru - from a short wavy line, all allemande right 1/2, then middles allemande left 1/2.

Sawtooth - see Give and Take. Basically it's Becket, but the dance ends slightly left of your original neighbors, so you don't need to slide left as far.

Legal mumbo jumbo: All dances here are Creative Commons CC BY. You're welcome to call them anytime.

Moon and Stars


Star of the County Alameda
September 11, 2012
improper
A1 (next) N balance, box the gnat
into right hand star
A2 (4) P pull by right across the set
(12) N swing on the other side
B1 gents allemande left 1+1/2
P swing
B2 (8) promenade across
(6) star left 3/4
(2) with N up/down, pull by left

Often, when we pull across by the right hand, if we hold on too long, it leads to ladies turning over their right shoulder, which is bad for e.g. a right and left thru. But in this dance, it's good flow for the ladies to keep turning right into the N swing.

Teaching notes:


Nothing Works and We Don't Know Why
March 18, 2013
improper
A1 (next) N balance, swing
A2 promenade across, loop right to face shadow
1/2 hey, ladies pass right, gents ricochet
B1 P balance, swing
B2 long lines
1/2 hey, gents pass left, ladies ricochet

The title refers to a physics joke about combining theory and practice, and it alludes to the broken heys in this dance.

Teaching notes:


Mountains in Sunny Windows
June 29, 2013
becket right
A1 circle left 3/4, pass thru
N0 allemande right 1+1/2 to long wavy lines, gents in ladies out
A2 balance wave, slide right
N1 swing
B1 pass thru to wave, balance
walk forward to next wave, ladies allemande left 1 while gents orbit
B2 P balance, swing

Written as I was listening to Jaige Trudel's uplifting jig, Sunny Windows, in an airport with blinding sunlight, overlooking the Min Mountains in shadow.


The Editor's Reel
July 10, 2013, revised January 2014
becket right
A1 circle left 3/4
N1 swing
A2 left diagonal ladies chain (to shadow)
1/2 hey (with shadow + N2), ladies pass right
B2 P gypsy right 1
1/2 hey (with P + N2), ladies pass left
B2 P balance, swing

For Kristin Seibert. In Scottish dancing, heys are called reels.

Teaching notes:


Four Have Sprung
October 19, 2013
becket
A1 circle left 3/4
N1 allemande right 1/2, N2 allemande left 1/2, N3 allemande right 1/2 to long waves, gents in ladies out
A2 balance wave, slide right
N2 swing
B1 (8) long lines
(2) ladies pull by right
(2) P pull by left
(4) gents allemande right 1
B2 P balance, swing

For the organizers of Fall Has Sprung: Dan Skeahan, Eric Engels, Joyce Miller, and Lisa Frankel. You also get to see four of your neighbors each time through.

Some have suggested, in the B1, changing the pull by left to an allemande left 1/2. I prefer the timing with a pull by, but the allemande left 1/2 may be better in a crowded hall.


One-Third Century Reel
March 8, 2014
becket right
A1 ladies chain
1/2 hey, ladies pass right
A2 N balance, swing
B1 (8) long lines
(4) gents allemande left 3/4 (brief long wave down center)
(4) next gents allemande right 3/4 (ladies step to the right)
B2 P balance, swing

For Jim Saxe. The B1 is as in David Kaynor's Mary Cay's Reel, but left-handed, for the gents.


Clear Out the Living Room
July 26, 2014
2s improper
A1 N gypsy, swing
A2 (2) gents pull by left
(6) P allemande right *
(8) middles allemande left 1+1/2, outsides orbit
B1 P balance, swing
B2 (4) balance ring
(4) pass thru across, turn right, advance to next N
(8) single file promenade 3/4

For Ruth Gorrin. Notes:


Snakeworks
October 2014
becket right
A1 give and take gents, N1 swing
A2 circle left 3/4
gents allemande right 1+1/2
B1 (4) N1 allemande left 3/4
(4) N2 allemande right 3/4
(8) ladies allemande left 1+1/2
B2 P balance, swing

Your next neighbor is next to you after the neighbor swing, but you meet on the other side. Cross over when waiting out at the ends.


Eccentricity
October 15, 2014
becket left
A1 ladies chain (to N1)
ladies allemande right 1+1/2 while gents orbit
A2 (4) N1 allemande left 3/4
(4) N2 allemande right 3/4
(8) gents allemande left 1+1/2 while ladies orbit
B1 N2 balance, swing
B2 circle left 3/4
P swing

Twirl, Interrupted
November 25, 2014
becket left
A1 circle left 3/4
N1 swing
A2 (4) ladies #1 allemande right 3/4
(2) ladies #2 allemande left 1/2
(4) ladies #3 allemande right 3/4
(6) N2 courtesy turn
B1 balance ring, petronella
balance ring, rollaway shadow lady up/down
B2 P balance, swing

Teaching notes:

Bread and Butter


Pure Ingredients
August 19, 2012
improper
A1 circle left 1
N do si do
A2 N balance, swing
B1 gents allemande left 1+1/2
P swing
B2 ladies chain
cross trail thru

Named for Pure Ingredient Cafe at Google, close to the location of the Google contra.


Millbrae
January 2013
improper
A1 long lines, roll away next N
balance ring, petronella
A2 P balance, swing
B1 circle left
balance ring, petronella
B2 N balance, swing

Rings of Saturn
February 10, 2013
improper
A1 N1 do si do
N0 do si do
A2 N1 balance, swing
B1 gents left hand balance, pull by
P swing
B2 ladies chain
1/2 hey, ladies pass right

Note the two consecutive do si dos add up to make an elongated do si do; there is no weaving.


The Golden Gate
April 8, 2013
becket sawtooth
A1 (new) gents pull by left, (new) N allemande right 1+1/2
1/2 hey, ladies pass left
A2 N gypsy, swing
B1 big oval left
big oval right (until across from P)
B2 gents gate N lady
with free hand take P, swing on gents side
The intended timing in B2 is that the gate begins at the start of the phrase. Dancers can get there earlier though. I haven't made up my mind if the gents gating the ladies or the ladies gating the gents is better.
Training Wheels
April 15, 2013
improper
A1 long lines
N swing
A2 down the hall, turn as couples
B1 gents allemande left 1+1/2
P swing
B2 promenade across
ladies chain

This is suitable for one of the first dances of the evening, but the up the hall into gents allemande is suprising for experienced dancers. An alternative is to turn alone, come back, roll away the N lady, gents allemande.

So named because it was written on a Caltrain.


Spiral Arms
May 30, 2013
becket/sawtoothy
A1 slide left, new ladies allemande right 1+1/2
N swing
A2 circle left 3/4
P do si do
B1 balance the wave, swing thru
N star promenade
B2 give and take P ladies, swing

The star promenade to give-and-take transition was inspired by Lisa Gets Cozy. I wanted to find a way to star promenade without gents allemanding left 1+1/2, as they always do.


Right Thought
June 2013
duple improper
A1 long lines
gents allemande right 1+1/2
A2 P balance, swing
B1 right and left thru
ladies allemande right 1+1/2
B2 N balance, swing

Pedal Point
November 9, 2013
improper
A1 gents allemande left 1+1/4
P star promenade
A2 ladies do si do
P swing
B1 circle left 3/4
N swing
B2 long lines
star right

A recombination of Pedal Pushers, Harmony Supper Line, and Sweet Music. One of those dances that you're sure somebody has already written.


Wandering Stars
January 24, 2014
improper
A1 N1 allemande right 1+1/2
N2 star left
A2 N1 gypsy, swing
B1 give and take ladies, P swing
B2 ladies chain
N1 star left

Drakes Beach
April 1, 2015
improper
A1 gents allemande left 1+1/4
P swing
A2 ladies allemande right 1+1/2
N swing
B1 down the hall, turn alone
B2 circle left 3/4, pass thru across
right hand star 3/4

Light and Shadows


Pillar Point Harbor
October 20, 2012
becket right
A1 ladies allemande right 1+1/2
with N, promenade the set clockwise (ladies in center); ladies scoop gents around to their next N behind them
A2 next N gypsy, swing
B1 (8) with next N, promenade the set counterclockwise (gents in center)
(2) gents pull by left
(6) P gypsy 1
B2 1/2 hey, ladies pass left
P swing

A left-right inverse of Fairport Harbor by Paul Balliet. There are several things to watch out for; one is that the first promenade is not the regular promenade direction. The scoop is also interesting: couples turn clockwise halfway to face backwards, then ladies turn over their right shoulder to face forwards again.


  • The Green-Haired Girl
    August 5, 2013
    improper
    A1 N balance, swing
    A2 right and left thru
    left hands across star
    B1 (4) ladies allemande left 1 while gents loop right
    (4) pull by N right, gents pull by left (while ladies loop right)
    (8) P swing
    B2 circle left 3/4
    N gypsy 1+1/2

    A variant of the Green-Eyed Girl by Jim Kitch, which seemed like it had a nice flowing signature figure without good flow around it. (If you call the Green-Eyed Girl, I'll suggest this as a replacement.) The gypsy 1+1/2 is a Jim Kitch-esque forgery.


    (Untitled Balance to My Lou variation)
    May 2013
    becket
    A1 long lines
    right diagonal ladies chain (to N)
    A2 balance ring, roll away shadow across
    N swing
    B1 balance ring, petronella
    balance ring, petronella
    B2 balance ring, petronella + spin 1/2
    P swing

    The B section is from Balance to my Lou by Becky Hill. This was my best attempt to add a neighbor swing. It's still a dance in which you don't see your partner as much as your shadow, though.


    Waves on Salmon Creek
    October 17, 2014
    improper
    A1 long lines
    gents allemande right 1+1/2 to short waves
    A2 balance wave, walk forward (to shadow)
    1/2 hey, pass shadow left
    B1 P balance, swing
    B2 ladies allemande right 1+1/2
    N swing

    Winter Evening Rollaway
    November 22, 2014
    becket left
    A1 circle left 3/4
    N do si do to short waves
    A2 (4) balance wave
    (12) walk forward, next N swing
    B1 right and left thru
    ladies chain
    B2 balance ring, rollaway N lady across
    P swing
    This is just a recombination of Linda Leslie's Winter Storm and Bob Isaacs's Early Evening Rollaway (itself a variant of Tom Hinds's Early Evening Jig). It goes to show that nothing really is original.
    Life Is Short; Dance Often
    Lindsey Dono, Yoyo Zhou
    becket right
    A1 circle left 1
    ladies chain
    A2 mad robin
    circle right 1
    B1 (4) with P, zag right, zig left
    (12) with next N, ~3/4 hey, gents pass left
    B2 P balance, swing
    This is derived from Lindsey Dono's Mesmerize Me, but it has a new interesting B part.

    The hey is similar to Erik Weberg's Joyride (and Victor Skowronski's Companions). In teaching, after the progression to new neighbors, the ladies should take a step left (out of the set) to set up for the hey, which is really 5 passes (5/8 of a full hey).

    Twists and Turns


    Apples and Concord Grapes
    November 14, 2012
    becket right
    A1 circle left 3/4
    N1 swing
    A2 full hey, gents pass left; end in long wave with gents facing in, ladies facing out, N1 in right hand
    B1 (4) balance wave
    (4) slide right to short wave, left hand to N2
    (4) balance wave
    (4) slide left
    B2 (4) swing thru
    (12) P swing

    Named for the fruit we picked in Grass Valley and brought to the potluck table at Fall Has Sprung in 2012. Some inspiration from Apples and Chocolate.

    Teaching notes:


    (Untitled alternating Dixie twirl petronella)
    June 2013
    improper, 1s between 2s in a line of 4
    A1 down the hall, Dixie twirl to invert the line
    return, bend the line
    A2 circle left 1
    N swing
    B1 balance ring, petronella
    balance ring, petronella
    B2 2s balance, swing end facing up between new 1s
    A1' up the hall, Dixie twirl to invert the line
    return, bend the line
    ...
    B2' 1s balance, swing end facing down between new 2s

    A Dixie twirl is a California twirl for couples acting as units. The couple on the right walks under the joined arch, with both couples walking forward. "Invert the line" means that the line has basically turned around in place. This is harder than it seems like it should be, especially when the dance is alternating.


    Victoria Regia
    January 2015
    improper
    A1 mirror hey along the sides, 1s split 2s, then 2s split 1s: N1 pass, N2 gypsy 1, N1 pass, N0 gypsy 1
    A2 1s balance, swing
    B1 (4) down the hall with N1 (1s in center)
    (4) roll away N1 lady
    (8) 2s swing
    B2 (8) N1 swing
    (4) up the hall with N1 (1s in center)
    (4) 2s gate 1s to face N2
    In the spirit of generosity, this borrows ideas from Scottish and English dancing. In the mirror hey, dancers can make eye contact with their partner when they come toward each other. Couples waiting out at the ends should go wherever they are needed.

    Odds and Ends


    Waxmyrtle
    June 2013
    2-part improper slip jig contra
    A1 (6) N gypsy 1
    (6) 1/2 hey, ladies pass left
    A2 (12) N swing
    B1 (3) gents cross the set
    (9) P swing
    B2 (6) balance ring*
    (3) petronella
    (3) pass N1 left (up/down)
    Notes:
    Scattermento
    November 22, 2014
    scatter mixer
    A1 P promenade
    A2 circle left
    circle right
    B1 gents/ladies star left 1
    P do si do 1+1/4
    B2 next P balance, swing

    Green Dreams
    April 8, 2015
    2-part improper slip jig contra
    A1 (6) hands across star left 3/4
    (3) ladies allemande left 3/4 while gents loop right
    (3) P pull by
    A2 (2) gents pull by while ladies loop right
    (10) N swing
    B1 (6) balance the ring, give and take gents
    (6) P swing
    B2 (6) circle left 3/4
    (6) with P, zig left, zag right
    There are elements from both Jim Kitch's Green-Eyed Girl and Joseph Pimentel's Little Green Heron, but recast into 6 instead of 8. The pull by sequence in the A part can tend to end up on the diagonal, but it feels better to be straight across. The balance is in for 3, out for 3; during the out, ladies tug their partner to their side.

    Pen and Paper


    Sine and Cosine
    July 2012
    becket right
    A1 circle left 3/4
    N swing
    A2 1/2 hey, ladies pass right
    ladies do si do with next lady to a long wave down the center; same gents take left hands across
    B1 (4) balance (ladies right, gents left)
    (4) allemande 3/4 (ladies right, gents left) to put gents in a long wave down the center
    (4) balance (ladies right, gents left)
    (4) allemande 3/4 (ladies right, gents left), walk forward
    B2 P balance, swing

    The inspiration for this dance comes from Carol Ormand's choreography workshop at American Week and Patrick Morris's Hallucination Jig. And arguably Dean Snipes's Our House.

    Teaching notes:


    Pirate Radio
    September 19, 2012
    duple improper
    A1 long lines forward and back
    pass through to a wave, gents take left hands in the middle; balance the wave
    A2 (4) swing thru
    (12) P swing
    B1 promenade across
    pass through to a wave, ladies take left hands in the middle; balance the wave
    B2 (4) swing thru
    (12) N swing

    (Untitled mad robin gate dance)
    June 2, 2013
    improper
    A1 long lines
    (with next N) P mad robin, ladies in front
    A2 gate N ladies
    ladies pass left, pass P right, gents gypsy left 1
    B1 P gypsy, swing
    B2 circle left 3/4
    N swing

    The Persimmon Tree
    October 21, 2013
    becket
    A1 circle left 3/4, roll away N lady
    next N swing
    A2 long lines
    ladies chain
    B1 balance ring, petronella
    balance ring, petronella
    B2 balance ring, roll N across set
    P swing