Queen City Contra Dancers, Buffalo, NY


Copyright © 1993-2007 by Cynthia Van Ness, All rights reserved


This bibliography was compiled in 1993 as an assignment in library school. It does not attempt to be exhaustive and does not list every book, article, or recording about contra dance. The author will make small improvements and updates to it as time permits. Dance researchers should also see Ted Sannella's Annotated Bibliography from his book, Swing the NextThis page was last modified on 28 May 2007.


When researching this form of dance in an index or a library card or online catalog, relevant items may be found under any of the following headings:

  • contra dance
  • contradance
  • contredanse
  • country dance
  • dance--folk
  • folk dance
  • longways
  • New England contra dance.

All of these terms, with varying degrees of accuracy, describe contra dancing. In addition, information on these dances is often subsumed under headings for Square Dancing.


Harris, Jane A. Dance a While: Handbook of Folk, Square, Contra, and Social Dance, 6th ed. New York: Macmillan, ©1988

The chapter on contra dance by Ralph Page, pp.165-169, gives a detailed history, discussing the influences of Ireland, Scotland, French-Canadians, and the Tudor royal family. A sidebar gives a biography of Ralph Page, who founded the New England Folk Festival Association and published several dance books. He has been called the Dean of American Contra Dancing.

Nevell, Richard. A Time to Dance: American Country Dancing from Hornpipes to Hot Hash. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1977

While this title isn't about contra dancing per se, it has a chapter about New England contra dance history, with interviews, photographs, and first-person narratives. The extensive bibliography is one of the only annotated ones available on contra dance.


Keller, Kate Van Winkle. A Bibliography of Eighteenth Century American Social Dance. New York: Country Dance & Song Society, 1988

Not seen by this writer.

New York Public Library. Dictionary Catalog of the Dance Collection. Boston: G.K. Hall, 1974.

This 10 volume set lists the complete holdings of the NYPL dance collection as of 1974. Entries are arranged by subject. Under the heading "Square, Round and Contra Dancing" are hundreds of entries on 19 pages. Citations are given for monographs, articles, microforms, and audio recordings. Entries are analytical; that is, an entry often refers to a particular dance or dance step discussed in an article or monograph. Occasionally, an entry supplies a summary or other descriptive information.

New York Public Library, Dance Collection. Bibliographic Guide to Dance. Boston, G.K. Hall, 1975- .

This annual is a supplement to the Dictionary Catalog of the Dance Collection, above, with the same subject arrangement.


Buckman, Peter. Let's Dance. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, ©1978.

Entry on p.268 gives succinct one-paragraph definitions under the headings Contra and Country Dances. Contra is often called and subsumed under "country dancing," which some dance encyclopedias consider a misnomer.

Chujoy, Anatole, comp. and ed. The Dance Encyclopedia, rev. and enl. ed. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1949

Entry on p. 224 under Contredanse is not as descriptive as Buckman, above, but it does mention Playford's The English Dancing Master (cited elsewhere in this bibliography).

Leisner, Tony. The Official Guide to Country Dance Steps. Chicago: Domus Books, ©1980.

This title, fully indexed, includes contra steps, as well as the S chottische, the Hambo, and other forms of country dance. Not seen by this writer.


National (& International) Square Dance Directory. Brandon, MS: Gordon Goss, ©1993.

In addition to square, this directory lists other types of dance groups, including contra, folk, ballroom, handicapped, and polka. Entries give the type of club, level of proficiency, location, and a phone number for over 10,000 dance clubs throughout the world. It is organized geographically and updated annually.

Berman, Leslie, and Heather Wood, eds. Grass Roots International Folk Resource Directory, 3rd ed.

"...includes over 8000 listings for festivals, concert promoters, folk music and dance clubs, national and local organizations and publications, record companies...Listings cover all types of folk music worldwide."
-- Country Dance and Song News 113 (July/August 1993): S2

Keller, Robert M., comp. Dance Figures Index: American Country Dances, 1730-1810, 2nd ed. Sandy Hook, Conn.: The Hendrickson Group, ©1989

Not seen by this writer.

Minneapolis Public Library, Music Department Staff. An Index to Folk Dances and Singing Games. Chicago: American Library Association, 1936.

This volume indexes the contents of 113 folk dance and game books. Entries are in alphabetical order in the form of names of dances, types of dances, or dance steps, interfiled with subject headings for various nationalities.

Minneapolis Public Library, Music Department Staff. An Index to Folk Dances and Singing Games Supplement. Chicago: American Library Association, ©1949

Unlike the initial volume, this supplement contains a subject heading for Contra Dances, listing about 100 dances by name. A letter code directs the user to the folk song or dance book containing the instructions for the dance. The supplement indexes 67 sources.


CDSS News. Bimonthly. 17 New South St. Northampton, MA 10160.

The publication of the Country Dance & Song Society includes news of member dance groups around the United States and Canada, upcoming dance events, and publishes the instructions, steps and tune to a dance in every issue. It serves as a selection aid by reviewing new titles, and by offering dance and music books by mail order. CDSS News is the premier source of current contra dance information.

Country Dance and Song. Annual. CDSS, 17 New South St. Northampton, MA 10160.

Unlike the CDSS News, this annual publishes lengthier articles about traditional dance, song, and music in England and America. It is indexed by Music Index, and the April 1993 (v.23) issue contains a complete subject and author index to all 25 volumes of Country Dance and Song. "Recommended for any research collection on dance or regional culture."
--Katz, Magazines for Libraries, 5th ed., p.309

Country Dance & Song Society, 17 South St. Northampton, MA.

CDSS was founded in 1915 to promote English and Anglo-American folk dance, music, and song. They publish the serials listed above, a directory of dance groups, and they hold dance and music weeks in Massachusetts and West Virginia.

The New England Folk Festival Association (NEFFA), 1950 Massachusetts Ave. Boston, MA 02140. Telephone: (617) 354-1340.

NEFFA "publishes a dance calendar, membership list, and other valuable dance information."
--Nelson, A Fine Country Dance, p.33
The organization's popular annual festival, held in Boston, features much New England contra dancing, as well as other forms of folk dance, ethnic foods, and crafts.


Carlone, Cynthia. Will You Dance? Country Living, November 1986: 68, 167.

An introduction to contra history and figures (or dance steps), and a description of the calls and music at a typical contra dance.

Kimball, James. Country Dancing in Central and Western New York. New York Folklore 1988 14(3-4): 71-88.

"Outlines the history of country dancing in central and western New York from the 18th to the 20th century, concentrating on different types of country dancing and different social aspects associated with this particular form of dance."

Kotsch, Ronald E. Happily Hoofing It: Dancing Draws Us Nearer to the Divine. Utne Reader, Jan/Feb 1993: 130-1.

"The writer discusses the types of dance that he tried before he discovered contra dancing, which he now pursues happily at every opportunity."

--Readers Guide With Abstracts, on BISON.

Nelson, Sarah Jane. A Fine Country Dance. Country Journal, Nov. 1988: 29-33.

Writer describes the contra dances held at the Francestown, New Hampshire Town Hall continually since 1847, with profile of a caller, several dancers, and musicians. The article is illustrated with photographs, and a sidebar tells how to host your own contra dance.


Note: Many of these titles were/are self-published or are put out by small, independent publishers. Most of them are long out of print, and few are promoted or distributed outside of dance circles, so finding the actual works or reviews of them is difficult.

Armstrong, Don. Contras. Los Angeles: Sets in Order American Square Dance Society, 1973.

"An excellent Caller/Teacher manual with a good selection of traditional and 'modern' contras. No music."
--Nevell, A Time to Dance, p.256

Briggs, Dudley T. Thirty Contras from New England: A Collection of Descriptions and Timed Calls for 34 Fine Contra Dances with 8 Chapters on How to Teach, Call and Dance Them.. Burlington, VT: 1953.

Not seen by this writer.

Brundage, Alfred & Merchant, Reuben. Contras Are Fun. Publisher unknown, 1952.

Not seen by this writer.

Burchenal, Elizabeth, ed. American Country Dances. New York: G. Schirmer, ©1918.

Contains diagrams and piano arrangements. Not seen by this writer. Burchenal was one of the foremost historians of folk dance.

Burchenal, Elizabeth, ed. American Country Dancing. New York: G. Schirmer, 1945.

Not seen by this writer.

Durlacher, Edward. Honor Your Partner: 81 American Square, Circle, and Contra Dances, with Complete Instructions for Doing Them. New York: Bonanza Books, 1949.

This title has illustrations and music. "Includes calls, terms, songs, and a special picture sequence section on square dance figures. Discography; bibliography."
--Karpell, Arts in America: A Bibliography, v.3, p.

English Folk Dance and Song Society. Community Dance Manuals, 7 vol. London: EFDSS, 1968.

"Primarily contra dances, many of which are danced in New England today."
--Nevell, A Time to Dance, p.256

Gadd, May. Country Dances of Today: Book 2. Northampton, MA: Country Dance and Song, 1951.

Amazingly, this $2.00 paperback from over 40 years ago is still in print. Not seen by this writer.

Gaudreau, Herbie. Modern Contra Dancing. Sandusky, OH: American Square Dance Magazine, 1971.

"Part of the 'Callers' Aid Series."
--Nevell, A Time to Dance, p.256

Gems: The Best of the Country Dance and Song Society Diamond Jubilee. Northampton, MA: Country Dance and Song, 1993

75 new dances, tunes, and songs written for CDSS's 75th anniversary in 1990. Includes contras, squares, and other dances from the US, Canada, England, and Denmark.

Gowing, Gene. Collection of American Quadrilles, Contras, and Rounds. American English Folkways, n.d. 18 pages.

"By a caller who ran many dances in the Monadnock region of New Hampshire."
--Nevell, A Time to Dance, p.256

Heffer, Marjorie & Porter, William. Maggot Pie: Country Dances, 2nd ed. Legacy Books, 1979.

This title is designed for use with younger audiences, grades 6 and up. Not seen by this writer.

Hinds, Donna. The Grumbling Old Woman: A Collection of Dance Music Compiled and Edited by Donna Hinds of Yankee Ingenuity. Bedford, MA: Hand to Mouth Music, ©1981

Hinds describes and gives the music for sixty reels, jigs, waltzes, slow airs, and quadrilles, along with a handful of dance instructions.

Holden, Rickey. The Contra Dance Book. Newark, NJ: American Squares, 1955.

"100 contras, illustrated. This book is used commonly today."
--Nevell, A Time to Dance, p.256

Jennings, Larry. Zesty Contras. Cambridge, MA: New England Folk Festival Association, 1983.

"A selection of 500 New England style dances, with a provocative explanatory text."
--Cover of book

Keller, Kate Van Winkle and Ralph Sweet. A Choice Selection of American Country Dances of the Revolutionary Era 1775-1785. Northampton, MA: Country Dance & Song, 1975.

Not seen by this writer. "Contains dances and tunes."
--Nevell, A Time to Dance, p.256

Kennedy, Douglas. Country Dance Book ... London: English Folk Dance Society, 1929.

Not seen by this writer.

Larkin, Ed. Contra Instructions. Montpelier, VT: Vermont State Department of Recreation, 1948

This pamphlet is probably hard to track down. Not seen by this writer.

Laufman, Dudley. Okay, Let's Try a Contra, Men on the Right, Ladies on the Left, Up and Down the Hall... Northampton, MA: Country Dance & Song, 1973.

"Contains original dances and tunes."
--Nevell, A Time to Dance, p.256

Linscott, E.H. Folk Songs of Old New England, 2nd ed. Hamden, Conn.: Archer Books, 1974.

"This fine collection of songs, giving words and music, information on the singer, and notes on the origin, includes also singing games and dances. . . an excellent addition to any folklore collection."
-- Reference Sources Review 3 (Jan/Mar. 1975): 18

Maddocks, Durward. Swing Your Partners: A Guide to Modern Country Dancing. Brattleboro, VT: Stephen Daye Press, ©1941.

This title includes a discography and bibliography. Not seen by this writer.

Millar, John Fitzhugh. Country Dances of Colonial America. Williamsburg, VA: Thirteen Colonies Press, ©1990.

Millar gives instructions and tunes for 203 longways (contra) dances and 47 square dances, with definitions and instruction for each dance figure. This title includes illustrations and patterns for authentic period costume, reproductions of drawings and prints of colonial-era dancers and dances, and other dance ephemera of the era. An excellent source of graphics for use in dance promotion.

Morrison, James E. 24 Early American Country Dances, Cotillions, and Reels. New York: Country Dance & Song Society, n.d.

"Contains music and a useful glossary."

--Nevell, A Time to Dance, p.256

Page, Ralph. Heritage Dances of Early America. Colorado Springs, CO: Lloyd Shaw Foundation, 1976.

Page gives twenty-five dances a full historical treatment, with instructions for steps in the original colonial English and in modern terms. Origins of each dance are included.

Page, Ralph. The Ralph Page Book of Contras. London: English Folk Dance & Song Society, 1969.

"Great tunes and dances, original and traditional."

--Nevell, A Time to Dance, p.256

Parkes, Tony. Contradance Calling.

Further bibliographic data could not be found at this writing (1993) for this title; not seen by this writer. Author is one of the leading contra callers and authorities.

Parkes, Tony. Shadrack's Delight. (see also nonbook works below)

Further bibliographic data could not be found at this writing (1993) for this title; not seen by this writer.

Parkes, Tony. Son of Shadrack and Other Dances. Bedford, MA: Hands Four Books, 1993.

"Contains 42 square, circle, and contra dances in the New England style, each complete with instructions, and teaching tips, and a brief glimpse into the inspiration for each dance."

-- CDSS News 113 (July/August 1993): S2

Playford, John. English Dancing Master. England: Dance Books/Princeton Book Co.: 1984.

Originally published in 1651, this popular and historic title has been reprinted continually over the centuries. Playford was the first to record the longways (contra) dances of the English countryside. All authentic contra dance reconstructions begin with Playford.

Porter, William Stevens, et al, eds. The Apted Book of Country Dances: Twenty-Four Country Dances from the Last Years of the Eighteenth Century with Tunes and Instructions. Cambridge, England: W. Heffer & Sons, Ltd., 1931

Not seen by this writer.

Rohrbough, Lynn, ed. Handy Country Dance Book; Country Dances, Quadrilles, Mountain Folk Dances, Favorite Square Dances. Delaware, O. [sic]: Cooperative Recreation Service, ©1941.

According to the bibliographic data in Performing Arts Books 1876-1981, part I contains longways dances from New England. Not seen by this writer.

Sannella, Ted. Balance and Swing: A Collection of 55 Squares, Contras, and Triplets in the New England Tradition with Music for Each Dance, 2nd rev. ed. Northampton, MA: Country Dance & Song, ©1990.

Sannella was a New England caller who is well-known for writing original contra dances. Not seen by this writer.

Sharp, Cecil. The Country Dance Book, 6 pts. in 3 vol. Reprint of 1909/1912 editions. Charles River Books: 1978.

Not seen by this writer.

Sweet, Ralph. Let's Create Old Tyme Square Dancing. Hazardville, Conn.: 1966.

"Illustrated, contains a bibliography and discography."
--Nevell, A Time to Dance, p.256

Tolman, Beth and Ralph Page. The Country Dance Book. 1937. Reprint: Brattleboro, VT: Stephen Greene Press, 1976.

"The book on New England contras, with great illustrations by F.W.P. Tolman."
--Nevell, A Time to Dance, p.256

Tolman, Beth. The Country Dance Party. Weston, VT: Countryman Press, 1937.

"A nice pamphlet on running a contra-dance party. Rare, since it has not been reprinted."
--Nevell, A Time to Dance, p.256

Country Corners: The Tradition of the New England Contra Dance [videotape]. Phoenix Films, ©1976.

"Documentary on contra and square dancing in New England, including a brief history illustrated by period iconography. Present-day dance groups are shown in action, among them the Ed Larkin Dancers, who perform in period costume. Callers Jack Perron, Dudley Laufman, and others talk about the revival of interest in contra dancing."
-- Bibliographic Guide to Dance, v.2, 1990, p.715

Parkes, Tony. Shadrack's Delight [cassette].

Further bibliographic data could not be located at this writing (1993); not seen by this writer. Available from the Country Dance & Song Society.

Playford, John. The Dancing Master, or Plain and Easie Rules for the Dancing of Country Dances...2nd ed., enlarged and corrected. [microform] London: Printed for John Playford at his shop ... 1653.

Rather than using a modernized reprint, the dance historian or researcher can consult the original in microform version.

The Second Part of The Dancing Master, or, Directions for Dancing Country Dances... [microform]. London: Printed for Henry Playford ... in Fleetstreet, 1696.


America: History and Life CD-ROM, 1982-1993, v.19-29, cABC-CLIO

BISON Online Catalog at SUNY/Buffalo

Books in Print Subject Guide 1992-93. New Providence, NJ: R.R. Bowker.

Charles, Dorothy & Joseph, Bea, eds. Bibliographic Index. New York: H.W. Wilson. Annual.

InfoTrac CD-ROM

James, Mertice & Brown, Dorothy, eds. The Book Review Digest. New York: H.W. Wilson Co, 1905- .

Karpell, Bernard, ed. Arts in America: A Bibliography. 4 vol. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, ©1979

Katz, Bill & Katz, Linda Sternberg. Magazines for Libraries, 5th ed. New York: Bowker, 1986

Performing Arts Books 1876-1981. Bowker, 1981.

Readers Guide with Abstracts on BISON. New York: H.W. Wilson Co., ©1983.

Reference Services Review [RSR], quarterly. Ann Arbor, MI: Pierian Press, 1973- .

Robinson, Doris. Music and Dance Periodicals: An International Directory & Guidebook. Voorheesville, NY: Peri Press, ©1989.

Rochester (NY) Public Library card catalog

Tarbert, Gary C. & Beach, Barbara, eds. Book Review Index: A Master Cumulation 1965-1984. Detroit, MI: Gale, ©1985

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