Carolina Song & Dance Association (CSDA) -  Chapel Hill  / Carrboro / Durham / Triangle NC

Contradancing in the Research Triangle, North Carolina Area - Chapel Hill, Carrboro, Durham and Raleigh


The Carolina Song & Dance Association presents a regular contra dance and occasional workshops and concerts for the purposes of:

  1. stimulating public knowledge of and perpetuating traditional music and community dancing to live music and callers and
  2. providing employment for callers and traditional musicians . The musicians at CSDA dances are local, regional and occasionally from more distant locales. CSDA welcomes callers from all around the US.


Most events are held at the Century Center in Carrboro. Click here for directions and details.
You can always join our mailing list for the latest updates on the contra dances. Click here!

To learn more about contra dancing and CSDA choose your topic from below:

What is contra dancing?

Contra dancing comes from community gatherings in New England and began as traditional dancing brought to America mainly from the British Isles. Dances were held in public places like grange or town halls as well as in private homes. Within an evening of contra dancing there are several individual dances, each with a different sequence of figures virtually always done to live music. Many of the figures in contra dancing (partner and neighbor swings, do-si-do's, allemandes, ladies' chains, etc.) are shared with square dancing. The principal difference is that square dancing is done in sets of four couples arranged as squares and contra dances are most often done in lines of variable length where pairs of couples interact with each other through the dance's sequence of figures and then pass up or down the line to interact with the next couple. Around the 1980's, the popularity of contra dancing spread well beyond New England and it can now be found somewhere in virtually every state. Since the 1980's a great many new individual contra dances have been choreographed and contra dancing continues to evolve.
<Back to top of the page>

If you'd like to try contra dancing...

Newcomers are always welcome both as couples and as individuals at CSDA (and most) contra dances. At any given dance as many as a fourth of those in attendance may be there for the first time. Within an evenings dancing, each dance is "walked through" before being danced. Additionally, first timers are encouraged to attend the newcomers instruction session which starts at 7:30. Dancers usually dance with a variety of partners in the course of an evening, and experienced dancers are encouraged to help newcomers by asking them to dance especially the first two or three dances in an evening which are usually selected with the less experienced dancers in mind.

Contra dancing is an exuberant activity and attire for contra dances is usually casual with some consideration given, even in the dead of winter, to wearing a layer of clothes light enough to minimize overheating. Ladies most often wear skirts and for men, attire may be as informal as a pair of shorts and a T-shirt.

Minimizing wear and tear to the dance floor is an eternal challenge for dance organizers. It is considered thoughtful when dancers carry a pair of clean, smooth, softsoled shoes to change into after arriving inside the dance hall which minimizes the dirt and grit tracked into the hall and ground into the dance floor. Heels which focus much of one's weight on a fairly small area of the floor are detrimental to dance hall floor preservation.
<Back to top of the page>

Music used for contra dancing

The music for contra dancing is derived from a repertoire and instrumentation which has its origins in the traditional music of the Celtic Isles, Ireland, England and Scotland including the Shetland Islands and has been augmented by tunes originating in New England and both English and French-speaking Canada and, more recently, the southern US. The repertoire for contra dancing is made up primarily of tunes associated with fiddling and a contra dance band might include a piano, accordian, concertina, one or more fiddles, other stringed instruments, various wind instruments and percussion. As with the dances, the music continues to evolve and incorporates influences of different regions and periods. The music played at a modern contra dance may be derived from Celtic, Northeastern, Appalachian, other or multiple sources and range from tunes that date a century or more to modern compositions. The dance tunes played at CSDA dances are of Celtic, northeastern and (depending on the band) southern origin and tend towards the fairly traditional although the interpretations range from fairly authentic to a fusion of more modern styles. At most dances, the music is provided by bands such as In-A-Contra-Da-Vida, The Carolina Cut-Ups, the Jivetones, The Carolina Caterwaulers and at the March (St. Patrick's Day observance) dance, The Fabulous Shamrocks.

To hire live musicians or for further information on the bands which play at CSDA dances, visit
<Back to top of the page>

A brief history of CSDA

Buz Lloyd founded CSDA as a non-profit (although not IRS-designated 501(c) (3)) organization in 1982 and with the assistance of numerous volunteers, has produced dances, workshops and concerts in the Chapel Hill area and Durham for over 25 years. In the early 1980's, CSDA (originally the Carolina Square Dance Association) organized square dances in the Carrboro Elementary School auditorium and at Sudi's Restaurant in Durham. Around the mid 80's, the square dances were moved to the Presbyterian Student Center Fellowship Hall on Henderson St. in downtown Chapel Hill. In 1982 the Triangle Country Dancers began holding first one, then two contra dances a month at the Presbyterian Student Center. CSDA became the the Carolina Song & Dance Association and began holding regular contra dances at the PSC. Around 1990, CSDA's dances moved to the Watts St. Elementary School in Durham and then to the Carolina Friends School where the TCD dances had also relocated. Since then, CSDA dances have been held at the Estes Hills and Glenwood Elementary Schools in Chapel Hill before moving to their present site at the Carrboro Century Center where they are presented on the third Friday of each month.
<Back to top of the page>