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Old men are the best dancers.

Contra dancers, I mean.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, let me explain: contra dancing is a kind of folk dance that involves music played by a live band and a leader who calls out specific moves. (Think square dancing, but without the country twang.) And though you may not have heard of it, contra dancing is actually quite popular in the Triangle area, with community dances held almost every weekend.

Still, I had no idea what to expect when I went contra dancing at the Carrboro Century Center last Friday. I was already disturbed that my friends insisted I wear a long peasant skirt. I was even more alarmed when, upon walking into the dance hall, an older man – probably in his sixties – approached me and asked, “First time?”

In a spasm of terror, I could not come up with a response. The man took my hand and dragged me to the center of the dance hall, which was now crowded with an array of college-aged students and senior citizens alike. The attire in the room consisted of an eclectic variety of skirts and knee length socks, and every pattern that has never been in style was well represented, from paisley to tie-dye. Shoes were apparently optional.

All of my instincts told me that this – all of this – was just wrong, but I found myself laughing as my partner took my hand, spinning me in all directions. The dance was complex, involving clapping and switching partners and even some improvisation. And it was actually fun.

Next weekend, before you decide to join the amorphous throng of alcohol-induced Party Rockers heading to Shooters, maybe you should consider trying something that goes against the norm. Even if you don’t dance, the people-watching alone will be well worth the trip.

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