When I first started contra dancing a few months ago, I happened to be at the same time in the process of questioning my gender. During the pandemic I spent a lot of time alone (as did we all) and that led me to a good deal of introspection on my gender identity. Contra was one of the first spaces I started regularly attending in-person again, and as I began to meet new people, I became even more aware of how other people were seeing me and my gender presentation. On some days I feel more masculine, on others more feminine, and I realized I wanted to explore how I present that to the world.
I was introduced to contra with the language of Larks and Robins, and the understanding that it didn’t matter who danced what role. I very quickly began dancing both, mostly out of a desire to practice and learn, and to dance with as many new people as possible. But, as I switched back and forth between Lark and Robin from dance to dance, I found that it was also a beautiful and fun way to play around with gender. Just as I got to try out different ways of dancing, I was able to experiment with different modes of being and not feel confined to any one role.
I now feel comfortable identifying as genderqueer, and contra has been a big part of that for me. I’ve heard contra helps a lot of people with their self-confidence, and I can see why. For me, it helped me be able to see myself as not confined to one gender, and own that experience as valid. I’m so grateful to my home dance community for using Larks and Robins, because it signaled to me that this was a safe space where anyone was welcome, and as a result, joining the contra community has been an overwhelmingly positive experience.