An American free-love version of the stately English Country dance and also related to the French Quadrille, the Contradance is a form of American folk dance that can best be described as a Square Dance... without the squares. Dancers are arranged in sets of four and these sets of four are arranged in lines. The basic set of four dancers will generally consist of two males and two females in couples1. One couple will face up the dance hall towards the band2 and one couple will face down the hall, away from the band.
The set of four dancers will dance a pattern that may consist of walking in a circle, passing by one another, star formations, chains, etc. When they are done with the pattern, they will move on in their original direction and dance the same pattern again with the next couple they face. They will do this again and again until they come to the end of the line, at which point, they will simply turn around and re-enter the dance going the other way.
Contradance is a very popular and lively dance form. Dances are held in most communities around the United States on a regular basis. The form of dance flourishes, however, in New England and the Appalachian Mountain area3. Dances are often considered community affairs and all ages and all skill levels dance together as one large group.
There's always a live band at a Contradance and the music is usually provided by an old-time fiddle band; but it may also be Irish- or even jazz-based. Whatever music is played, it must have a steady beat for the dancers to follow.
Contradance is considered an active art form, as opposed to an old form or historical art form, as dances and songs are still being written and introduced into the repertoire.