Contra dancing is also called New England Folk Dancing, though from what I can find out it is danced all over the world and is really a mixture of a variety of similar styles of partnered folk dancing. There is usually a live band and a caller, but the nice thing is that before each dance the caller walks you through the steps one time which helps immensely. By the time the dance is over 10 minutes later you could do the steps in your sleep!
Some friends and I went last week for the first time and it was so much fun I could hardly stand it. My cheeks hurt from smiling so much, I was dripping with sweat, and I was so dizzy I finally had to sit one dance out. I loved the family-friendly old-fashioned atmosphere of dancing with friendly people, thanking your partner when the dance is through, gentlemen asking the ladies to dance, clapping for the band, and sharing cookies that the old ladies had baked that afternoon.
I will definitely be going back next month!