John Holenko,
Contra Dance Encyclopedia
(Mel Bay, 2009)

It's not really an encyclopedia, as reference books go.

But John Holenko's Contra Dance Encyclopedia is an excellent resource for the musician with either a casual interest in the style or a more serious desire to put together a contra dance band of his own.

This slim volume is packed with information about the popular folk dance style and associated music. A fast read, it will give you a fairly complete picture of the subculture and, yes, you'll know pretty much all you need to know to assemble a band and arrange your own sets. Holenko presents the information in readable, easily digestible nuggets, and it won't take you long at all to become a fair to middlin' expert on the subject.

There is a substantial library of tunes, too, so pretty much all you'll need is a group of players -- and, of course, some dancers -- and you're ready to go. My only complaint here is the tight binding, which means you won't be able to plop this book down on your music stand and play. You should be able to photocopy the pages without doing too much damage to the spine, however.

It's not an encyclopedia. But Holenko has compiled an excellent handbook on contra dancing that should help this growing tradition to spread.

book review by
Tom Knapp

4 December 2010

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