Dancers join in the contra dance at the Moab Arts and Recreation Center. (Photo by Sarah Quigley/ Moab Sun News)

Once a month a friendly group of old timers, newcomers and tourists visit the Moab Arts and Recreation Center to indulge in a night of dancing. Age and skill mean nothing: It is a celebration of dance and community.

Everyone is welcome.

Miriam Graham, a member of the Moab Community Band, said that contra dancing is similar to square dancing, except the dancers are in lines. The dance form began in New England and spread out across the country.

“It’s an icebreaker,” said Peggy Harty, a contra dance caller. “Throughout the dance you change partners multiple times allowing you the opportunity to meet new people at every turn.”

Harty said contra dancing is made up of three M’s: “music, merriment, and mayhem.”

There is live music each month. The Moab Community Band volunteers to play tunes.

There merriment is evident as people talk and laugh together.

The mayhem comes from the newcomers trying to figure out the dance steps and laughing as they do.

Chris Layer organized the monthly event eight years ago.

He spoke with Cory Cox, who told him the history of social dancing that was popular in the 1870s and began to die out a hundred years later. Similar community dances had been held in Moab in the past.

Layer wanted to bring the community dance back. He interviewed Moab senior citizens to find out more.

“People in the community today have the same desire for community in the olden days,” Layer said.

Contra dancing is more than having fun with friends, old and new.

Each dancer is encouraged to make a $7 donation that is given to local charities, such as the schools’ music programs.

Contra dancing is a great form of exercise. It may not seem like it while dancing and enjoying the music, but one night of dance can equal a several mile walk.

For those who haven’t tried contra dancing, lessons are available at 7:30, with the community dance beginning at 8 p.m.

“Dancing with everyone is my favorite part,” Constanza said.

As for Bob, he needed to get out of the house and felt “what better to do.”