Dancing Queens: The Contra Dancer


Megan North Shuford, 28
Social worker, Knoxville, Tenn.

Dancing is something that Megan started doing as a teen with her friends—just a simple free-form style. Since then it's been a high for her, a spiritual release, a way to blow off steam. Last fall, she ventured into a new kind of dance: contra dancing. Sort of like square dancing minus the square, couples move up and down facing lines to a caller's chant. "I love the energy and connection people can create together—and I've met great friends," Megan says. "It's opened me to couple dancing."

She also is more relaxed and feels less of a need to always be in control. "Before, I didn't want some dude telling my body where to go. But now, I'm learning how to follow." Megan dances once a week, 3 hours at a time—and keeps up the footwork at both home and work, bounding up stairs and stepping in circles while she waits for her lunch to heat. The result: more energy, more confidence, and 7 pounds lost. She's also started fiddling. "I want to understand how music and dance are put together, how it really works," Megan says. "When I'm dancing, I feel the absolute joy of being alive. I feel whole."

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