In my very little spare time, after procrastinating for years (I first broached the subject of CDSS supporting community barn dancing with Brad Foster quite a number of years ago), I am quickly going to try to get the ball rolling.
In this letter, I am choosing to call this type of dancing “community barn dancing”, since contra and other dancing that CDSS has supported for generations is also in the category of ”community dancing"
Because my life is so busy (family dance series this afternoon, community dance series this Friday, etc, etc), I am going to give you a VERY BRIEF synopsis of what I hope will become a future of support by CDSS to community barn and family dancing.
(Just for a bit of background about me, my contra calling career included many nights of challenging dances, and I loved that repertoire. I also created and was director of the Dance Flurry Festival from 1988 to 2005. But I also have always loved to call family and community dances since the beginning of my calling career in 1986. A few memories as a dancer during the early years of “zesty contras” in the mid-1980s included being VERY UPSET on certain dance evenings when, for example, one caller ended a fun contra evening with the Virginia Reel, not a zesty contra; and also, one night when Dudley Laufman came to call at our local zesty contra series, and I found his dances to be too easy! And boy did I complain to my dancing friends!!! Now, I am in Dudley’s “camp”. Several years ago, as I found the contra community did not want to do circle dance mixers, squares, or easy contras anytime during a dance evening, I decided to retire as a contra caller and call only community barn and family dances. However, just so you know, I still occasionally show up at a contra series dance and usually have a great time dancing.)
I do realize that CDSS is showing more support than ever before to community barn dancing, and has supported family dancing for a long time. THANK YOU! I would like to now take this to the next level.
In the contra and English dance community, community barn dancing is often perceived as one of two ideas: an entry level/gateway to the “real” dances, or the “minor leagues” of contra and English, and of lower status. I know, because I was one of those folks!
My goal is to convince CDSS to bring community dancing up to the same status as contra and English.
There is a huge potential for increasing participation in dancing if CDSS can garner the population who likes to dance, but who do not care to become experts or to engage in the endorphin rush of the constant swirling and twirling and fast pace of many dances now. This also could be a great way to increase membership and support for CDSS.
One idea I had, based on a recent Eblast tidbit from Lynn asking for ideas for CDSS News articles, is to have one or two regular columns focusing on Community barn dancing, and also Family Dancing. At this point, I think the most important column to add is about community barn dancing. Many of my colleagues and friends tend to think of community barn dancing as family dancing. The differentiation that I and my colleagues see, however, is that family dancing is geared to families with young children, and community barn dancing is open to all ages, including children/families, but dances are not geared to youngsters. They are just easier dances with an emphasis on community rather than an emphasis on becoming a great dancer or getting into a zone with the newest zestiest dances and hottest dance bands.
My experience calling community barn dances over the last 30 years reminds me that with all the trends toward more and more complex dances in the contra and English world, the roots of dancing of the barn dance variety will always be there, especially in places where real communities exist, where neighbors or common communities like to gather. These include birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, events for food coops, outing clubs, churches, environmental groups, synagogues, office picnics, etc.
Dances like Spiral, Galopede, Virginia Reel, Circassian Circle, Heel and Toe Polka, Bridge of Athlone, Buffalo Gals, Duck for the Oyster, Listen to the Mockingbird, and many many others like this have been popular for 75 to 300 years for community barn dancing. With these types of dances, we are connecting to the same passion as our ancestors many generations back. Along with the dance repertoire, there is also a great repertoire of music which is no longer being played. Bands that love to play the old classics like Rose Tree, Golden Slippers, St Annes Reel, Soldiers Joy, Devils Dream, Road to Boston, Over the Waterfall, Angeline the Baker, etc, are rarely seen at most contra evenings. But they still play at, you guessed it, the Community Barn dance!
Anyway, I could go on and on, but need to get ready for today’s dance! Gosh, even the briefest of letters has gotten out of hand. Sorry!
This is just to get the conversation rolling, hopefully the start of a new era for CDSS!