Saturday, November 21, 2009

Ode to the Contra

Sometime back in February I saw a sign for a "community dance -- squares, contras, waltzes" and decided to attend. I remember feeling awkward and nervous as I met new people, and I had been in the county only three weeks or so. But once we started dancing the nervousness yielded to the happiness of doing folk dances I knew perfectly well, and I met a few of my first non-church friends. As the evening went on I offered to sit in on one tune so the other bassist could dance.
Here I am, now, two weeks from the end of my time here. We had a dance tonight, and my position in it was significantly different from that first dance. Tonight I had organized the band, borrowed and set up the sound system; I called 80% of the dances, played 30% of the bass lines, and locked up afterward. We had upwards of 30 dancers, nearly a dozen musicians (despite everyone's earlier insistence that they could not come!), and a rocking good time.
I will eternally be grateful to the Wallowa County community dance group, for they welcomed me, invited me to try calling, challenged me to do more, and finally just gave me a push and said "you can do it." I admire them for running such a truly wonderful dance (nearly monthly, and always with live music) and keeping it populated by so many young people -- in such a small rural county! They are talented, committed and unabashedly FUN people.

I am also grateful for the gift my parents gave me, by rooting me in folk dance. Whenever someone asks how I came by so much dancing knowledge, I explain the scenario: imagine me at 9 months old in a car seat at a folk dance, plopped down underneath the piano, as my mom plays the pedals with one foot and rocks my seat with the other. The music and dance is in my blood! And this has given me an "in" in so many places... when I went off to college I already knew someone in the area (the ladies on the morris team, which I joined, of course)... when I studied in Prague I found respite from the challenges of conversing in Czech, by Scottish Country Dancing which needed few words... I am grateful for being part of the dance community. The folk world is a blessedly small one: tonight a visiting musician from LaGrande and I compared pasts, and discovered that many years back (and in different years) we both were taught how to morris dance by the same person. Beat that for non-biological family connections!

Some days I have to rack my brains to come up with a gratitude list.
Tonight there is no such problem.
Thank you for dancing!

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