After attending a community square dance this past Saturday night, I came away with this epiphany: If everyone learned to square dance, the world would be a better place.
How lucky am I, that I live in the Catskills, where square dancing is making a comeback. Where the fiddler and caller bring together folks from both sides of the fence: young or old, local or Brooklynite, farmer or freelancer, Democratic or Republican. It doesn’t matter.
For a couple of hours, strangers link arms and all judgement gets stomped away.
For those of us on the sidelines, not quite ready to dive in to a square, it’s easy to witness the growing joy as dancers, both experienced and newcomers, twirl and laugh as they attempt to follow the calls. Sounds coming from the fiddles, banjo, bass and guitar take over, and for a few moments all of us in attendance forget our problems. We forget our differences. All that matters is the music and the dance.
Most would agree that any kind of dancing to live music can induce this sort of swirling, breathless joy – if we let it. What sets square dancing apart is that the dancers must leave the comfort zone of dancing with a friend or a partner, and eventually reach out to someone they don’t know.
Especially at a square dance like Saturday’s. Thanks to the event -spreading wonder that is social media, both the local community and city folk heard about a chicken BBQ and square dance taking place at Dirty Girl Farm, the smallest licensed goat milk dairy in Delaware County, NY. Owners Lester Bourke and his wife Cindi Wright are the quintessential salt of the earth. I really could write an entire article on what they have going on over in Andes, and probably will, one day.
For now, I will say they welcomed everyone onto their property, into their barn. Chicken and salads were served, and dessert by Two Old Tarts sold out. This chicken BBQ even had a vegetarian option! Also, a portion of the proceeds went to the Andes Food Pantry. The Facebook invite went something like this.
“Inviting neighbors and visitors to an old time evening of square dancing story sharing, eating and good fun. Featuring the Tremperskill Boys with callers and fiddlers John Jacobson and Dane Scudder sponsored by Catskills Folk Connection.”
Coming across the invite rather late in the week, after I had already planned on setting up shop at the railroad crossing in Halcottsville, to witness a group of well-dressed New Yorkers from And North pass through my cute little hamlet on a party train, I almost didn’t go. Then, a storm whipped up. The weather wasn’t looking good for an outdoor photo op.
Ironically, I have not been to a square dance since I was in 5th grade gym class, but I have promoted several square dances for a client of mine, Ben Rounds. He is an experienced caller and teacher, and often returns to his hometown in Chenango County to host square dances.
So…ever answering the call of country music and a cook out, my family decided last minute to go to Dirty Girl Farm for the square dance. Though I couldn’t find my cowgirl boots, at least I found my hat. My daughter had her boots, and so did my husband. Off we went.
And I am so glad we did. I saw people I had not seen in such a long time. Even though sometimes we don’t have everything in common, we have enough. Hugs, handshakes and stories filled the night. The goats and the kids, the fiddles and the dancers all provided a backdrop to a carefree evening in the country.
At one point a friend of mine, Karen Caskey Fairbairn, Program Director for the Roxbury Art Group that just so happens to be hosting the amazing Fiddlers! 26 concert and square dance, looked to the dancers and leaned over to me, saying “Everyone seems so happy.”
That’s when it dawned on me, everyone IS happy. In this moment. Happy to be stumbling their way through a group dance on a plywood dance floor on the second story of a sixty year old barn. At a goat farm.
For a few hours, there was unity, despite the odd mix of hipster and farmer, conservative and hippie, carnivore and vegetarian. News of the recent shootings hadn’t yet spread. Even if it had, I believe it would have made the dancing even more necessary, a reminder that life hangs on a thread, and we need to make the best of every day; dance every chance you get.
For detailed info on the upcoming Fiddlers! 26 FREE performance, click here. Save the date, October 13.
Looking to host a square dance, or square dance lessons? Contact Ben Rounds here.