Swing in the new year at Ashokan dance camp


Time again to figure out what to do as the old year turns to the new: Go out and drink? Stay home and drink? Don’t drink at all? Talk someone into being your designated driver? Be someone’s designated driver? It’s enough to give one a pounding headache, even before too many different kinds of holiday cheer get mixed in one’s bloodstream.

If, like this author, you’re more than a bit wary of the preponderance of impaired people behind the wheels of cars on the road on the night of December 31, you may be looking for something to do that’s fun and festive without being totally focused on inebriation. In our neck of the woods, a good solution is offered by Jay Ungar and Molly Mason and their musical friends at the Ashokan Center in Olivebridge.

New Year’s at Ashokan is a multi-day extravaganza that can be enjoyed in its entirety or in chunks, depending on how much money you’re willing to spend, how much you love swing dance and live music and how badly you want to avoid driving anywhere on the scary night in question. The shortest of those chunks, the New Year’s Dance itself, runs from 8 p.m. to 3 a.m., only costs $25 and doesn’t require reservations. For $50 paid in advance, you can arrive at 6 p.m. and get fed dinner first: typically a feisty Cajun-style spread that’ll make you want to get up and move around, with accommodations for vegans.

The music at Saturday Night’s dance will be provided by two guest bands: the Cajun crew Jesse Lege & Bayou Brew and Tunescape, the latter poised to propel the dancers through a vigorous evening’s worth of New England contras, waltzes and squares. Jay and Molly and their band Swingology will also perform, featuring some truly topnotch swing jazz musicians: multi-instrumentalists Peter Davis and Dave Davies, bassist Harry Aceto and legendary cornetist Peter Ecklund. Even if you don’t have a speck of rhythm DNA in your body, when these performers start to wail, you will get up and dance. It’s a great way to sweat out whatever you’ve been imbibing – not to mention have some real fun.

If one evening doesn’t sound like enough, you can book a spot in one of the Ashokan bunkhouses for $375 for Friday and Saturday nights, $495 if you want to add Thursday. These prices also include all meals, late-night snacks and beverages around the clock, as well as live jams and instruction in both music performance and dance. Guest faculty will include Cajun dance specialist Erica Weiss, swing and blues instructors Cindy Overstreet and Steve Ryan and noted contra and square dance callers Vikki Armstrong and John Krumm.

Except for the New Year’s Eve Dance itself, advance purchase or deposits are required. Visit www.ashokan.org/ashokan/campnyrs.shtml for more details, or call (845) 246-2121. And if money is an issue, don’t let that stop you from kicking up your heels: Check out the procedure for applying for a work scholarship. Be safe and have fun!


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