Folks who enjoy the exercise, fun and socializing afforded by contra dancing in these parts know the indefatigable Eric Hollman well. He has been organizing – and often calling – dances at least once a month in the New Paltz area and its environs for decades now. So a new dance led by Hollman on the agenda at the Rosendale Community Center is no big surprise, by itself. What makes the event scheduled for this Friday, February 3 so unusual is the fact that it’s not contra this time: It’s a gen-yoo-wine, old-fashioned cowpoke-style square dance.
“Oh, nooo,” I can hear some readers moaning, “not a square dance. I had to endure those in gym in middle school.” True, there was a time when “square,” as in “terminally uncool,” was the operative word in square dancing; but not so much anymore. The burgeoning popularity of country line dancing – which the recent remake of Footloose actually managed to make look sort of sexy – has brought lots more people back around to try configuring themselves in groups of four couples to do-si-do to the tunes of country/Western music and old-timey bluegrass.
Really, square and line dancing aren’t all that different. The patterns that the dance creates vary, depending on whether you’re proceeding up and down a line or crossing a square; and you might link arms with your partner differently in a contra-style promenade or swing step as opposed to a square-dance one. But the actual footwork is more or less the same. And if you learned a few basic moves back in your schooldays, you can easily pick them up again – plus a few new ones – during the practice session that invariably precedes a community dance.
Even if you have never tried your feet at square dancing at all, you’re highly likely to enjoy attending one of these grassrootsy events. In fact, even people like Your Humble Correspondent who would generally rather die a slow and painful death than “dance like no one’s watching” in public can have big fun at a square or contra dance. Not only is it excellent aerobic exercise, but it’s also the musical equivalent of speed-dating. As Hollman is fond of observing, where else can you have a different total stranger thrust into your arms every 30 seconds, in a safe and socially acceptable manner? Plus, the local bands who play at these dances are pretty much always topnotch musicians, whose impeccable sense of time can readily compensate for that fact that you may have been born without the Rhythm Gene.
Be at the Rosendale Community Center at 6 p.m. if you’re a newbie or your skills are a little rusty, and make a reservation by calling the Mountain Laurel Waldorf School in advance at (845) 255-0033, extension 400. The dance is a benefit for the School’s Class of 2012, with tickets going for $10 per person or $25 per family. Besides the dancing, music, “Delicious Grub” and a 50/50 raffle, the event will feature a Cowboy Costume Contest with local celebrity judges. If you play an instrument, you can feel free to bring it with you and join the band.
So dust off your cowboy boots, fringed vest and ten-gallon hat and sashay on down to Rosendale for some foot-stompin’ fun for a worthy cause. Visit https://mountainlaurel.org/communitysquare-dance for details.