Thanks to Hollywood, the popular mental image of the quintessential New Year’s Eve party is set in a Manhattan nightclub sometime in the 1930s or ‘40s, populated by handsome, sophisticated people all dressed to the nines, trading witty quips and swaying to the sounds of smoky jazz. Maybe it’s time for a bit of attitude adjustment regarding what exactly would constitute the ultimate fun way to ring out the old and ring in the new. Consider swapping the concept of “elegant” for “rustic” surroundings, with much more emphasis on dancing and almost none on drinking.
At the Ashokan Center in Olivebridge, you get to keep the jazz/swing part of your perfect New Year’s Eve atmosphere – plus Cajun and Zydeco music, blues and old-timey bluegrass, waltzes and contras. You can dance until the wee hours until you’ve burned off your hearty four-course dinner, and you don’t even need to rent a tux or look as sleek as Carole Lombard in a snug bias-cut evening gown.
As in years past, there are two ways to approach New Year’s Eve at Ashokan. For $25 per person – $50 prepaid with dinner – you can come to the Olivebridge campus for just the music and dancing, which will run from 8 p.m. to 3 a.m. Dinner starts at 6 p.m. Cajun and Creole music will be provided by the Revelers; hosts Jay Ungar and Molly Mason with their band Swingology will play swing, blues, contras, squares and waltzes; and the Russet Trio will play contras, squares and waltzes. John Krumm and Vikki Armstrong will be the dance callers for the New Year’s Eve Bash.
Or maybe, once Christmas is past, you need the total-immersion version to dance the stress out of your muscles and mind. For less than the price of that fantasy posh club date in the Big Apple, you can spend the better part of four days at Ashokan, enjoying workshops, performances, jams and dances presented by some serious pros.
If you’d like to hone your social dancing chops, you can learn the Lindy, West Coast swing and slow blues moves from Cindy Overstreet and Steve Ryan. Richard Newman and Amy Burns will teach Cajun and Zydeco dance. For wannabe musicians and singers or folks who just like to listen, there will be workshops, sessions, jams and song swaps with Jay and Molly, multi-instrumentalist Peter Davis, trumpet/cornet wizard Peter Ecklund, old-time fiddler Clelia Stefanini and more. Cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and ice skating on the beautiful Ashokan campus will also be available if the weather cooperates, but you need to bring your own winter sports gear.
The so-called Weekend Gala starts with check-in and dinner on Sunday afternoon, December 29 and continues through brunch and a midday Farewell Dance on Wednesday, January 1. The cost is $495 per adult with on-site accommodations, $455 if you live nearby enough to want to commute daily. Teens age 13 to 19 can come along for $320, children age 5 to 12 for $220 and kids under age 5 get in free. Three meals and a late-night snack will be served on each full day. Accommodations are in camp-style cabins, so you’ll need to bring a sleeping bag or sheets and a pillowcase if you’re staying over; a pillow and blanket are provided.
No reservations are required if you’re only showing up for the music and dancing on New Year’s Eve, but if you’re arriving for dinner or want the full Music & Dance Camp experience, you need to make a reservation and at least a deposit. To reserve or for more information, call (845) 246-2121, e-mail [email protected] or visit https://ashokan.org. To purchase tickets, go to https://ashokan.org/ashokan/camp.shtml.
New Year’s Eve Bash, Tuesday, December 31, dinner 6-8 p.m., dance 8 p.m.-3 a.m., $50/$25; Weekend Gala music/dance camp, Sunday-Wednesday, December 29-January 1, $495/$455/$320/$220, Ashokan Center, 477 Beaverkill Road, Olivebridge; (845) 246-2121, [email protected], https://ashokan.org.