In Focus: Bemidji’s Community Contra Dance Series
The Rail River Folk School was the dance floor for Bemidji’s Community Contra Dance Series. For those who wanted fun, lively social dancing, it was the place to be.
“Unlike square dancing, you don’t need have to take lessons first. Nobody goes to contra dance lessons – they just show up to a contra dance,” said Bemidji’s Contra Dance Co-Founder Wendy Greenberg.
Greenberg has been dancing and calling contra dances for more than 20 years. She teaches the participants all the moves that are done to live music.
“In some dances, a lot of people already know what they’re doing and the caller has to just teach a little and get on with it,” said Greenberg. “In other dances, not too many people know what they’re doing yet, and the caller has to teach quite a lot.”
First timers are always welcome.
Earlier in the day, there was a musician workshop for local artists to learn how to play for contra dances.
One reason for the dance series is to help increase the popularity of contra dancing in Bemidji. Participant Ashlyn Daly recently moved to the area and says the contra dances have introduced her to new friends and have been a good way to exercise.
“It’s just a really good way to spread the arts,” said Daly. “Also, there’s just not a lot of dancing places where everyone can go and just dance even though they don’t know how to dance the dance.”
Contra dances work for people of any age, but you’ll need a partner.
A colleague recommended contra dancing to Joanne and John Henningsgaard, and they decided to try it out for the first time. They plan on coming back for more.
“I think we will strongly consider it, and we might even try to recruit some friends or something,” said John Henningsgaard. “It’s a fun, fun experience.”
This is the third of six dances that continue until December. The dance series is made possible through a grant from the Region II Arts Council.
“If you can walk in time to music, you can contra dance,” said Greenberg.