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Volume XVII, Issue 7 - February 12 - February 18, 2009
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You Make Me Feel Like Dancing

Where to get giddy, get sweaty, get away from it all — and just maybe get coupled

by Jane Elkin

What are you doing for Valentine’s Day this year? Chocolate? Flowers? Dinner?

How about dancing?

You say you’re single? Not a problem. Just ask Jan & Kim, Ken & Beth or Craig & Susanne, couples forged through dance. Singles and couples of all ages are finding fitness is more fun in pairs and set to music.

The Wing Nut Whirl

Beth and Ken Mayer forged their relationships through dance.

On a Saturday night, the Friends Meeting House in Annapolis pulses with contra dancers stomping to the music of the New Hip Trio. Energy is so high they fling open the windows to welcome the frigid night air. They come in couples and alone, in jeans and skirts, over 70 strong, their parallel rows growing so long they snake into the hallway. They promenade, balance and swing, do-si-do and chain their way up and down the lines, old friends and new acquaintances performing dances with imaginative names like the Wing Nut Whirl and the Fidelity Reel. The spirit is festive.

Newcomers and regulars come to the monthly dance for the friendly atmosphere, the rollicking music and the adrenalin rush.

“It’s fun, and there are a lot of attractive women. I enjoy spinning them and watching the looks on their faces,” says longtime devotee Steve Cory.

Yes, the room does have a tendency to spin after some of these sets. Dizzy novice or expert, all are welcome, and there are only three rules.

1. There is no right or wrong way to do it.

2. Have fun.

3. Flirting — and apparently there’s plenty of it — counts only off the dance floor.

The Fidelity Reel

Jan Scopel, president of the sponsoring Annapolis Traditional Dance Society, danced his way into partner Kim Forry’s life over a decade ago.

Craig and Susanne Sparks dance at their wedding.

“He asked if I’d like to get together and clog sometime. I thought it was the best line since would you like to come up and see my paintings?” says Forry, a club chairwoman.

Scopel knew he sounded corny, but, he says, “The words had a life of their own. I could just see the future at that moment, and some things are meant to be.”

Likewise, January’s dance caller Greg Frock met his wife at a contra dance. He proposed to her from the stage six months later.

Club members Ken and Beth Mayer, both alumni of Brown University, met 20 years after graduation, at Glen Echo’s Spanish Ballroom. She was en route home from a contra weekend in West Virginia when she stopped to catch the last set of the evening. Thus she met Ken. Two years later they married; they’re dancing happily ever after.

Dance with the Annapolis Traditional Dance Society on Feb. 21, from 7PM @ at the church on Dubois Rd.: Jan Scopel at 443-540-0867; annapolis.contra.dance@gmail.com.

For more American folk dancing, Janine Smith calls dances to the music of Ruben’s Train on March 28. Potluck dinner precedes 7PM dancing @ Galesville Memorial Hall: 301-926-9142.

Shall We Dance?

Partners are helpful but not required. Gender imbalance can swing in either direction, so don’t give up looking.

Free instruction precedes many events, but others rely on the simplicity of the early dances to enable newcomers.

Dress in cool, comfortable attire, and for folk dancing wear flat, soft shoes with non-marking soles. Most groups offer finger foods, or at least water. Drinking and dancing don’t mix, so other refreshments are BYOB.

Admittance at any of these events is $10 or less, roughly the cover charge to hear a band at any bar.

At the Hop

If the Lindy hop or jitterbug is more your style,

Gotta Swing, America’s largest swing dance instruction company, hosts its monthly open dances at the Annapolis Recreation Center. Husband and wife instructors Craig and Susanne Starks met as students of the company for which they now work. Their students are continuing the tradition: One couple was engaged at the Christmas dance. Gotta Swing attracts a diverse audience from teens to retirees. It takes about six months for a student to master swing dance, Starks says. But you can learn the basics in an evening.

Swing to a live band Feb. 28 at 8:30PM at the Annapolis Recreation Center on St. Mary’s St. at Compromise: susanne@gottaswing.com; 703-359-9882.

Strictly Ballroom

Alan Gedance danced his way into the hearts of two women at the Davidsonville Dance Club. But ill health made them both hang up their dancing shoes. Too few older women, he complains, are up for the rumba, merengue, waltz or foxtrot. If you’re one, you now know where to go.

The Davidsonville Dance Club alternates between ballroom and country dance — both led by experienced competitive instructors — every Saturday at 8pm in the Davidsonville Family Recreation Center on Queen Anne Bridge Rd.: 301-805-0771; www.davidsonvilledanceclub.org.

Beginning in March, Gedance hosts free monthly last Sunday dances to vintage swing recordings from 1940 and earlier, from 2 to 5PM at Davidsonville Family Recreation Center: 410-647-2374.


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