The Historic Jonesborough Dance Society opens its eleventh year with a contra dance on Saturday. The event will be held at the Jonesborough Visitors Center at 7 p.m. featuring the Asheville band, “The Stuff,” with Jacob Legrone calling the dance.
Admission is $7 for newcomers, $5 for HJDS members and $5 for full time students. A class for newcomer contra dances will run from 7-7:30 p.m. The dance will run from 7:30-10:30 p.m. with a Klondike Bar break at 9 p.m.
“The Stuff” unites two friends who have played for contra dances in the area for many years. The band consists of Gretchen Caverly on fiddle and Nic Coker on guitar. Coker also plays for Boom Chuck and Spinning Wheel, which performed at a recent Jonesborough contra dance.
Jacob Legrone comes to the event from Charlotte. Jacob first discovered contra dancing at the John C. Campbell Folk School over 16 years ago, and has been dancing ever since.
While attending college at the University of South Carolina, Jacob served on the board of Columbia Traditional Music and Dance, and founded the Carolina Contra Club, a student organization dedicated to developing a strong community of young dancers.
Jacob is a regular caller and active member of the Charlotte dance community. He is known for putting together programs that incorporate modern contras with great flow, while catering to all levels of dancers on the floor. In addition to contras, Jacob can teach traditional squares, waltz, swing, shag and salsa on request.
Contra dance is a form of American folk dance in which the dancers form a set of two parallel lines that run the length of the hall. Each dance consists of a sequence of moves and steps that ends with the couples having progressed one position up or down the set. All dances are taught by the caller. No partner is necessary and you are encouraged to dance with as many different people as possible.
Many of the basic moves resemble square dancing — swings, allemandes, do-si-dos — but contra dances are more of an amusement park ride. A square dance set is comprised of only four couples, whereas the length of the hall only limits the number of couples in a contra dance set. To join a set, only a partner and soft-soled shoes are necessary. All that is left is to have fun dancing. Attendants are encouraged to dress comfortably and stay hydrated with lots of water.
Today, contra dancers in groups of two pairs begin the dance in two long lines of facing partners. Each group of two couples steps through the dance one time before progressing either up or down the line to dance with a new couple. The eight to ten figures in a dance are then repeated. Participants dance with everyone in the line. New dance figures have been developed by choreographers, yet some of the oldest dances are still popular.
Dancers practice the dance in a “walk through” instructed by a caller who will continue to cue the dance once the music starts until it is well learned. Dancers today add their own flourishes and especially enjoy the opportunity for flirting that the dance provides.
Children often pick up dancing more readily than adults. Newcomers often dance an entire evening when they discover how easy it is to learn the figures and how much help is available from others. Lately more and more teen-agers and young adults are filling the ranks along with the baby boomers and grandparents.
For more information on Saturday’s dance or any upcoming events, please call David Wiley at 423-534-8879 or visit www.historicjonesboroughdancesociety.org. or Historic Jonesborough Dance Society on Facebook.