The Community Contra Dance Series hosted by G.A.L.A. kicks off 2016 on Saturday, January 23, at the Wolfeboro Town Hall’s newly renovated “Great Hall”. Dances runs from 7:00 to 10:00pm, with the first half hour dedicated to a brief overview of the basic steps of New England contra dance.
Dances are a fun and energizing night out for all ages and abilities, even if you simply prefer to cheer the dancers on from the sidelines. The headline band for January’s dance is Brier Hill Band. Brier Hill has been playing local farmer’s markets and dances in the Wolfeboro/Ossipee area for the last four years. Named for one of the roads in Canaan Valley where they started playing, the band serves up standard New England dance tunes drawn from the French Canadian and British fiddle traditions that make up most of the contra dance repertoire. Brier Hill is comprised of Lane and Scott Evans, Patrick O’Hagin, Michael Haeger and Tim Morrison. Eric Rolnick will be calling the dance with the Brier Hill. Eric is from Conway, has called many G.A.L.A. dances, and has also performed at many Wolfeboro First Night events with the Caribbean steel band, Mango Groove.
Dance admission fees are as follows: $7.00 for adults, $5.00 for students and seniors, and $3.00 for children under 12. In an effort to protect the newly refinished wood floor in the Great Hall participants are encouraged to bring an extra pair of shoes for dancing that do not have a black sole. If you are unable to bring extra shoes there will be a brush at the door for you to remove dirt and snow before entering. G.A.L.A. is also looking to fill a few volunteer shifts for the dances this year if you are interested. For more information about this event or to sign up to volunteer visit their website at www.galacommunity.org, call the office at 603-539-6460, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The name “Contra Dance” refers to partnered folk dance styles, where couples dance in two facing lines. Contra dance is a hybrid of English country dances and French court dances. At the end of the 17th century, French dancers began to incorporate the English country dances with steps from their own court dances and in turn called these dances contra-dance, or contredanse. Many of the moves called out during the dance originate from the French terminology. The contra dance was very popular throughout America from the 1700’s well into the 1800’s, but with the arrival of the square dance, waltz, swing, and other forms of dance it’s popularity was mostly confined to rural areas. It is interesting to note that before the contra dance’s revival it was not known to be called a night of “Contra Dancing.” Rather it had other names such as: Barn Dance, Kitchen Junket, Old Timers Ball, and The Dance. These dances were held in church halls, grange halls, town halls, barns, and even places like kitchens and living rooms. There was a time in New England when contra dances were so popular that one band might be booked 6 nights in a single week!
There are a lot of reason to enjoy dancing, but here’s another fun fact – dancing is one of the more impressive ways to increase our brain’s cognitive reserve, something good for the brain at every age, but a particularly valuable protective force for maintaining cognition into old age. In a New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) study, dancing was found to reduce risk of dementia more than any other physical or mental activity studied. Bicycling and swimming, for instance, while excellent for the cardiovascular system, reduced the risk of dementia by 0%, as did playing golf. Reading reduced the risk by 35% and puzzling out crosswords at least 4 days a week, 47%. Frequent dancing, however, reduced the risk of dementia by 76%!
What does contra dancing have to do with G.A.L.A.’s commitment to sustainability? Well, aside from strengthening community relations, warding off cabin fever, and keeping the blood moving to stay healthy, G.A.L.A. is known to claim contra dancing as, “the most sustainable way to stay warm on a cold winters night”!