(Ossipee, NH) The Community Contra Dance Series continue hosted by Global Awareness Local Action (G.A.L.A.) continues on Saturday, February 28th at the Ossipee Town Hall Gymnasium (55 Main Street, Center Ossipee). 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 February’s dance is Puckerbrus, a lively quartet of musicians who live in the puckerbrush of northern New Hampshire and western Maine. They play acoustic music from the Old-time, Celtic and French Canadian traditions, with a little bit of Klezmer and Nordic music showing up at times. The band is made up of Shana Aisenberg, from Wolfeboro NH, playing fiddle and mandolin; Gale Johnsen, from Porter ME, on fiddle; Peter Kimball, from Ossipee NH, on guitar; and Candace Maher, from Eaton NH, playing accordion, cello, flute, and penny-whistle. Eric Rolnick will be calling the dance with the Puckerbrush. Eric is from Conway and you may have also seen him with the Mango Groove Caribbean steel band.
There are a lot of reason to enjoy dancing, but here’s a fun fact – It now appears that 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%!
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!
What do Contra Dances 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”!
Dance admission fees help to pay the band and cover outreach material, and are as follows: $7.00 for adults, $5.00 for students and seniors, and $3.00 for children under 12. The rest of the dances in this year’s series will take place April 25th and May 23rd. There will be no March dance. For more information about this event, or G.A.L.A.’s other programs, including Sustain-A-Raiser, Study Circles, and the Re-skill-ience Workshops, check out their website at www.galacommunity.org, call the office at 603-539-6460, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.