Traditional Arts in Upstate New York. Traditional Arts of Upstate New York
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Canton, NY 13617
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Community Contra Dances

Of Recent Interest

TAUNY, the St. Lawrence University Greenhouse, and the Sustainable Living Project/Local Living Festival are again joining efforts to present the...

Community contra dances are on hold as we explore funding sources.
If you are interested in supporting/underwriting this community event, please contact Camilla Ammirati.

These community events offer an evening of energetic, easy-to-follow social dancing to live traditional North Country and Celtic fiddle tunes. Beth Robinson teaches and calls contra, Quebecois, and circle dances, while award-winning fiddlers Don Woodcock and Gretchen Koehler provide live music. People of all ages are welcome. TAUNY, the SLP, and the Greenhouse began the dances as an opportunity for students and the broader community to come together for a healthful, community-building event that carries on the tradition of country barn and social dances. They are happy to be continuing the dances this academic year.

The dance organizers are also pleased that Don Woodcock and Gretchen Koehler will return as the dance musicians this year. Don Woodcock, who received a North Country Heritage Award from TAUNY in 1997, holds the title of Grand Champion Fiddler of New York State, having won the state championship contest three times. He was inducted into the North American Fiddlers Hall of Fame in Osceola in 1987. Gretchen Koehler has won fiddling championships in nine states and three provinces. She has been teaching fiddling since the age of 14, and continues to teach and run the Potsdam Fiddle Club. Koehler and Woodcock have performed together throughout the North Country, along with Koehler’s sister Rebecca, as The Fiddlers Three, and released their first CD together in 2010.

Contra dancing is a traditional form of social dancing, first brought to the North Country by settlers from New England. Also known as “longways” dancing, it features dancing in "sets" or lines of about a dozen couples. Dancers interact with their partners, and everyone else in the set too, as they dance with easy walking steps to energetic, live music. A caller first explains the movements and then prompts dancers throughout the dance (as in square dancing). Many of the movements used in contra dancing are shared with square dancing. 

Anyone wishing a lesson may arrive at 7:30 p.m.; the dance will run from 8 to 10 p.m. No partner is necessary to join in the fun. Please wear soft-soled shoes and bring water to this alcohol-free event.

The Sustainable Living Project/Local Living Festival encourages sharing and life-long learning for local self-reliance, energy independence, environmentally friendly living, and a vibrant self-sustaining community. The Greenhouse works to create stronger and more sustainable communities on St. Lawrence University campus and the North Country. TAUNY is dedicated to showcasing the folk culture and living traditions of the North Country.

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