Traditional Arts in Upstate New York. Traditional Arts of Upstate New York
53 Main Street
Canton, NY 13617
(315) 386-4289

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TAUNY, the St. Lawrence University Greenhouse, and the Sustainable Living Project/Local Living Festival are again joining efforts to present the popular Community Contra Dances. The first of the series will be held on Friday, September 30, in the St. Mary’s School gymnasium, located on Powers Streets (off Court Street) in Canton.

These community events offer energetic, easy-to-follow social dancing to live traditional North Country and Celtic fiddle tunes. People of all ages are welcome.

Providing live music will be “The Dynamic Duo and the Incredible Houk,” made up of three talented North Country musicians: champion fiddlers Don Woodcock and Gretchen Koehler and bassist Carter Houk. 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 currently teaches and runs the Potsdam Fiddle Club. Since the 1960s Carter Houk has played guitar, bass, and bass fiddle with a number of local bands, including more than 40 years playing in the Classic Country Band with Woodcock.

Beth Robinson, the dance caller, has over 20 years of calling experience across New England and Canada, including as the regular caller for dance series in Saranac Lake and Saranac. She has studied and called Quebecois social dances in Ottawa and Montreal, and is skilled at making the events accessible and exciting for anyone wishing to dance, from absolute beginners to experienced dancers.

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. Admission is by suggested donation of $10 for adults, $3-$5 for students, and children under 16 free.

No partner is necessary to join in the fun. Please wear soft-soled shoes and bring drinking water to this alcohol-free event. For more information email info@tauny.org or call (315) 386-4289.

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 in the North Country. TAUNY is dedicated to showcasing the folk culture and living traditions of the North Country.


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