Monday, February 28, 2011

Country Dancing In NY

The sound of fiddles and foot stomping may be the last thing you expect to hear at the Chinatown YMCA. Nevertheless, every weekend Country Dance New York turns the basketball courts in to a country dance hall filled with jigs, reels and plenty of swinging your partner. Make no mistake: this is not square-dancing. These patterned formations, with couples weaving in and out, have a history rooted in English folk dance.

Country Dance New York uses two varieties: English Country which travelled to the United States with the colonists (see Bingley's ball in BBC's "Pride And Prejudice") and its less traditional American cousin, the contradance, which plays fast and loose with music and movement) much like Scarlett's scandalous dance at the wartime charity ball in "Gone With The Wind").

Though their popularity may have peaked in the 1800s. the organization has managed to keep the dances alive in the city for more than 50 years, with weekly English nights on Tuesdays and contras on Saturdays. And, this Sunday, precision and passion will take the floor at the group's Yuletide Cotillion, one of a handful of evenings for seasoned English dancers to strut their stuff, or rather chasse in soft soled shoes.

David Chandler, president of the group, said that he loves the English style for its complexity and variety, but that he also loves contra because he gets to swing his partner, and right now "that's what the modern taste is." Adapting to modern tastes may be one reason the group has seen a rise in younger over the last five years. Less traditional music, new choreography and even social changes keep the membership evolving. (NYT)

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