Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Folklife 2011 was Contra Dance Heaven

Hands four in rapid motion round a square
I woke with a classic contra dance hangover this morning. While opening my pupils readjusting them to that yellow thing hanging over a cloud in the sky, I was spinning to the merriment beat of fiddles looping back every eight beats.

On Monday, the last day of Folklife, I spent most of it dancing in the YouTube line smiling and waving between allemandes and do-si-dos at gawkers with I-and-Smartphones. I got a kick out of a couple boys who noted my Black Sabbath tee shirt with a thirty-five millimeter camera. I smiled and they gave me the familiar Ronnie James Dio devils horn salute. The day prior I wore an AC/DC shirt, but I wished I had a Slayer, or a Neurosis, or an Evoken shirt to illustrate the true contrarian dancer spirit while lining up in long opposing lines of gender.

Contra dance pictures are blurry by nature
Don’t get me wrong; I am just as impassioned by the musical tools of backwoods and countryside musicians of the seventeen, eighteen hundreds as I am by an amplified wall of sound generated by the post-rock musicians that create metal today.

On Saturday, I heard the best contra band play yet. Their sound was medieval and when they began hammering the strings of the dulcimer and tribbing the bow across the strings of the fiddle and tooting on a reeded horn, I was transported down into the underbelly of Thulsa Doom’s temple. I was right there in the thick of battle between Doom’s goons and Conan the Barbarian. Allemandes became parries, lines forward and back became reprise and retreat, and swings became elegant dagger dances for dominance.

A painted face only cost five bucks
This is music for me. Each style has an embedded narrative woven in the patterns musicians play. During the final hour of the waltzes, the music reminded me of Warner Brothers’ cartoons. This is often the case with ballroom style dances. I’m either in Looney Tune skit or I’m on the decks of the Love Boat chatting it up with a beautiful lady nervously looking over my shoulder in hopes to avoid the captain.

Warren's Road House was chock full of eager dancers. Putting the dance floor away, that I spent 21 hours on over four days, Monday night was a sad way to conclude Folklife 2011. But I couldn't just walk away at nine o'clock. I needed to touch the hallowed floor one last time.

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