circle dance camp

CircleDanceCamp2013-flierI attended west coast circle dance camp at the end of June, in Aptos, California at Monte Toyon Camp. This event, now in its 23 year, draws people from California and all over the world. Sacred circle dance is ancient, traditional, and modern dance from around the world, danced to a variety of music. The dances are done in circles, obviously. Most are group dances in that everyone is doing the same movement, but a few are partner dances where you interact with one person and then move around the circle to the next. The purpose of the dance, for me, is centering in myself, and enjoying the presence and energy of the other dancers. Some of the dances, in both movement and music, transport me to other times and places.

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dancing

9: Saw In the Next Room at CapStage, very funny and enjoyable, great acting. So many great plays in Sacramento.

11: Did a day full of dancing, historical dancing with Leilani and Robert (Sacramento Ballroom Society), just beginning to learn about Redowa, a kind of waltz, and doing a part of the Fledermaus Quadrille. Then to the waltz workshop with Rich Albanese, this first one a review for me but as part of a series of four, I’m expecting some new things as well. Then the regular Sacramento contra dance, a good evening with a room full of lively dancers and the superb calling of Joyce Miller and the superb playing of Hot Cider.

17: Danced in Davis, another contra sponsored by the Sacramento Country Dance Society, with a lot of newcomers. After a long dip in attendance, many of the regional dancers seem to be experiencing a resurgence, with larger crowds than I’ve seen in a while.

18: Took my Brompton to Channel Wasson in Palo Alto to get a rear rack added. With all the folding and unfolding and travel my bike sees, the fender with a little wheel was just not standing up to the abuse, and the rack should be much more stable and long lasting. I bought my bike from Channel about 16 months ago, and it is always a pleasure to take it back and just talk.

Then some time with my friend Michael in Oakland, and off to the BAERS (Bay Area English Regency Society) Cyprians Ball at the Elks Lodge in Alameda. The ball was an evening of waltz and country dances taught by Alan Winston. Slower and more elegant than contra dancing, and enjoyable in its own way.

The weekend in the bay area was all getting around on Amtrak, BART, Caltrain, and my bike. I love being able to do this, it just all works. Every place ought to work so well.

weekend in the foothills

Last weekend I went to Nevada City for the Foothills Country Dancer’s monthly dance at Oddfellows Hall. The dance has just in the last two months become significantly more popular, and the hall is now full of wonderful dancers, beginners, returnees, experienced people, of all ages. This has always been my favorite dance, but now it is even more fun. Thank you to the organizers, the callers, the band, and my carpool buddy Karen.

Manzanita
Manzanita on Indian Ridge trail

Sunday morning I went hiking and biking, both, in Empire Mine State Park in Grass Valley. Though obviously the theme of the park if the mining heyday of this area, there is a lot of healing nature (nature in the process of healing, and healing of people) to be found. I spent a while just sitting on the bridge over Little Wolf Creek. After the first part riding my bike, I locked it up and went hiking on the north side of the park, along Pipeline and Indian Ridge trails.

The Spider and the Fly

In the afternoon I attended the house concert hosted by Joyce and Dan. The music was Sylvia Herold and the Rhythm Bugs. Wonderful music, a combination of swing, jazz, and a more, all done with precise musicianship and wonderful voices. The concert was almost entirely from the group’s newly released album, The Spider and the Fly. It was fun, and left me feeling great. Joyce and Dan have been doing these house concerts for quite a while, but this was the first one I’d made. It won’t be the last. The concert was attending by quite a number of people from the Grass Valley / Nevada City community, some of whom I already knew and many I didn’t.

 

Many travels

I’ve been busy since my last post. I finished up work in Carson City, and started summer break from my job in Sacramento. I completed instructing a Traffic Skills 101 bike skills course in Reno. Went to Sacramento and the bay area for friends and dancing (Felton contra and Gaskell Ball). Met Larry and Roger Mowbray for a bike ride along the Truckee River. Took a short backpack in the Carson Range, including the night of heavy rain. Attended the play “Or,” in Sacramento and spent time with the Steampunk group inventing a cog dance. Went to the five day sacred circle dance camp at Valley of the Moon camp in Sonoma County. Spent a day in San Francisco with my high school friend Alaina. Visited my mom and sister in Las Vegas. Went for another short backpack in the Carson Range. And just to bring things back around, had a wonderful picnic hike with Danita in Ash Canyon. Whew! All that in five weeks.

I am using Facebook a bit more than before. I don’t really keep up with either, but some is better than none.


sacred circle dance camp

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Spring Equinox

I’ve fallen a month behind on posts, so I’ll catch up here today.

Peony Peak
Peony Peak

Spring Equinox

Yesterday, March 20, was the spring equinox. It is hard to believe, as it was a grey cold day, and today is snowy and colder. Despite that, I walked up Peony Peak, my favorite local walk, and often though not always destination on the equinoxes and solstices. Being Sunday, there was much less noise from the freeway, so it was a quiet day of watching. The clouds were down over the Carson Range, and around the valley’s edge, making the valley seem even more of an enclosed bowl than it already does. I’ve been in California several times over this last month, and there it has been spring for a while, though a rainy spring, and it is sometimes hard to come back to winter in Nevada.

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San Francisco weekend

Another great weekend in California. Sometimes I forget that I live in Nevada, and that I have a job here, but I’m having so much fun on these weekends in California, that I sort of want to forget.

I went to the Friday Night Waltz in Palo Alto for the first time, and quite enjoyed it. It is about 1/3 waltz and the rest a variety of other social dances, a few of which I know how to do or can fake, and several I just watched. The dancers are a group of young high school / college age who know each other, and middle aged dancers, a few of whom are also contra dancers. I wouldn’t go to the bay area for just this dance, but I’d certainly go again if I happened to be in the bay area on a Friday night.

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Nevada City weekend

Hoyt Pool on the South Yuba River
Hoyt Pool on the South Yuba River

February 5th & 6th I had a wonderful weekend in Nevada City and Grass Valley. Friday night I went to Georgia Wright’s dance party in Reno, which was poorly attended but had the benefit that I got a lot of practice with Georgia, who is the instructor with Veto of the ballroom dance class I’m taking in Carson City. Then I headed over to California and slept out in the forest above Nevada City. I had breakfast at the South Pine Cafe in Nevada City, good food and a nice way to start the day. I’d never been there before, since I most often eat breakfast at Lisa and Eric’s.

Saturday I did some shopping (mostly window shopping) and went to Gold Mountain tea shop to get some tea and a tea thermos for Danita. Then I went hiking on the South Yuba River north of town. The day was beautiful, surprisingly warm as I hiked up the south facing slope above the river. I cleaned up after the hike and went to…

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Sacramento Zesty Contras

I attended the Sacramento Country Dance Society Zesty Contra dance on January 29. The band was Bandemonium, which is Eric Anderson and Lee Anne Welch from Seattle, and the caller was Spider Vetter. The dance, held at the usual Sacramento location of Coloma Community Center, which is an old school with a nice dance floor. Some dances were taught, some not, some dances were easy, some challenging, and some just awkward.

I had taken zesty to mean higher level dances, sometimes without walk-throughs, however, Joyce Miller and I had a long conversation about the meaning of zesty last weekend (in Grass Valley), and she informed me that the term actually comes from Larry Jennings who published a book called Zesty Contras in 1983 (NEFFA, out of print). Unfortunately I can’t find a copy or the text online, so I can’t read how Larry defined zesty, but Joyce said that the key point is dances called and danced with enthusiasm.

Contra Carnivale 2011

Contra Carnivale dancers swinging
Contra Carnivale dancers swinging

Contra Carnivale was the weekend of January 14-16 in San Luis Obispo. This was my second time attending, I think, though this and Harvest Moon get mixed in my mind, and it could be three times. Because the dance weekend is on the three-day Martin Luther King weekend, dancing goes through Sunday evening instead of Sunday afternoon as most dance weekends, and that extra dancing makes for a more intense weekend.

The bands were Latter Day Lizards, Wild Asparagus, and Syncopaths. I enjoy listening and dancing to all three bands, but the Lizards manage to drive the dancers to ecstasy. The callers were Lisa Greenleaf, Seth Tepfer, and George Marshall (who also plays with Wild Asparagus). Again, all are great but Lisa blends in so well that she is not noticeable except that every dance goes smoothly, and at the end, I think, “that was a great dance.”

My favorite parts? An hour and a half of waltzing every morning. Hanging out with the Grass Valley / Nevada City folks who I so much enjoy dancing with on their home ground as well. Hanging out and flirting with Pascale. Seeing Ann again after many years. Dinner with Art. The beautiful eyes of women.

Contra Carnivale, Grass Valley friends
Contra Carnivale, Grass Valley friends

Talking with people at dinner, I said that a contra dance weekend contains as much joy as some people experience in their lives, either because the joy is not available to them, or more likely because they turn their back on it. Thinking about it since, it resonates even more strongly. I am blessed to have the time, the money, the health, to do these contra dance weekends a few times a year.

I went down and back on Amtrak, and mostly walked to and from the dance sessions. On the trip down I ran into and talked with a contra dancer Donna, proving the small world effect. I stayed the weekend at Hostel Obispo, which is fun in an of itself, and also an affordable way to the dance weekend.

Photos on PicasaWeb. Again, I’m using my iPhone without a flash, so the dance photos are blurry and the others less crisp than they could be, but I’m more likely to grab photos with my iPhone than to remember to bring and use a camera with flash.

Contra calling

On Saturday night I called the Sierra Contra Dance Society contra dance in Reno. This was my first full dance outside of Carson City, and I was pretty nervous about it. But is went well!

I’ve shared a number of dances with Darla and George in Carson City, but this was the first for which I programmed the entire evening. I called Baby Rose, Lucky 7, Reel Easy, Salmon Chanted Evening, Box the Gnat, Flirtation Reel, Dip and Dive, and Chama River Reel. I tried to call Riding the Waves, but didn’t do well at the walk through and abandoned it before we danced, probably not quite quickly enough. I need to practice this one more before trying it again.

I had noticed all fall that during the waltzes, which at the last dance before break and the end of the evening, very few people were dancing and most people were sitting out. A lot of people think that they can’t waltz, or that waltz is hard, but I think that almost anyone can learn to waltz and at least do an acceptable level. So I offered a brief waltz workshop, including some etiquette, the 6-count step, the frame with partner, traveling, turning, and cuddle. And then we waltzed! All but two people waltzed, and all did well. It was such a job to me to see a room full of waltzers with smiles on their faces. People were very pleased with what they could do. I received many thanks, and some requests for more workshop. For those of you who have heard me talk about waltz, I have almost a missionary zeal about it, enjoying it more than any other dance. Though I can’t explain it, yet, I sense that there is some physical, emotional and spiritual magic about waltz, the music (3/4 time) and the movement.

I’m not quite sure where I’m going with calling. I’m not scheduled anywhere. As I’ve watched friends become regionally and nationally known callers, I’ve seen the level of commitment it takes, and I’m not sure about my level of commitment, nor for that matter, my level of skill. I’m amazed when I watch others call, both the individual dances and the programming of the evening or weekend. Could I do that? Not sure. But in any case, I’m pleased with the outcome of this particular evening.

You can see more info about the Sierra Contra Dance Society which dances on the second Saturday of the month in Reno. To find out if there is a dance in your town, just enter “contra dance” and the name of your town into a search and see what shows up. If you are wondering how hard it is, it is the dance about which is is said, “If you can walk, you can dance.” Each dance is taught by the caller, and then called during the dance for as long as it takes for all the dancers to learn it well enough that they don’t need the calling anymore.