Moab’s Community Dance Band is swinging into spring by bringing two professional contra dance musicians to town for a week-long residency. Musicians Larry Unger and Karina Wilson will be back in town to perform for the community contra dance at 8 p.m. Saturday, March 22, and give a house concert on Sunday, March 23. They’ll also and play for students at Helen M. Knight Elementary School and the Moab Charter School.
Unger and Wilson performed with the Moab Community Dance Band last June, a last-minute decision Unger made as he was passing through town on his way to run the Provo Marathon.
“He just called me out of the blue and was wondering if he and Karina could play,” said Miriam Graham, a musician with MCDB. “We had a great time. As a result of that we became friends and invited them back again for a whole week.”
Unger is a composer and multi-instrumentalist with the Boston-based contra dance band “Notorious.” He also joins a handful of other bands on occasion and plays for more than 150 dances a year, according to his bio.
“He is one of the busiest and most sought-after contra dance guitarists in the business,” Graham said.
But he also loves dancing.
“The [contra dance] community has been good for me,” Unger said. “It’s stress-free interaction. The music makes you want to dance, and the dancing itself is something anyone can do. That’s a real plus.”
Karina Wilson is a Santa Fe-based fiddler whose father is a dance caller and who has been playing for contra dances since age 8. She’s also been trained in classical violin performance, landing the first-violin position in the Santa Fe Youth Symphony Association’s ambassador quartet at age 16. At 17, she was named the sixth-best youth violinist in New Mexico.
“Karina is amazing,” Unger said. “She plays a lot of styles of music. She seems to like what I do and that makes us free to experiment and be in the moment. The more you’re playing like that, the more fun it is for you and for the audience. It has to be a creative adventure.”
Over the past nine years, the Moab Community Dance Band has sponsored visits by several professional musicians and dance callers, Graham said. They are currently in the 10th year and will continue to host a community contra dance nearly every month.
“It’s a wonderful way to meet people and just have fun,” Graham said. “Contra dancing is a type of dancing that anyone can do. It’s just made up of basically walking steps. No previous experience—or a partner—is required.”
To help beginners get into the swing of things, each dance hosts a beginners workshop a half-hour before the normal community dance.
Money raised from the dances is normally given to nonprofits around town, but proceeds from the dance on Saturday, March 22, will go into the band’s workshop fund to support its continuing education and ability to bring music to the community, Graham said.
Larry Unger and Karina Wilson in town for week-long residency
“It’s a wonderful way to meet people and just have fun. Contra dancing is a type of dancing that anyone can do. It’s just made up of basically walking steps. No previous experience—or a partner—is required.”
Where: The MARC, 111 E 100 N, Moab
When: March 22; beginners workshop stats at 7:30 p.m.; dance starts at 8 p.m
How much: $7 suggested donation
For more information about the house concert or musicians workshop, please call Miriam Graham at 259-8311