You don’t have to be experienced – nor do you need to bring a partner – to enjoy contra dancing.
Attend a community contra dance on Saturday, Oct. 22, at the Moab Arts and Recreation Center at 111 E. 100 North, and you’ll dance with everyone before the night is over.
“It’s lively, and fast-paced,” said Miriam Graham, who plays concertina and pennywhistle with the Moab Community Dance Band. “We play mostly traditional music, and a lot of Irish, Scottish and American New England contra.”
Former Moab Music Festival artist-in-residence Christopher Layer formed the community dance band more than a decade ago to bring back a Moab tradition of old-time dancing, Graham said.
“Anyone can do it,” she said. “They’re walking kinds of steps. It’s a great way to meet people.”
Dancers form two parallel lines, twirling and changing partners as they move down the line, eventually dancing with everyone.
“Caller” Carol Fey will teach the dance steps before the music begins. Once the music starts, she’ll continue to call out instructions, reminding dancers what to do as the band plays on.
“It’s Americana; a part of history where people got together to dance – like barn dances,” Moab resident Sam Sturman said. “I really enjoy it; it’s great socialization.”
Vermont-based musician and special guest Jeremiah McLane will accompany the Moab dance band on accordion, while leading the band. McLane was a guest of the Moab Music Festival about 12 years ago, Graham said.
“He’s a fantastic musician and wonderful teacher,” she said. “He started many well-known contra dance bands in New England.”
McLane is also a composer, pianist and music teacher, with a diverse musical background that includes blues, jazz, Celtic, French and other roots-influenced music. He has performed throughout the United States and Europe, at venues such as the Royal Festival Hall in London, and the Philadelphia Folk Festival. He has won awards for his recordings and compositions, including his work for theater and film productions.
The week prior to the dance, McLane is conducting private lessons for band members, and on Tuesday, presenting a program for students at the Moab Charter School.
Additionally, McLane will perform on a Steinway concert grand piano at a house concert in Moab on Sunday, Oct. 23. The suggested donation for this event is $10 to $15; reservations are required, as seating is limited.
The dance band’s mission, Graham said, is to promote music and music education in Moab. All of the money raised after expenses is given to Grand County schools’ music programs, or to the Moab Music Festival’s music education outreach efforts, Graham said.
In addition to the pennywhistle and concertina, the band includes guitar, a couple of fiddles, a South American string instrument called the charango, and sometimes percussion. Other musicians are welcome to join in, Graham said.
“The band is open – if you want to play you can come,” Graham said.
The band rehearses most Thursdays at 7:30 p.m. at the MARC.
Band members typically provide snacks at the dance – “something salty, something sweet to keep your energy up,” Graham said.
McLane’s visit is made possible through dance admission proceeds, and donations from the Moab Music Festival, the Moab Arts Council and the MARC. Boutique Air donated McLane’s flight to Moab from Salt Lake City.
Community dance features acclaimed Vermont musician
“It’s Americana; a part of history where people got together to dance – like barn dances … I really enjoy it; it’s great socialization.”
When: Saturday, Oct. 22, at 8 p.m.
Where: Moab Arts and Recreation Center, 111 E. 100 North
Cost: Suggested donation $7
Information: 516-376-8003; www.facebook.com/MoabCommunityDanceBand
When: Sunday, Oct. 23, at 7 p.m.
Where: A private Moab residence
Cost: $10 to $15
For more information, or to make a reservation for the house concert, call Graham at 516-376-8003.