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Feb 13, 2020 - 1:17:55 PM
7890 posts since 3/19/2009

I posted about a year ago that our local contra-dance just seemed to have people over 60 years of age attending and was DYING... (not that there is anything wrong with older people.. I'm 74).. Miraculously, ..what a difference a year makes.. Lately the dancer's ages have averaged, IMO, 35!!! Full, strong lines and sometimes TWO lines.. I can't explain it but am very happy to see younger people keeping the contra-dance tradition going in our area.....An aside, last night was the Open Mic night.. The leader/hostess contacted some people to assist.. Well, there were 14 musicians on stage.. She didn't see that coming..IF nothing else our town supports open mic!!! Five of us musicians  sat in a back row 'off mic'.. which is fine with me..So.. life is good..

Edited by - TuneWeaver on 02/13/2020 13:18:09

Feb 13, 2020 - 3:11:35 PM
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Fiddler

USA

4006 posts since 6/22/2007

This great, Lee!

When my wife and started the North Texas Traditional Dance Society in Dallas in 1983, it was a strong dance & music scene. We were part of that "high tech / high touch" movement. Peope in the tech industries crazed for human interactions! We had fun. There was energy and excitement. We started the group with $O in the bank account and just paid our way. Everyone gave of the time and talents. It was amazing!

About the same time, a friend who had been in the folk dance movement since the 30s was encouraged by this energy. He was a dance historian and extraodinary old time, west Texas square dance caller and collector. In fact many of the now common calls and figures in the modern wester Square dance movement were "invented" by him and his wife.

That's a backdrop to his observation. He told us that the folk dance movement occurs in waves with a peak every 15-20 years and valleys at about the same intervals. (Obvious not in phase or at the same time!) He in 1983 he had seen several of these cycles. He advice was to make it through the valleys. Do what you can to survive. Know that things will turn around and there will be a new peak with new energy and younger folks.

And, they will infuse their popular culture experiences into the dances. They will change. Let it change in order for it to thrive. Holding on for the sake of tradition will kill the movement.

So, I am excited and hopeful that you are seeing a trend that will spread across the country!

Feb 14, 2020 - 10:36:49 AM
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4418 posts since 9/26/2008

I play for a couple of groups where the average age is between 17 and 25! Lots of kids in middle school and high school and a few parents. Amazing energy and good dancers. I've watched several of them grow up over the last 5 years, very heart warming. Glad to hear about the comeback, Lee.

Feb 14, 2020 - 12:11:51 PM

2381 posts since 9/13/2009

I think many would be curious as to what accounts for the local "comeback"?

 

For example, I know that some of the rise in popularity of the past had some explainable; often multifaceted cultural aspects that came together at  the right time for a good fit (at the time).

The gradual demise can also be fairly understandable in many cases. (and even predicted).

I don't put much stock into that it just follows any natural cycle... but rather that there are some understandable reasons. Rather than just wait, by  understanding cause and effect helps to make proactive decisions.

Feb 14, 2020 - 12:33:50 PM

Fiddler

USA

4006 posts since 6/22/2007

quote:
Originally posted by alaskafiddler

I think many would be curious as to what accounts for the local "comeback"?

 

For example, I know that some of the rise in popularity of the past had some explainable; often multifaceted cultural aspects that came together at  the right time for a good fit (at the time).

The gradual demise can also be fairly understandable in many cases. (and even predicted).

I don't put much stock into that it just follows any natural cycle... but rather that there are some understandable reasons. Rather than just wait, by  understanding cause and effect helps to make proactive decisions.

 


Yes, I agree that there are always underlying reasons for a resurgence. Things don't happen in a vacuum.

For example, according to my friend, first wave was the first folk revival of the 30s when folks were seeking out various traditions are documenting them. The second folk revival came in the late 50s/early 60s with a renewed interest of folk traditions. Much of this was in response to the civil rights movement and war protests, etc. The third revival was in the 70s and early 80s again with war protests, political protests, back-to-land movement and the rise of rock and roll. This led to an interest in the early blues traditions and a rediscovery of other traditional music.  

I think that we are entering, or are in, another revival. Again, the driving forces seems to be political and war protests, social justice, and the alt-culture/ hipster movement.  It is interesting to see how these folks are reconnecting with traditional music and dance, reshaping it, and presenting it as performance art.

I keep remembering a comment the Pete Seeger made about folk music and his purpose in life. He long believed that the way to world peace was to get people singing together and dancing together. Many of us took that to heart quite literally and are still actively living out Pete's vision. 

I know that I am making some very broad generalizations based on my limited observations. They are undocumented, biased opinions.

Edited by - Fiddler on 02/14/2020 12:42:20

Feb 14, 2020 - 2:37:36 PM

2986 posts since 6/21/2007

Tucson has an active Old-Time scene, and contra was popular when I moved here. Seems to have kept going strong for the 17 years I've lived here, and I know that Dan Levenson and the Cat Mountain Rounders play regularly for several groups around the state (and neighboring).

Feb 14, 2020 - 3:18 PM
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RobBob

USA

2651 posts since 6/26/2007

The contra scene in the south is not great. It is viable but not the robust scene it was in prior decades. The young folks come but the organizers are begging for them to bring friends and the dances don't pay as well as they did in years past. Bigger name bands are playing smaller dances. While there are lots of little dances you play them for the love of the event and not as a way to pay your expenses. I know of a couple that are on hiatus or have morphed into consolidated events that happen less frequently. But they are still out there and still more popular than square dances. There was a time we played only square dances and then thirty years ago contra dances started to supplant the squares. Things just change in time.

Feb 15, 2020 - 1:02:31 AM
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2381 posts since 9/13/2009

Wow, maybe the word is getting out... just got back from playing a contra... low and behold there were a maybe 10 that were under 30; including surprised to see my 23 yo daughter with a friend on their own accord. I used to bring them to dances since they were born, but don't think they have been to one of these in years.

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