for One and All in the Eastern Townships
by Doug & Morri
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church hall is packed. Young children frolic around the edges. Their parents and
other dancers walk, sashay, skip or jig their way up and down the hall in two
rows of long facing lines. On the raised stage, a fiddler, guitarist and
flautist keep up a lively 6-8 beat, as soft-spoken Jackie Hall calls out the
figures. Faces glow; smiles grow broader, laughter louder, as the evening
progresses. Many abandon layers of sweaty clothing and even their shoes to swing
unencumbered from partner to partner. This is good old-fashioned fun —
socializing Townships style — and everyone is having a wonderful time!
a room full of people who know the steps, you just fly!” says Jackie, who has
been running these monthly Contra Dance
events at the Lennoxville United Church
for two years out of sheer love for the dance. Locals, young and old, are
delighted she does, as are students from nearby Bishops University. “I
discovered Contra Dance here,” says Ottawa-native Louisa Haché, a 21-year-old
drama major at Bishops. “I’m a great fan. I never miss a dance!”
Bishops University students Thomas Posie and Louisa Haché dance up the
heretical-sounding name, Contra Dance is a form of social dancing that
borrows from Old English, Old French and American folk dance. Dancers form
two parallel lines stretching down the hall, with partners facing (or
contra) each other; hence, the name. Unlike square dancing, where four
couples dance in a square, couples progress up and down the hall, dancing
with each other and other couples they meet as they traverse the line.
Jaige Trudel, on fiddle, Adam Broome, on guitar, Nicholas Williams, on flute.
dancing is very sociable. By the end of the evening, we had danced with
and met almost everyone in the hall. The steps, or figures, are simple and
few. The patterns repeat and a caller calls out the steps as you go: all
this makes Contra Dance very easy to learn.
runs a half-hour primer for beginners before each dance, which we found
more than adequate. It was our first time Contra dancing, the crowd was
friendly and welcoming and we enjoyed it immensely. “If you’re in
Lennoxville, come and join the fun,” says Jackie, with a grin. “Anyone can
do it.” And indeed they can!
Here's what beginner Contra
dancing looks like.
High Bandwidth Video
Low Bandwidth Video
a folk form of tap dancing, is another popular dance style in the
Townships. If there’s a country fair or civic celebration, chances are
you’ll find the Rainbow Country Cloggers performing. And what a treat to
watch! Ranging in age from six to 60, these 46 accomplished dancers are
all students of the handsome and affable James Naylor, who can set up his
portable stage, complete with a massive sound system, on the back of his
flatbed track almost anywhere. A building contractor from Waterville by
day, James Naylor has developed a devoted following of hundreds of
clogging students in Lennoxville and Knowlton, where he has been teaching
the style known as Appalachian flatfoot on Tuesday and Thursday evenings
for more than five years. He’s also a popular guest instructor at regional
and national clogging conventions all over North America. A second
instructor, Robert Addis, runs classes identical to James’ in Melbourne
and Bury on Monday and Friday evenings. Thanks to these two men, anyone
wanting to clog can find a class nearby.
Since we moved to Knowlton, we’ve being taking group clogging classes from
James on and off for years, never advancing much beyond beginner level but
enjoying it nevertheless. Even a beginner’s class is an aerobic workout.
The music is upbeat and infinitely varied, with dances choreographed to
Celtic, pop, country and even hip-hop tunes.
clogging-class “idols” is Linda Cameron, of Fulford, whose high leg lifts
and precise, percussive footwork are nothing short of astonishing. Linda
started clogging only eight years ago – at 52! – has been performing with
the Rainbow Country Cloggers for seven years. Last year, she took first
place in freestyle clogging (in the over 45 age category) at the North
Eastern Clogging Convention. “For me, dancing is more than performing,”
says Linda. “When you know a dance well and don’t have to think about the
steps anymore, you become part of the music.
“I’ve been to lots of conventions and I’ve never found a better teacher
than James,” says Linda. “He’s patient, he’s funny and he always makes you
feel good no matter what.” While lucky Townshippers have James Naylor,
Montrealers can learn this enjoyable dance form from Nadia Mourani, who
studied with Naylor and danced with the Rainbow Country Cloggers for 10
years. “I can’t wait to start clogging again,” says Nadia, 31, a
Lennoxville native who moved to Montreal five years ago and taught
clogging in Montreal for a few years before going back to school. She is
now organizing a class in Montreal’s N.D.G. district. If you’re
interested, call Nadia at (514) 383-9325.
Click here to see a clogging class
Where to Dance in the
Dancing is a
great way to meet the locals in the Eastern Townships. If you’re too shy
to dance, at least come and watch. You’re always welcome!
Contra Dancing in Lennoxville
Last dance in 2004 is on Saturday, November
20, at the Lennoxville United Church (corner Church & Queen). Live music
by Sutton’s Grand Respire band. Basic instruction at 7:30 p.m. Dance: 8 -
11 p.m. Cost: $10; $5 for students.
With James Naylor: Tuesdays, 6 – 9 p.m. at
the A.N.A.F. Hut in Lennoxville; Thursdays, 6:30 – 8:30 p.m., at St.
Paul’s Church, Knowlton. Tel: (819) 837-2265. With Robert Addis: Mondays,
6:30 – 8:30 p.m. at St. Andrew’s Church in Melbourne; Fridays, 6:30 – 8:30
pm., at Bury Town Hall. Tel: (819) 820- 2387. Drop-in class: $5. Watch for
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