The Senior Sleuth column is published every two weeks.
A warm welcome awaits you at the free folk dancing class in Crescent City every Tuesday from 7:30 to 9 p.m. at the Del Norte Senior Center, 1765 Northcrest Drive.
This is not square dancing, and you don’t need a partner. Think of the movie, “Zorba the Greek,” with Anthony Quinn, or “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.”
You hold hands and dance in a line or circle, side to side, and backward and forward. The dance steps are simple, and they vary a little with each dance. Because it is an all-inclusive form of recreation, folk dancing is characterized by frequently repeated patterns of movement, making it easy for every member of the community to participate.
The leader, Terry Allaway (458-3132), said she knows 300–400 different dances, and each dance has its own music. The regular group of seven or eight women and one man who attend would love to have new members come join them or just visit. Come as you are. There is no special dress required.
The music is quaint and kind of peaceful. Three of the numerous recorded melodies that were played when I visited were Macedonian, Bulgarian and Hungarian. Terry talks through some of the steps, but she doesn’t have to call out the directions loudly as you’ve seen at square dances or at exercise work-out sessions.
Why do they come every Tuesday to folk dancing class? They all hold hands together, for one thing. It’s a great image for our times. They enjoy the folk customs of other lands and other times. They share the love of music and movement.
As Terry, an RN, said, “Dancers live longer. Our bodies are made to move.”
She joined the group on the advice of Dr. Mavris, a former member, after back surgery had left her paralyzed. She said folk dancing brought her back to normal mobility.
According to Terry, there is another authentic folk dancing group that meets the first Friday of every month in Arcata, Redwood Raks Dance Studio, otherwise known as the Old Creamery Building, 824 L St. There is live music and the event attracts up to 50 people, many of whom bring their families.
And there is a popular folk dancing camp in Stockton every summer that meets at the University of the Pacific. International folk dance groups exist in cities and college campuses in many countries, in which dancers learn folk dances from many cultures for recreation.
Dances created before the 1800s that are passed down from generation to generation are considered to be folk dances. Folk dances sometimes evolved long before current political boundaries, so that certain dances are shared by several countries.
The term “folk dance” is reserved for dances which originated when the distinction existed between the dances of “common folk” and the dances of “high society.”
Local members of the folk dance group lead busy lives in Crescent City. And several are also involved in other musical endeavors. Sybil Wakefield, for example, besides being the owner of Northwoods Restaurant, teaches violin, cello, and viola. And she plays every Tuesday in a cello trio with Garretta Lamore, the well-known local artist who orchestrated the painting of the beautiful mural at the swimming pool.
Terry works for a chiropractor and plays several instruments. In the past she was the mandolinist and harmony singer for the Jefferson State Boondock Band.
I’ll close with one of her favorite sayings from Winston Churchill: “We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.”