Entertainment and Music Heritage

Community Contra Dance at John C. Campbell Folk School

Photos courtesy of John C. Campbell Folk School

Since John C. Campbell Folk (JCCF) School opened its doors in 1925, dance has been an important part of the institution’s offerings. In addition to classes and workshops covering a variety of styles, JCCF offers a year-round bi-monthly community contra and square dance series featuring various callers and bands from all over the region. The next dance will take place on Saturday, April 14, from 8–11 p.m.

“Part of the mission of the school is togetherness and this series is a prime example of that,” says JCCF music and dance programs coordinator Annie Fain Barralon. “Everyone trades partners, live music flows and a masterful caller guides the room through the moves. People can’t do it without smiling.”

The April 14 event will feature caller Bob Dalsemer and The Berea College Bluegrass Ensemble. Dalsemer has taught and called traditional contras and squares throughout the country for nearly 40 years. For the past decade he has been principal instructor at the annual Mountain Folk Festival in Berea, KY. He frequently calls and teaches dance workshops at JCCF.

“People are attracted to our style of traditional contra and square dancing because it is relatively easy to learn, you don’t need formal lessons to join in and you don’t need to come with a partner,” says Dalsemer. “Everyone is welcome and changing partners every dance is customary.”

Photos courtesy of John C. Campbell Folk School

The Berea College Bluegrass Ensemble was founded in 1999 to give Berea College students with background or potential in bluegrass music an opportunity to play in a working band with weekly rehearsals, performances and travel. Members are selected by audition, and typically remain with the group until they graduate from Berea College. The band plays regularly at JCCF.

“I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve called with them,” says Dalsemer. “The Ensemble continually changes as students graduate, but they’re always a great group, capable of lots of musical variety.”

JCCF also hosts a free introduction to contra, square and circle dances almost every Tuesday night from 7-8 p.m. These gatherings, which feature live music, offer an opportunity to get a feel for the dance styles and learn basic steps. They are held in the same location as the Saturday night series, which boasts sprung wood floors and acoustics that are ideal for music and dance.

John C. Campbell Folk School is located at One Folk School Road, in Brasstown. Dances are held in the Keith House Community Room. Admission is $7 for adults and $5 for youth ages 10–18. Children under 10 are admitted free. For more information, visit folkschool.org or call 828.837.2775.

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