Dancing the dark away Cajun-style

Three-day dance mixes Cajun and old time music

Posted: Thursday, February 01, 2001

Southern music and northern musicians converge in Juneau this weekend to "Dance the Dark Away."

Cajun music will fuel a dance Friday night, with a Cajun dinner opening the festivities at 7 p.m. Musicians Ray Garrity and Jennifer King from Homer will join local players Bob Banghart and Jack Fontanella for the dance and dinner at Smith Hall at Chapel by the Lake.

Other events include a barn dance Saturday night with Andy's Old Time Band and guest dance caller Brian DeMarcus from Anchorage, an English country dance Saturday afternoon, a contra dance Sunday, and music workshops.

The annual three-day dance event is sponsored by the Thursday Night Contra Dancers, a loose-knit group of dance enthusiasts. Sally Donaldson, one of the organizers, said no experience or dance partner are necessary.

"The dances are called and taught, so a person who's a stranger to dancing can come in off the street and enjoy themselves," she said.

A half-hour dance lesson will be offered at 7:30 p.m. Saturday before the barn dance. DeMarcus also will explain the dance moves and walk folks through each contra or square dance before the music starts.

"He's an old-time caller, he likes to do squares and call with old-time music," Donaldson said. "We thought he'd be good with Andy's band. He's been here before and people really enjoyed dancing with him."

An English country dance will be held from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday, also at Smith Hall. These are traditional dances from 17th- and 18th- century English manor houses, similar to contra dances but slower. Odette Foster will lead and teach the dances, and admission is $5.

The Dance the Dark Away workshops will be held from 2:30 to 4:30 Saturday afternoon at Smith Hall. Odette Foster and Eric Isacson will teach waltzes, Bob Banghart will teach Cajun fiddle, Ray Garrity will teach Cajun accordion, and Jack Fontanella will teach rhythm guitar. The workshops are $10.

Sunday morning from 10:30 to noon DeMarcus will lead a dance workshop called "Brian's Zippy Contras" in the Juneau Dance Unlimited studio at the Scottish Rite Temple at Fourth and Seward streets downtown.

Sunday afternoon from 1:30 to 4:30 there will be a final contra dance, also at the Scottish Rite Temple, with caller Jim Grammel. Musicians are invited to sit in with the contra dance band. Admission is $5.

Admission to the Cajun dinner and dance, and for the barn dance, is $8 for each event. Children under 12 are admitted free to all dances.

Riley Woodford can be reached at rileyw@juneauempire.com.

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