WEEKEND: Contra picks up Acadian accent for Saturday dance in Port Angeles

By Diane Urbani de la Paz
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — The sound of French Canada will fill the Black Diamond Community Hall as Devon and Dejah Leger, specialists in Acadian music, arrive for a community contra dance this Saturday night.

People of all ages and levels of dance experience — that means novices, too — are welcome at this event, which starts at 7:30 p.m. with a contra-dance workshop. Eric Curl, a seasoned dance caller from Seattle, is coming over to teach the 30-minute beginners’ class and refresher.

The best thing about his task, said Curl, is the three-way interaction between band, caller and dancers.

“I enjoy seeing people dancing with big smiles on their faces,” he said. “What I really like about contra dancing in general is the sense of community it fosters.”

Curl, a mechanical engineer at the Boeing Co., has been contra dancing since 1987. He boils the genre down like this: Contra is an American folk dance done in two parallel lines; alternating couples progress up or down the lines so everybody has a chance to dance with everybody else.

“While it was originally derived from English country dance, it also incorporates some moves from square dancing such as the swing [and] do-si-do,” Curl added.

“However, unlike the modern Western square dancing, contra dancing is open to anyone at any time,” with no division of dancers by ability.

“The music is almost always jigs or reels,” Curl added. “There is no fancy footwork. It’s just walking steps.”

This time around, fiddler Devon and pianist Dejah promise lots of music from the Francophone towns in Canada’s maritime provinces.

Devon and his father Louis Leger, who is from New Brunswick, went last October on a tune-finding trip there. They tracked down elder fiddlers in the province’s isolated French-speaking communities, and “we learned some amazing tunes,” Devon said.

To newcomers, Curl offers words of encouragement: “It’s a very welcoming, helpful community, so the other dancers will help guide you in the right direction. People often come alone to dances, which is fine because almost everyone switches partners, even married couples, after each dance.”

Admission on Saturday night is a suggested donation of $8 for adults and $3 for youth 17 and younger; that covers the whole night, with the band playing till 11 p.m. at the community hall, 1942 Black Diamond Road. Dancers are also welcome to bring snacks to share.

For more about Port Angeles’ contra dances, traditionally held the first Saturday of the month, see www.BlackDiamondDance.org. Port Townsend also has a contra dance at the Quimper Grange, 1219 Corona St., on the second Saturday; information awaits at www.PTcommunitydance.com.

Last modified: April 03. 2014 5:27PM
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