Thursday, February 22, 2024

Democrats offer a way to ‘dance around’ political divisions at Feb. 10 event

| February 8, 2024 11:25 AM

A community dance, featuring live music and an experienced Contra dance caller, is set for Feb. 10 at the Swan River Community Hall, 115 Swan River Rd., Bigfork. 

Despite sponsorship by the Flathead County Democratic party, “This is not a political event,” said Carol Dietrich, one-half of the local music duo Folkdust. “There will be no political speeches.” Rather, she said the intention is to start regular dances in the community “to have fun,” she said, “to get people to come together. It seems like we need more of that.” 

Carol is the host for the event. She said she and dance caller Christa Torrens have lots of experience with Contra dance, as does Marion Boatwright, Carol’s partner in music and life. Marion will lead a newly formed three-piece band dubbed the Unstrung String Band, which includes local musicians Bill Rossiter on banjo and Al McCurry, guitar. 

Marion, who plays the fiddle, said he began playing for these types of dances 50 years ago in his home state of South Carolina. “The Carolinas are a Mecca for this type of dancing” with roots in English folk dancing, he said. “It’s quite the community builder, and that’s the point.” 

Carol said she and Marion met the caller Christa through the Missoula Folk Society where she calls dances. When they started talking about bringing dance north to Bigfork and the Flathead, they learned that Christa lives in Bigfork not far from Marion and Carol. 

Folkdust has played for several Democratic fundraising events in the Flathead and suggested the idea of sponsoring a dance - not as a political event, and not as a fundraiser, but as a community builder - a “funraiser.” They found the newly renovated Swan River Community Hall available to rent and said it is a perfect space for dancing.  

Alice Padgham, vice-chair of the Flathead County Democrats, reiterated Carol’s assurance that this is not political. “This is something new for us,” she said. “As a political organization, whether we’re Democrats or Republicans, we work to improve our communities. Too often our competing efforts to do so become divisive, so we thought let’s try a different way to build community; let’s dance together.” 

While this is not a fundraiser for the party there is a suggested $10 cash donation to offset rental costs and advertising. But no one will be turned away who can’t pay. The doors open at 6 p.m. and dancing starts promptly a 7, ending at 10. There will be time to learn the dances before being thrown in with others more familiar with the style of Contra dance. 

Carol said attendees should dress in layers and be prepared to shed them as they work up a sweat on the dance floor. Water will be available on site but dancers may want to bring their own. “But no alcohol,” Carol said. “There is enough twirling and spinning to make us dizzy without alcohol.” 

And last but not least, she said either wear shoes that will move on the wood floor or bring shoes to put on. “Leave your snowboots at home or at the door.”