Friday, February 11, 2011

When You're Dead, You'll Wish You Had Danced

Our communities do a disservice to our citizens by not supporting community dances. What a wonderful way for all generations to get together and cement those bonds of friendship that will last a lifetime.

Growing up in the Nebraska Sandhills, Square Dances were held at our local one-room country schools. Driving by those schools today, its hard to see how all of the neighbors fit in them to form multiple squares for the dance, with all of us kids running around. Maybe the tight spaces added to the sense of community. I don't remember how often they happened, but a lot of scenes from these good times really stick in my mind.
Besides the square dances, most little towns in the Sandhills had a Legion Hall, Community Building, Fairgrounds or local tavern that regularly hosted dances. There were many local amateur dance bands who played the circuits. There are still bars that host live music, but they really are few and far between. The patrons are the 20- and 30- somethings because the parents and grandparents don't go, and the kids can't go, so there is a separation.

Obviously our ancestors who settled Nebraska brought their traditions with them from their old countries, and this community dance must have been one of them. I say this because last week we had the opportunity to experience a tradition from Ireland - the Ceili.


Susan Ritta and Cassandra Evans of The Thunder On The Plains Project came to North Platte and called a Ceili at the Espresso Shoppe in downtown. It was a wonderful time. There were about 75 people there, which was crowded but not uncomfortable. The ages range of the dancers was about seven to seventy, with the spectators about the same.
The evening started with North Platte's up-and-coming Irish Band the Flatrock Irregulars getting everyone in the mood, and the Espresso Shoppe's traditional Irish Potato Soup completing the authenticity of the atmosphere.
It was a night of fun we'll all remember for a long time, and one that we hope to do again soon.
It was a wonderful experience moving through the steps, then finally getting the music started and finding out that you really had become familiar enough with the dance to do a creditable job of it. There was much laughing and joking, good-natured critiques of everyone's varying abilities. Susan and Cassandra did an excellent job of teaching, and even showed off some of their highly superior skills, with Susan demonstrating a traditional broom dance, playing the tin whistle and singing for us.
They host regular Ceilis in Lincoln, and are committed to making regular tours through the state to bring their fun and sense of community to the masses. If you can possibly attend one, by all means do. Even if you're not up to dancing sit and laugh, introduce yourself to someone you haven't met yet, share stories with old friends, clap and stomp along to the music. To quote the words of a song by the Blarney Rebel Band, when you're dead, you'll wish you had danced!
Thanks for stopping by. The coffee is always on.

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