The room instantly warms, as Patrick MacNamara presses “play” on the stereo.
Wafting from the speaker, a flute, violin and tambourine fill the space with music. The tune paints an image of a simpler time, in a more exotic location.
“This song is from Greece,” Marcia Danielson says.
A small group gathers in a circle in the centre of the hall. They join hands and begin to dance. The movements are small — a sweep of the foot, hop and turn of the wrist. Synchronized, the train turns, merrily like a pinwheel.
Spearheaded by former Squamish residents Jim and Lyn Wisnia, folk dancing took root in the community in the mid 1980s. For the past 27 years, the Squamish International Folk Dancers have met every week throughout the fall and spring. The group has shuffled from different schools to different churches and now gathers Tuesday evenings at the Squamish Seniors Centre.
The Squamish residents learn dance steps from around the world. What appeals to many participants is the freedom within its form, says Judith Vetsch, an original folk dance group member.
“This way, doing this type of dance, we don’t have to have partners,” she says.
Tonight, the women outnumber the men. And just like the varying ages, everybody in the room has a different story of how he or she came to dancing.
Danielson, who helps instruct the class, put on ballet slippers when she was six years old. She later went to the Royal Academy of Dance. Marion Fairweather did English country dancing growing up in Britain. But a serious accident as an adult left Fairweather learning to walk again. She never thought she’d be able to dance. That was, until she stumbled across this folk club.
“I’ve never looked back,” she says.
As a teenager, Astrid Andersen was forced to do Danish folk dancing at school, in a small village an hour south of Copenhagen. At the time, she was more interested in the quick step and tango hitting the floors of dance halls, she recalls.
“”I thought [folk dancing] was boring,” Andersen says.
Today that’s all changed, she acknowledges. Folk dancing is active, social and with 250 dances to choose from, the club members never get bored, Andersen said.
It holds many benefits for seniors, Danielson adds. Folk dancing is engaging and uses your brain and your physical body in conjunction, she says.
“We have some dances that require a lot of attention,” Danielson notes.
One thing every member of the group agrees on is their love of the music. There are ancient songs calling for short winters and new pieces focused on relationships.
“We try to learn the languages, but no luck yet,” Andersen jokes, as a Hungarian song kicks the group into their next dance.
With each tune, the music transports you to a different country, she says. Usually a warmer country, Vetsch adds.
“You can visit countries without air miles,” Judi Rhodes chimes in.
The dancing group is not just for seniors. It’s open to anybody interested in the dance form, Vetsch notes. The group performs a couple of times a year at various seniors housing complexes. Vetsch invites anybody interested to come out to a class and see what it’s about.
The group meets from 6 to 7:30 p.m. For more information call (604) 892-3340.