Contra dancing in… Shinglehouse?

The highlight of my month of March was definitely Tunescape’s “Shinglehouse/Pittsburgh/Olean tour.”

Pittsburgh has a great contra dance community, and it was wonderful to re-connect with our friend and caller Joyce Rossbach. But the most satisfying part of our weekend was not playing for people who already knew they loved contra dancing, but for people who had never heard of it at all.

Shinglehouse is a tiny town in northwestern Pennsylvania, where our accordion player Rachel Bell lives. During the day, we played three school assemblies where the high school, middle school, and elementary school students learned a few simple dances under the gentle guidance of the wonderful caller and teacher, Sarah VanNorstrand. In the evening, there was a community dance with students, their parents, and friends.

The most satisfying parts were watching the high school students’ attitudes change from indifference to curiosity to cautious enjoyment, and watching the elementary school students’ natural exuberance. It was gratifying to see our music help students connect with a very primative sense of enjoyment, even though most of them may never contra dance again.