Author: Campbell, Bruce

Now is the Time When We Dance!
Itís funny how a confluence of seemingly separated events lead to a single theme.

I was gratified to see the lively back-and-forth on the CBA Message Board regarding dancing at festivals. Itís been too long since a subject on that forum elicited such a flood of responses, especially with such polarized viewpoints. And yet, the language stayed cordial. Clearly, we are a civilized bunch, we Bluegrassers.

Last weekend, I went to a friendís wedding, and like most weddings, there was dancing. Unlike most weddings, this wedding had a lot of REALLY good dancers. Both the bride and groom are musicians, and it seemed that at least half the guests were music biz types too. Men, women and children glided around the floor with graceful ease. Their feet seem to barely touch the ground. I felt utterly plodding and earthbound next to these people..

I TOTALLY understand the reason for dancing, Itís a primal release Ė and itís utterly natural. ALL cultures dance, and ALL kids dance. And kids dance so well, with so little effort Ė it just flows right out of them. When Iím playing at an event, I love it when I see little kids dancing. It means that the music is working. Because, most of the time, in cultures around the world, and through history, music is there to accompany and inspire dancing.

Bluegrass is no different. Its roots and its history are inextricably linked with dancing. It was never meant to be watched Ė it was meant to spur participation, by clapping or singing or dancing. When folks got together for a social event, it was marked by music and dancing. Of course, as time went along, Bluegrass was better defined as a discrete art form, and masters of the music emerged, and maybe youíd miss some of that virtuosity if you danced instead of just sat and watched and listened. Watch how bands usually react when they spot folks dancing. Most of the time, they slip right into musicís role as accompaniment for dancing. Maybe most stage patter or showmanship is really trying to fill the void that dancers could be filling.

When you pay good money to see a favorite Bluegrass act that you might only see once a year, you do want to savor every note Ė I can understand that. But it would be a mistake to lose track of why the music emerged in the first place. I would hate to see separate opposing camps spring up Ė the dancers vs. the non-dancers. There must be a way to accommodate the urge to move with the urge to just sit and tap your feet.

Iím more of a non-dancer myself. Not anti-dancing, just non-dancing. I admire the grace that dancers of every ilk display, and it amazes me that people of all shapes and sizes can be so light on their feet. I only have two occasions for dancing: dating and weddings. Iím done dating, so now I only humiliate myself at weddings now and again. Nobody wants to see me dance; at least not for the reasons Iíd like people to want to see me dance.

But I love to watch dancing While I wouldnít want to have dancers block my view of an act on stage, the motion of dancers off to the side (whether towards the front or towards the back) would only enhance the overall show experience, in my opinion.

I canít be a credible activist for dancing, since I canít do it. But those enjoy dancing and seeing dancing should speak up, and try and find a way to encourage this joyous movement without negatively affecting the festival experience for anybody else. Dancing is infectious Ė if it became more commonplace, and measures were taken to avoid noise or dust disruptions, the next thing you know -- we wouldnít need any lawn chairs Ė we could all just dance all day!
Posted:  7/30/2008

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