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September 12, 2013

Dancing is alive in Cooperstown

By Meghan McCaffrey Contributing Writer
Cooperstown Crier

---- — It’s that time of year, where some are digging out their dancing shoes.

The Otsego Dance Society began its fall season on Friday with a contra dance at the Presbyterian Church in Cooperstown. There were more than 50 people in attendance ranging in age from teenagers to retirees.

Jo Salo, one of the board members of the Otsego Dance Society, said she participates in contra dance for the enjoyment.

“It’s social. It’s fun. It’s great exercise. You just come here and forget your worries,” she said.

“Anyone can do it. It’s for young kids to 80-year-olds,” Salo continued.

Contra dance is a variation of old English dance, according to Salo.

“A lot of the moves are like square dance. It’s an English country dance, but it’s not so formal,” she said.

Barbara Duffy, the publicity person for the Otsego Dance Society said she does contradance because “it’s loads of fun.”

“I’m a widow and I can go because I can dance all night and I don’t need a partner,” she said.

Duffy said that everyone ends up dancing with everyone else in the line, so coming to the dance without a partner is perfectly fine.

Some of the moves for contra dance consist of the dosado and a figure-eight where everyone snakes across the floor in the shape of an eight.

Each contra dance sponsored by the Otsego Dance Society has a “caller” who calls out the moves and a live band.

“There’s all these great musicians and callers around and they all have their own specialties,” Salo said.

The callers control the flow of the night and introduce each dance move, according to Salo. In the beginning of the night, the dance moves are easier with more instruction given. Then, as the night progresses, the moves get a little more challenging, Salo said.

“Every dance, no matter how experienced you are, you do a walk through,” Duffy said. “You practice the move depending on if there are a lot of new people.”

“It’s not a formal instruction. You have to get up and make mistakes like the rest of us,” Duffy continued.

The Otsego Dance Society encourages anyone to come and dance.

“We are always really excited to have anyone come to dance,” Salo said. “We invite everyone and take new people under our wing.”

The Otsego Dance Society hosts contra dances  the first Friday of every month. For more information, call 965-8232 or visit

Another form of social dancing will start up this Friday when the Doubleday Dancers Western Square Dance Club of Cooperstown hosts its first dance of the season. Dancing will be held from 7:30 to 10 p.m. at the Cooperstown Elementary School on Walnut Street. Admission is $5 at the door. This event is only for experienced square dancers. There are a few introductory dances scheduled for later in the month.

There is an introductory phase of square dancing called mainstream, where people who are new to square dancing receive instruction. Ray Taylor calls mainstream for this group and his wife, Alma Taylor, cues.

The group of 30 to 35 members will host an introduction to square dancing at 7:30 p.m., Sept. 18 and 25 at the Cooperstown Elementary School. Admission is free and participants are encouraged to dress casually and wear comfortable shoes.

After the two free nights, those who want to join the club begin dancing with the Doubleday Dancers.

“We work on the steps with the new members that way they feel more comfortable to move along,” said Sandra Tabor-Hunkins, the social secretary of the club.

“It’s great exercise; it’s fun. We don’t take it too seriously. If people make a mistake we just laugh and go on because we all know what it’s like to start out,” Tabor-Hunkins continued.

For more information, call 264-8128 or 547-8665.