Dance workshops, performances set

ELKINS – At the heart of West Virginia is a music and dance heritage that has flourished throughout generations. In a tribute to these seasoned artists and a calling for those who want to carry on the tradition, The Mountain Dance Trail of Augusta Heritage Center and Davis & Elkins College are hosting Dare to be Square West Virginia, a weekend of workshops and public dances May 30 to June 1 in Helvetia.

The Mountain Dance Trail is a heritage tourism project that preserves and promotes local existing square dances in 16 communities throughout the state. Dance Trail coordinator and event organizer Rebecca Hill says the goal of Dare to be Square is to honor elder square dance callers in the region, while jumpstarting new dance callers. Workshops will be conducted for aspiring to advanced dancers, square dance callers and

musicians.

“If you’ve never square danced and you’d like to start, or you are re-interested in learning how to call, we dare you to be square and try out square dancing,” Hill said.

Now in its second year, Dare to be Square was an overwhelming success last year, Hill says, with more than 150 people in attendance. Since then, she has heard from many participants who said they have started calling square dances in their communities.

“I couldn’t have hoped for a better turnout last year. We were at capacity and everyone who attended square danced and learned how to call dances,” Hill said. “Only by jumpstarting a younger generation of square dance callers will we ensure that this tradition will stay alive in Appalachia for future generations, and I believe that’s exactly what we did.”

This year’s Dare to be Square will take place in the Swiss mountain town of Helvetia in Randolph County. The weekend kicks off at 3 p.m. on May 30 and wraps up at 2 p.m. Sunday. A total of 18 workshops are scheduled and feature 10 square dance callers including Will Mentor, Phil Jamison, Tyler Crawford and Mountain Dance Trail callers Bill Ohse, Mack Samples, Ellen and Eugene Ratcliffe and Lou Maiuri. The Helvetia Farm Women will provide lunch on May 31. Admission for the entire weekend is $40, plus $20 for rustic camping. Public dances are planned for 8 p.m. on May 30 with Dave Bing and the Full Moon Boys, and May 31 with Andy Fitzgibbon and Jesse Milnes and Friends. Admission is $5.

“I am hoping that by holding Dare to be Square in Helvetia, tourists and locals alike will appreciate the beauty and rich traditions of the community,” Hill says.

“Where else in West Virginia are there two beautiful dance halls?”

The Mountain Dance Trail hosts square dances every weekend in various communities in the heart of West Virginia. To learn more, visit www.mountaindancetrail.org.

Dare to be Square is made possible in part by the Llyod Shaw Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts and the Country Dance and Song Society.