Everyone is invited to a free dance, celebrating 15 years of contradancing in Owego on Sunday, April 15, from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Countryside Community Center located at 9 Sheldon Guile Blvd. in Owego. Join them for a piece of anniversary cake, great dancing (or just good listening) to the exhilarating music of the O’Shanigans and their special guests.
Contradance (or contra dance) is a called dance done to a walking step similar to square dancing. This family friendly dance requires no experience and is easy to learn. Each dance is taught in a “walkthrough” before the dance starts allowing even beginning dancers to feel comfortable. Bring friends, family, or come by yourself, partners not required.
In 2003 when George and April Swaney, proprietors of Tioga Trails Café on 50 Lake St. were looking for events to attract people to their newly renovated facility, Kevin Millar, a former Mayor of Owego, stated, “You ought to have contradancing here.”
George contacted Hilton Baxter of the Binghamton contra dance organization, who came and ran a short series of successful dances starting in April 19 of 2003, and then turned the reins over to Owego.
George and April met with Stu and Joyce Johnson and they decided to name the dance Tioga County Contradance. Stu, with Joyce’s help, became dance organizer, George became facilities manager, and April became box office manager.
In November 2015, the dance moved to its current location at the Countryside Community Center. Currently, Aleta Yarrow and Stu Johnson are co- dance organizers, with William Hall sound technician, Dean Thelen focusing on publicity, and Sandy Veheimer, assisted by husband Mike, hosting refreshments.
Hilton Baxter, now from Harrisburg, who called the very first dance in 2003, is giving an encore return to teach and call the 15th anniversary dance.
The infectious energy of the O’Shanigans band includes dance music from New England, Southern Appalachia, Canada, Ireland, Scotland, England, France, Finland, Sweden, and the Middle East.
The band consists of Derrick Doty on banjo and fiddle with his nice smooth traditional fiddle style. Michael Ludgate adds Celtic style with some New England and bluegrass influence on his mandolin, and also contributes foot percussion to performances. Craig McMeekin has been playing guitar for over 35 years with styles ranging from old time music to jazz, to experimental rock.
Special guests Katrina Mackey on flute and Jonathan Keefner on percussion will join the O’Shanigans.
Dances with live music are held on the third Sunday of each month from 4 to 7 p.m. at the center. For more information, contact Stu Johnson at (607) 687-4034 or Dean Thelen at (607) 654-3185.
This program is made possible, in part, with public funds from NYSCA’s Decentralization Program administered regionally by the Arts Council of the Southern Finger Lakes.