Photos courtesy of David Wiley, Historic Jonesborough Dance Society.
Life is unpredictable, but with that comes new opportunities.
When David Wiley was going down a new path in his life, he discovered a passion and dedication to the love of contra dancing that inspired him to form the Historic Jonesborough Dance Society. His desire to dance is educating multiple generations of the long-time social impact of contra dancing.
On April 29, 2005, Wiley had finished his volunteer duties at the MerleFest in North Wilkesboro, N.C., and decided to visit his first contra dance. The etiquette is that a male can ask a female to dance or vice versa. As he was standing there, a female came over and asked him if he had ever contra danced before. His first step on the floor turned into a memorable occasion and Wiley has been addicted ever since. The more dances he attended, the more determined he was to bring contra dancing to his hometown.
Wiley formed the Historic Jonesborough Dance Society and it was chartered in 2005 as a non-profit, educational organization to promote an appreciation of American folk dancing, its music and history. The first dance, held in January of 2006, turned out to be very successful and the rest has been history for Wiley and his desire to leave behind his legacy of contra dancing to the local community.
Dances are held on the first and third Saturdays of each month in the auditorium of the Historic Jonesborough Visitors Center at 117 Boone Street. Wiley points out the dances are inexpensive and provide entertainment for the entire family. The young at heart, from the ages of 8 to 80 attend and no experience is necessary. This type of dancing does not require an individual to bring a partner. According to Wiley, the experienced dancers are great to help out the beginners and will seek them out to help get them started with the dance steps.
“My goal is to start, maintain, network, promote, and sell the idea of visiting Jonesborough to contra dance. I would like to see more young families become involved so the art of this dance doesn’t disappear. It is a great thing to see parents and children dancing together,” Wiley said.
“Social interaction is a lost art form these days. Too many people go home from work and don’t get back out to socialize and especially not by dancing as a way to promote a sense of community bonding. I try to form that emotional connection when someone new walks in the door; to keep that sense of community to encourage them to come back again,” he said.
Theresa Marlow is a regular attendee in Jonesborough and has been contra dancing for five years.
“The people you meet are great folks. There’s always excellent live music and very talented callers who make the dances just flow. I’ve met so many interesting people and have made some lasting friendships through dancing. Everyone is so welcoming and kind. It’s so much fun to meet all the different people and keep in touch once the dance is done. The people in the dance community are so varied. You might be dancing with a 7-year-old or a 70-year-old. We come from all walks of life. I love that it is family oriented and that new dancers are always welcome. No one leaves the dance without a smile on their face.”
“I don’t count the people there, but the sweat and smiles as they leave. This tells me if the night was successful,” Wiley said.
For more information on contra dancing in Jonesborough, visit http://www.historicjonesboroughdancesociety.com for a complete dance schedule. “Like” Historic Jonesborough Dance Society on Facebook for regular updates on the dances.