While many HWS students celebrate the end of the week by blasting their favorite music, a very unique kind of sound also can be heard coming from the Hirshson Ballroom. Every Friday evening from 4:30 to 6 p.m., members of the campus community and beyond meet to join in on the English Country Dancing Club’s practice at the ballroom.
As the dance practices continue to gear up this semester, the club currently has its sights set on their upcoming Contra Ball to be held on Friday, April 19, from 8 to 11 p.m. in the Hirshson Ballroom.
“People from all over the Finger Lakes area are expected to come,” says club member Ryan Mullaney ’15. “It’s more of a public event.”
The ball is open to all HWS students and residents from the surrounding communities, as the club hopes to introduce English country dancing to a wider range of participants.
The Society of English Dancers brings together 10 to 15 HWS students, faculty and community members at each meeting, but hopes to increase this number. “We want to do more Contras that are open to the community and have more formal English Country Dances,” says Kazia Berkley-Cramer ’13, president of the club.
Last October, Berkley-Cramer ’13 and Associate Professor of English Nicola Minott-Ahl, faculty adviser to the club, formed The Society of English Country Dancers to accommodate the growing interest in the style of dance on the HWS campus and in the surrounding communities. Many students have participated in Contra dancing before, which is similar to English Country except that it moves at a faster pace. Most; however, have not tried English country dancing until the club began.
The English Country Dancing Club offers a unique opportunity for HWS students to interact with faculty members, as well as members from the Geneva community. With the wide array of participants that attend the meetings and are expected to attend the Contra Ball, the skill levels of the participants are just as varied.
“Most of us have never done English country dancing before or any type of dancing at all,” Mullaney says. “It’s really just fast walking.”
The club would not be possible without the help of English Country Dance Pianist Barb Seppeler and Dance Instructor Dan Seppeler of the Country Dancers of Rochester. Barb provides the music with her piano playing, while Dan Seppeler calls out the steps and leads dances.
In English country dancing, a group of couples, usually two or three, follows a fixed set of “figures” announced by a caller in time to the music.
“It’s not something you can do without a live pianist or caller,” says Berkley-Cramer. “That’s why we’re so lucky to have Barb and Dan.”
Barb Seppeler first teamed up with HWS last spring when she taught the dance in Minott-Ahl’s class, Jane Austen in Film. For some, the connection to Jane Austen’s storytelling and a century far in the past are what’s most appealing about the style of dance.
“I love Jane Austen’s writing,” says club member Meredith Groman ’15. “Dancing the way her characters did is a strong part of the attraction.”
“I do it for fun,” explains Berkley-Cramer. “I like getting to interact with other people.”