Dance with Me

Each summer the mountains here resound with music and dancing. In case this sounds familiar, I’ve written about this before. Folkmoot dancers from around the world come to our little town in the Smokies to share their dance traditions with each other and with us.

Two Russian couples dressed in mostly orange, white, yellow costumes dancing in street

And there is music—the Swannanoa Chamber Music concerts, a summer festival choir, bluegrass and country, and the close harmonies of the Lake Junaluska Singers. It is grand and even mystical. These days I even think of the Sound of Music.

Folkmoot brought dancers from eight countries as well as our own Eastern Band of the Cherokee and the regional cloggers American Racket. People from The Netherlands, Russia, Taiwan, Israel, India, Argentina (the tango!), and Slovenia, as well as a Welsh group from Manitoba talked, danced, sang, and mingled around western North Carolina for ten days. But for me the most charming event of all is our summer street dances by the Court House lawn.

Older man and young black girl dancing in street performance

This year the Russian dance ensemble Ogon’ki joined us before we lay down the cornmeal for the cloggers and our neighbors in the county. Now, about the Russians. They can dance, they can leap, they can spin. They have precision in their movements, and their costumes always burn the eyes with bright colors to ward off the winter and excite the soul.

When the balalaikas and drums go on to that evening’s stage performance, our local bluegrass band warms up, caller Joe Sam Queen, heir of a long line of mountain dancers, comes to the microphone and invites young and old, lithe and creaky, to the street to dance. “Let’s all take hands and join in one big circle.” He even had his colleagues in the State Senate doing that when he served us there. May the circle flourish and be unbroken.

This year left a special memory. I had a special dance partner, Darlene. Here’s how it reverberates in my mind.

“Dance with me”

     said the outstretched arms,

    the smile on her face expectant

    that an old man

    at the street dance

            would of course accompany

    a girl of ten

    to promenade

    to allemand

    to swing your corner

    swing your sugarpie,

    dive for the oyster,

    circle star


    shout and scream

    as circled hands ran in together

    strangers laughing

    in the cornmeal clouds,

    the bluegrass band

    snapping out the rhythms,

    straining at the deep blue sunset sky.

We stopped.

Shook hands.

She ran off in the crowd giggling with her friends.

My wife was pleased.

Her man was still desirable.

Older woman dancing with young man in street

3 thoughts on “Dance with Me”

  1. I love your precious intergenerational connection, but also the way you invite us into international, intercultural, and cosmic connections–yes mystical! I felt I was on the sidewalk experiencing all the action. You transported me there.

  2. We attended Folkmoot a few years ago and had a great time. Wish I had known about it this summer. They never advertise it down our way. Thanks for reminding me of our good time in Waynesville.

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