Last night I attended my first ever “barn dance”. I think it was arranged by a group of local churches as a fund-raiser for two charities – one providing aid in Africa, and the other runs the summer camp my other half helps run in town each year.
Not having been to a barn dance before, I had no clue what to wear, but reading the event details on Facebook, it looked like faux Americana was being encouraged. I dug out my leather boots, jeans, check shirt, and the stetson that has been gathering dust in the corner of our lounge for the last twenty years. My other half and younger children dressed similarly – with plaited hair, check shirts, and jeans or leggings.
After arriving at the barn – converted from a livery stable for the event – I walked in and was greeted by a sea of similarly dressed people of all ages, some wearing stetsons. Rather than not feeling so much like an idiot, I settled into feeling like I wasn’t the only idiot.
After grabbing a drink, and finding a table with friends a “caller” made her way to the stage, and explained how everything was going to work – organising us into various groups throughout the evening, explaining the steps for each dance, and then cueing the music.
Hilarity, chaos, mayhem, laughter and confision followed. For several hours. You have never seen so many people dance so badly in your entire life. Where scenes of line dances in movies look perfectly choreographed, the barn resembled something closer to a busy market in Dheli – with people stumbling all over the place, walking into each other, pulling each other’s hands, and – this is key – laughing at their own antics hilariously.
We stopped after an hour or so for food and drinks – and I started wondering about the whole thing. Here we all were – dressed as pretend ranch hands from the American mid-west circa 1930 – and yet the music seemed to be comprised of mainly Scottish and Irish reels. Later in the evening the dances became even more esoteric – with the “Galloping Major”, and “Gay Gordons” being called out from the stage.
I get it – I really do – most of mid-west America was populated from european immigrants starting perhaps two hundred years ago, and of course they brought their traditional songs and dances with them – but if we were theming the night on the mid-west, where was the music of the mid-west?
And no – I’m not talking about the Ho-down from the Hannah Montana movie (although that would have been hilarious) – just some authentic numbers to tip the hat to the theme of everybody’s outfits.
I danced with my younger children for most of the night – although a few of the dances saw us move partners repeatedly – usually causing all manner of nervous laughter, and dropping of inhibitions. There was a moment of realisation during one of the dances that this was how people met back when barn-dances were “the” local event. Quite how you might form a relationship with somebody while being shouted instructions, and racing around a barn among a sea of chaotic people is something of a mystery though.