Dance extravaganza steps into Glenwood
The Mountain Westies and More dance event will be Friday and Saturday at Glenwood Springs’ Masonic Lodge at Ninth Street and Pitkin Avenue. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 970-379-4956.
For years, social dancers in the Roaring Fork Valley have commuted to Denver or Grand Junction for their events, but this weekend, they won’t have to.
Instead, instructors and dancers are coming to Glenwood Springs from around the state for a dance extravaganza put on by the newly formed Mountain Westies and More, and featuring beginner and intermediate lessons, dance parties and a series of outdoor adventures for visitors.
It’s part of a dance revival going on around the Western Slope and nationwide, fueled by people like Jae Gregory. Without a dance background except for some fond memories of social dancing at the Relay Station near Carbondale, Gregory began reigniting the local dance community three years ago by organizing dances at the Third Street Center every Tuesday night. That event persists and sometimes attracts as many as 60 people on a weekly basis, so now Gregory is taking it a step further.
“I can’t just sit back and not make things happen,” she said.
She also has some strong examples in regional hot spots like Wolcott and Silverthorne that attract large crowds on a monthly basis.
“When you’re being danced around on a dance floor with 150 other dancers, you forget about anything else that’s going on,” Gregory observed.
The latest craze is the West Coast Swing, a modern take on the classic Lindy Hop.
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“It’s kind of an evolution in dance — the hottest thing going on the partner dance circuit,” Gregory said. “West Coast Swing attracts people of all ages, because it’s interpretive and a little less structured. There’s a lot of room to kind of play while you’re dancing, and the music is contemporary and evocative.”
The movement has already spawned groups like Denver Westies and Wandering Westies, so Mountain Westies is in good company.
“We have a great dance community if we can unite Denver to Grand Junction to Aspen to Steamboat,” Gregory said.
With that in mind, this weekend’s event pulls instructors from around the state for a wide range of courses. You can pay at the door, or register in advance through Wednesday.
“It’s not just West Coast,” she said. “We do ballroom, we’ll do a little bit of two step.”
“Any man who learns to dance will see his social status double overnight,” she added.
Beginners are invited to stop by the Glenwood Masonic Lodge from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Friday and 4:30 to 6 p.m. Saturday. For those who’d like to start by just watching, drop by around 9 Saturday night for a showcase.
Meanwhile, out-of-town participants will have a chance to visit the Adventure Park, hike, bike, get out on the river or soak in the hot springs.
“There’s a lot of dancers in Denver who want to come to the mountains because it’s a break, and, oh, by the way, dance,” Gregory said.
Indeed, instructors Kerry McLean and Shane McIntyre got their first introduction to the area last year on vacation. The pair travel all over the world teaching dance to everyone from 3-year-olds to World War II veterans and are looking forward to bringing their art to Glenwood.
“It’s our passion to share that excitement and that love of dance,” McLean said. “All the recent studies show that movement and thinking linked together at the same time is the best for your body and your mind.”
McLean got her start in more self-directed forms, but has learned to love social dancing.
“It’s developing that unspoken language between you and your partner even if it’s a two-minute dance and you’ve never met them before,” she said.
McIntyre has been involved in pair dances from the beginning.
“Mostly, people want to dance to meet people,” he observed. “It’s a phenomenon around the world.”
“West Coast Swing is a very cruisy, smooth dance, so it’s very kind on your body, which allows for lots of ages and abilities,” he added. “You don’t need to come with someone or have a regular partner to learn.”
It may not click the first time you try it, though.
“I hated it at first, but now it’s my favorite,” said Michelle Duncan, who has helped organize dancing events in Grand Junction. “It can be really neat to watch when it all comes together.”
The key to getting there in her estimation is not to be impatient or worry about how you look.
“Dancing, for some reason, people get very self-conscious,” she said. “You kind of have to let the ego out of the way and realize that no one’s judging you. Everybody was a beginner at one time.”
Duncan plans to make the drive up for the Glenwood event.
“The Roaring Fork dance group has really done a good job there,” she said. “It’s great that the mountains have such a strong dance community.”
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