From punk to contra: Dance caller debuts in Port Angeles

A punk community in London made a dance caller out of her.

Abigail Hobart, making her debut at the Black Diamond Community Hall contra dance this Saturday night (Sept. 2), came into this line of work during a four-month backpacking trip through Europe last year.

She found out some new, punk-rocking friends were having an open-mic night.

Hobart, who is from Bellingham, had grown up contra dancing and had been a caller just one time before.

“I suddenly felt a strong desire to share my dance tradition with all of the lovely folks I was meeting,” she recalled.

“I looked up two easy dances online and wrangled a last-minute band together. I made a few mistakes but nobody noticed,” and, she said, the Londoners were tickled to be partaking in this “American folk dance tradition.”

As everyone danced, “this was the moment that I was really hooked — feeling the joy build up in the room.”

Hobart plans on more joy at the Black Diamond hall, 1942 Black Diamond Road, Port Angeles, as she does the dance calling and the guitar-fiddle duo of David Rivers and Kate Powers dishes out the music. Saturday’s dance, which starts at 7:30 p.m. with a beginners’ workshop and refresher, is the first one after a summer hiatus.

Hobart will teach contra steps, which are not so far from square-dance steps, during the first half-hour; then the dancing goes from 8-11 p.m.

Admission is by donation, with $8 suggested for adults and $4 for those 17 and younger. No one is turned away for lack of funds. More information about this and future contra dances is found at www.BlackDiamondDance.org and by calling 360-457-5667.

Rivers and Powers are well-known folk musicians in these parts, but Hobart has never called the Port Angeles dance before. She’s been developing her skills at contra dances in and around Bellingham since returning last October from her European sojourn.

“I try to book myself as many evenings as possible,” she said, “as the best way to improve at calling is, like with most things, to do it a lot.”

For the new dancers, Hobart heaps on the encouragement.

The caller teaches you what you need to know at the outset, she said, and you’ll be guided through each dance as it happens.

For Rivers, a veteran of many dances, concerts and get-togethers, “few things are as magical as a community contra dance.

“If you love great music (and) love laughter,” he said, “dive in.”

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