A Week of Dancing on “Kentucky’s Backroads”

The Christmas Country Dance School at Berea College has been a place to celebrate and practice traditional dance, music, song and crafts since 1938. Lexington, Kentucky’s ABC news station did a nice piece on this year’s CCDS for a series called “Kentucky’s Backroads”. Read the story and see the video. (Or watch it fullscreen.)

The Berea Christmas Country Dance School on TV

As in my post on morris dancing, here’s an example of wider media (local news in this case), taking a look from the outside in. It makes me consider the role of extended events (like the week-long School). The piece looks at how the Christmas Country Dance School fosters and sustain broad geographic connection, something many of us experience. It also highlights something that isn’t discussed quite as much: that events like the Christmas School also offer a place for support and personal healing.

Caller (and CDSS board member) Wendy Graham of Colorado is featured in the story, along with her friend Julie Fishman from California. Relating how the Christmas School helped them heal from their experiences in New York City during 9/11, Wendy and Julie share a kind of story that I suspect takes place quite often. What is it that’s “therapeutic” about a week of traditional dancing? It’s an escape, but it is not isolated escapism, unlike so much of our “recreation”; it is communal. There is something quite special about the plunge into personal, physical connections and traditions — the giving and getting weight of community dancing. At times when we feel isolated and lost, a hand to literally hold on to offers special reassurance.

Three hours of dancing can deliver an intense feeling of community. Weekends and weeks can generate even more profound experiences, offering many more opportunities to connect both on and off the dance floor. This experience is continually renewed as coming together for a week a year becomes a tradition in itself, lasting “for decades to come”.

It’s a valuable thing and I’m glad we have it.

— Max

p.s. I can’t help but return to briefly marveling at the breadth of geographic connections. As the news piece observes, it’s remarkable how these traditions are strong enough to bring people together for events like the Christmas Country Dance School. A Coloradan and Californian reunite in Kentucky. And in the video they are dancing to Cis Hinkle of Georgia with music by Brad Battey and Debbie Jackson (also a CDSS board member) from Michigan. Quite amazing.

2 thoughts on “A Week of Dancing on “Kentucky’s Backroads”

  1. Wendy Graham

    Right on, Max. Thank you for your insights.

    To share the words of Noah Segal, a dancer who attended Christmas Country Dance School for the first time this year, the week provides “the emotional equivalent of oxygen.”

    It’s a critical annual event for my personal well-being. I’ve only missed it once in 19 years. Time and time again the week has rescued me, wiped the slate clean, refilled my cup. I know I need to be with these dancers, singers, and musicians who’ve become my extended family, so I don’t even think about making other plans. I’ve made a committment to going.

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