Calling in Zurich

by David Millstone

Editor’s note: CDSS President David Millstone has been traveling and calling dances in Europe (Czech Republic and Switzerland) during October. His flight back to the US delayed for three days by Hurricane Sandy, he sent this note from outside of Zurich.

It’s a Saturday in Dietlikon, Switzerland, a suburb just outside of Zurich. I’m leading an afternoon workshop of square dances and an evening barn dance. This is a monthly event, hosted by Swiss caller Katja Hunn for ten years. With music provided by Over the Isles (a trio featuring Katja’s husband, Philipp, on accordion), as far as I know this is the only regular series of contras and traditional squares in Europe (excluding the British Isles) with live music.

Despite an early season snowfall, the workshop attracts three dozen dancers, including a handful of modern square dancers who have been encouraged by one of their number to check out this other kind of American dance. Dancers are uniformly friendly, and they cheerfully swap partners when requested. With my repertoire augmented with material picked up at the Dare To Be Square weekend in NC last November, we do a mix of New England squares, a southern Appalachian big set, some four-couple squares from the south and west, and a few singing squares.

At the break, an older dancer (aged 90, I learn) comes up to ask, “Do you know George Fogg?“ I am dumbstruck for a moment, then we swap stories. He knows George from having attended many sessions at the Maine Folk Dance Camp, and then he shows me a photograph of Ted and Jean Sannella. Another dancer comes up to tell me about Maine camp hijinks with caller Ralph Page, and a third adds yet more stories.

Throngs of new faces show up that evening, a total of about 50 dancers. The young English couple, regulars at the dance, have brought five friends who bounce up and down merrily as they swing; the older Swiss dancers are delighted to welcome them as partners. We have a lively mix on the floor—modern square dancers, contra dancers, international folk dancers, Swiss, American expats, English, Austrian, and one man from tiny Liechtenstein—and so, for the final contra of the evening, I select one by New Jersey caller Bob Isaacs: United We Dance.

Photos courtesy the author.

One thought on “Calling in Zurich

  1. Shirley Worth

    What a treat to read this story! My husband and I danced with Katja Hunn for several years while he was working in Zurich. At the first dance we attended in Dietlikon, we stood in line worrying as Katja explained the figures in Swiss German – will we be able to follow along?? but as soon as she started calling, all was well, as we heard the familiar English calls. What a wonderful group! One of many things we miss about living in Zurich.

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