Posted on Thu, Nov. 18, 2004


Special to The Herald

If you're one of those people whose feet come alive at the sound of a fiddle or two, it would behoove you to high-step it down to the Davie Woman's Club to revel in a hot old trend.

On Saturday night, Loose Shoes, a string band, played rousing folk songs while caller Brian Kushner prompted dancers through twirls and promenades with a slew of different partners at the Old Bahn Dance.

''We've been doing this for 20 years in South Florida,'' said Marty Spencer, Loose Shoes fiddler from Davie. "But we just moved the venue from Fort Lauderdale to the Davie Woman's Club this March.''

Nearly 60 dancers, dressed in shorts, flowing skirts, T-shirts and sneakers, formed a set of four parallel lines running the length of the Woman's Club hall. After a sequence of moves that left couples progressing up or down the line, it was repeated until each couple danced with every other couple in the line.

The style, said longtime caller Warren Pollans of Boca Raton, called ''contra'' dancing, is historically an American form of English country dancing, and was all the rage in the 1800s. The word ''contra'' is derived from ''country'' -- over the years, the name just stuck, much like ''barn'' became "bahn.''

''It's a very flirtatious way to interact. It can be very intense. But yet benign. It's understood that when the dance is over, that's it,'' Pollans said.

Doctors, educators, computer programmers and musicians can all be found in the Davie group, said contra dancer Shelly Wolland of Davie. The fun, Wolland said, is with how many people you can dance, not whether or not you think you can dance.

''There are contra dances all over the country. I learned how in North Carolina, and sometimes you get a venue where you can dance with 500 people,'' Wolland said.

The Old Bahn Dance began at 7 p.m. with a potluck supper of homemade casseroles and breads. Contra dance practice followed shortly after for the few who had never been before, like Silvia Rotela, 23, who drove all the way from Boca Raton.

The energetic, sociable dancing left her out of breath as Loose Shoes led into faster renditions of their repeated sets.

''My friend told me about contra dancing. She looked online and found this one,'' Rotela said. łThis is my first time. It's fun.''

Spencer hopes to move the Old Bahn Dance into the Old Davie School. The museum has the type of architecture and decorative style befitting of the contra dance, he said.

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