Group aims to bring town hall dancing back
Home on the Range program looks to revive Friday night traditon

Jesse White
Mesabi Daily News
Sunday, March 17th, 2002 10:19:33 PM

COOK -- Circle dances. Jig and reels. Waltzes, polkas and live music by the Circle of Friends band.

All this and more is part of the Home on the Range Community Dance Program and Jim Ganahl's goal to bring back the tradition of weekend town hall type dances.

"A lot of people just don't dance anymore," Ganhahl said. "A hundred years ago every town hall had a dance on Friday night. That's basically what we're doing now."

The Home on the Range Community Dance Association is a local non-profit organization that sponsors dances in northern Minnesota. The group has been active since 1998 and membership is open to anyone who wants to encourage community dancing in the area.

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Ganahl lived in Duluth for 20 years and was involved in a dance group there after attending some Irish dances. When the club needed a caller -- the person who shouts out the moves to the group -- Ganahl learned the trade and took over the position for 10 years.

While he was a member of the club he met Carol Booth and when they both moved to Cook, they decided to start a similar program there.

"We're a dance band and we're there to teach people how to dance," Ganahl said.

Each community dance has a complete program of group dances and couple dances including circle dances, New England and Contra Dances, Irish Jigs and reels, waltzes, polkas and Schottisches. Live music and dance instruction is always provided.

"It's kind of a thing where you have a room full of people dancing and it's pretty exciting," he said. "These dances were all invented as mixers because it was the best way to meet people."

The house band, which Ganahl is a part of, is called Circle of Friends.

"We call it circle of friends because whatever musicians are in a particular area on a particular night join us," he said.

The group has a caller who yells out the moves but it's not a square dance, Ganahl added, it's traditional American folk dancing.

The group does various special events and is usually sponsored by the group they are working with. On April 20 and 21 they will be hosting a dance weekend at Camp Widjiwagan north of Ely.

"People can come and stay over night and dance like crazy for two days," he said.

And, according to Ganahl, no experience is necessary and singles are always welcome. It's also a very family oriented dance as kids get in for free and there are usually several songs tailor made for them during the night.

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