Dancing the weekend away
'River Rendezvous' draws contra dancers to Lake Park Pavilion


COSHOCTON -- About 250 people have been using Lake Park Dance Pavilion this weekend as it was originally intended when built in 1923.

They gathered from all over the U.S. -- from as far away as Michigan, Indiana and Colorado to as near as Cleveland and Columbus -- for the sixth annual River Rendezvous, a contra dancing event.

"This facility is to die for," said Carol Kopp, who has been a contra dance caller for 30 years. "The floor is beautiful and the view is beautiful. We very seldom get to dance in a real ballroom."

Jim Sedivy of Cuyahoga Falls found the pavilion when he worked for a period of time in Coshocton and was exploring Roscoe Village.

"Many of the old dance halls were torn down when they fell into disrepair," he said. "Coshocton has a real gem here."

Contra dance is an American form of folk dancing, and is the forerunner to square dancing, according to Kopp.

"It stayed alive and well in the New England area," she said, "and began working it's way west again about 35 years ago. Now it's danced all over the country."

Instead of four couples forming a square as is usually done in square dancing, contra dancing takes as many couples as will to form long lines.

For each dance, the caller walks the dancers through the figures, cues the band to start, and calls the moves the first few times through the music. The moves include some found in square dancing, including allemandes, do-si-dos and swings.

During the course of each dance, every couple dances a series of moves with all the other couples in the line.

Kopp said it's not necessary to attend contra dances with a partner, it's expected that you'll switch partners.

"It actually makes you a better dancer," she said. Instead of becoming accustomed to one person's moves, the dancer needs to perfect steps in order to be able to participate with the group.

Sedivy has been dancing for about nine years, and thinks it's a great way to meet people.

"It's how I met my wife, Becky," he said.

A man or a woman can ask the other to dance, and etiquette says you can't turn someone down unless you're planning on sitting out the dance, Sedivy said.

The dances are to many types of music, including traditional old-time fiddle, Irish or Celtic.

This weekend the group has attended a series of workshops on contra dancing, English country dancing and waltz, followed by an evening of contra dance. The River Rendezvous was by reservation only and has been sold out for about six weeks, according to Fred Welty from Geauga County.

Sedivy said they've considered hosting an event that would be open to people from the area, but would like to see a need expressed that would justify the cost of renting the pavilion and paying a band and caller.

There are open dances held in Athens, Columbus, Cleveland, Toledo, Dayton and Pittsburgh.

"I've danced in a lot of places, and this is one of the best facilities," Welty said.


Originally published Sunday, July 13, 2003

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