“For all ages and families of all shapes and sizes. Babies are encouraged to attend.” That is the sign that hangs in the Spanish Ballroom for the Family Dance program. Presented by the Folklore Society of Greater Washington, the Family Dance has been going strong for the 15 years. The event brings the community together in a casual manner.
For example, no experience is necessary and you are not required to dance. One mother brought her three tween-age sons who had no desire to participate and that was okay. There is no pressure to engage in the activity although two of the boys eventually put their dancing shoes on! Susan Taylor, the instructor, welcomed patrons into the beautiful, historic ballroom. While the band known as the Free Raisins, set up, we sat in a row of chairs while Susan briefly explained what we would be doing. In folk dance language, Susan is referred to as the caller. The caller teaches the steps to circle, square, and contra dances.
I was hoping to hear a bit of the history of folk dancing, but the two hour session was filled with dancing and more dancing. My daughter and I only lasted one hour because she was confused by the steps and I was exhausted from all the going.
The first number was a circle dance which everyone enjoyed. When it came to the partnered folk dances, the younger children present were disinterested as they couldn’t remember all the steps and the fast pace of the music. I did hear some recognizable music from Celtic and Appalachia, but all I kept remembering was the caller saying peel the banana and promenade! I could tell that some families were regulars at the event nailing every turn and swing. The focus on the family dance is having fun. When I sat down, I was toe tapping and laughing seeing the people, particularly the little kids, taking a partner and following the crowd.
Good to Know
From May to October, the Family Dance is held in the Spanish Ballroom at Glen Echo Park. During November to April, the dances are held at the Glen Echo Town Hall on Harvard Avenue. There are no dances scheduled in August or December.
The cost is $5 for ages 4 and up. Regardless if you are just listening to the music or engaging in the activity, each person entering must pay. While the dance welcomes all ages, given the steps to follow, children 6 to 12 would enjoy the dance. The event is held from 3 to 5pm, but people drifted in after 3 and picked up the dance without disruption to the rest of us.
To preserve the space, no food or drink, including water is allowed on dance floor. However, a patron drinking a water bottle was not stopped by anyone. There are bathrooms with changing area. In the heat of the summer, the fans were on, but working up a sweat made it super hot in the ballroom.
There are plenty of things to do before and after the Family Dance. We arrived early, taking a spin on the carousel and listening to a band performing Zydeco music in the park. Take advantage of all that Glen Echo Park has to offer. On any given day you can visit the Living Classroom museum, see a puppet show or play in the children’s theatre. Don’t forget the playground and the small waterfall as you enter the park.
If you are looking to put a spring in your step, show off your talent, or spend time as a family feeling joyful, participate in the Family Dance.