For their first date, Glyn Webber took his future wife to Harper’s Choice Village Center on a Wednesday night, when the Columbia International Folk Dancers met to dance. The two have been regulars of the group ever since.
“We met at a folk dancing group,” Webber said. “The next week I brought her here.They did a lot of dances I knew and I knew people in the group.”
Every Wednesday night for 49 years, the dancers have met in Kahler Hall to dance dances from around the world from 8 to 10:30 pm.. In its early years, the group would perform at various functions and schools. On Sept. 13, the group will celebrate Columbia’s 50th birthday by hosting a typical Wednesday night with a few extras.
“We will do a demonstration and have open dancing,” said Ron Fedforchak, who has been a member since the early 1970s. ‘We will have a little food and refreshments.”
A normal Wednesday session starts with learning a few new dances followed by an evening spent dancing dances that are requested by members on an erase board along the wall.
“There are typically 20 to 40 people,” said Fedforchak. “We do everything. Greek, Bulgarian, Israeli, whatever. Every nationality imaginable.”
Nancy Jo Lame attends yearly folk dancing camps and typically is responsible for teaching new dances weekly.
“Everyone seems to like the stuff I bring back,” Lame said, at a recent Wednesday session. “I go to Wisconsin for a dance camp in the summer. I folk dance my heart out.”
Webber and his wife, Carolyn, also teach a few dances. The two often learn new dances while on vacation.
“For our 10th anniversary, we took our first folk-dancing cruise,” said Webber, adding that the couple have taken several since. “It combines of our love of folk dancing with our love of travel.”
The dances cover all bases, from slow to fast, and are either line, circle or couple dances, said Dorothy Shannon, who joined the group in 1975.
“When it comes right down to it… there are really only a couple things you can do with two feet, steps or hop,” Shannon said. “After that, the rest is just flair.”
Experience is not necessary to attend and the group welcomes all ages. While there is no official membership, there is a $5 collection at the door and seniors are $3, though there is no “gate keeper,” Ron said.
Many in the group were first introduced to folk dancing while in college in the 1970s.
“Folk dancing was really prevalent at the time,” Fedforchak said. “You could go to different places every night of the week. It has quieted down quite a bit.”
“The hippies grew up and went to work and started having children,” Shannon laughed. “Once the kids go to college, they come back and dance again.”
Some have gone on to other interests but come back on occasion. Shannon became an accomplished Irish dancer. She is always called upon to share a jig on St. Patrick’s Day. Joan Grauman was 14 years old when she first started folk dancing with the group in October 1968. A piano performance major, Grauman started playing the accordion and now plays the music she used to hear while dancing.
“I danced weekly with people of all ages and from all walks of life, and we all became one warm, supportive, happy family,” Grauman said, in an email. “I took up the accordion to play the beautiful music I heard weekly at our dance sessions.”
For the birthday celebration on Sept. 13, Grauman will return to play the accordion for the dancers.
“They are really special,” said Marlys East, managing director, Columbia’s 50th Birthday, Columbia Association. “They are so passionate about the international flavor and what they have maintained over the years.”Marlys East, managing director, Columbia’s 50th Birthday, Columbia Association. “They are so passionate about the international flavor and what they have maintained over the years.”
The group is now “more mature,” according to Shannon, but hopes are high that the birthday celebration will bring new light to the group.
“We’re hoping the party will interst new people,” Shannon said. “We love when new people come in.”interst new people,” Shannon said. “We love when new people come in.”