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April 21, 2013

The trans-Atlantic legacy of Playford

(Continued)

When he and his wife began, 40 to 50 dancers would attend English country dancing festivals. Now, there are upwards of 400 dancers.

“It happens because there is a community out there that realized it’s a great way to be involved with other people, making music and dancing with them. People have a great time. They don’t have to drink and smoke pot to do it,” Bruce said.

Bruce and Wendy launched the English country dancing invasion in Montreal and have taught there a dozen years. There, they have also danced with the Scottish Country Dancers a decade.

“The Francophones started (English country dancing) over the last 10 years,” he said. “Some people from Plattsburgh follow us up there. We often have 30-plus dancers.”

On Sunday afternoons, the Burlington Country Dancers draw 40-plus participants statewide as well as a following from this side of Lake Champlain.

“The biggest weekend of the year is Across the Lakes, the second weekend of June. We’ll have 140 dancers coming from around the country. It runs from Friday night to Sunday afternoon. It’s so popular; it’s already sold out,” Bruce said.

Across the Lakes started with his and his wife’s 25th wedding anniversary, which was celebrated English-country-dancing style. It was such a success that a committee formed to sponsor it annually.

The beauty of English country dancing is that no dance partner is required.

“You dance with someone else every dance. It’s not like couples’ dancing. It’s dancing with everybody in the room,” Bruce said.

It’s beyond Facebook.

“There’s real flesh there,” Bruce said.

There are thousands of English country dance figures, and he and Wendy can comfortably call 800. Some, such as “Picking Up Sticks,” date to the original Playford dance manual. English country dance is vibrant and ever-evolving. There has been a plethora of modern dances created the last five years. “Sarah Kay” is an example.

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