“She was a well-known dancer,” Bruce said. “She actually died dancing, which most of us would like to do. A guy wrote a wonderful dance and named it after her.”
Bruce and Wendy learned by dancing, dancing and dancing even more.
“You get the patterns in your muscle,” he said. “When we became callers, we had to get dances in our heads so we could verbally tell other people what to do or when to do it.”
English country dancing draws a diverse demographic. In Plattsburgh, it’s mainly 40-somethings and up with a few home-school families with teens. Burlington Country Dancers feature live musicians, many young, so their 20- and 30-something friends attend.
“In the dance community, (English country dance) and contra, when a dancer’s spouse dies, they usually find someone else in the dance community,” Bruce said.
For the unattached, it’s a way for a 21st century Lizzy to meet a Mr. Darcy.
Contra, in general, draws a younger demographic, but in Vermont dancers range from 12 to 90 years old.
Jigs and reels are the realm of contra. Scottish country dancing features jigs, reels and strathby, a very slow Scottish music. English country dancing has more flavors with the tango, waltz and polka added to the mix.
“It incorporates the whole range of music from ragtime to classical,” Bruce said. “We can take all of those, and we can put choreography to it. Our music is much more diversified than those other kinds of country dances. English country dancers, they’re already in heaven, so how can it get any better?”
The Schenkels have danced since the millennium. During the ‘60s at the University of California, Davis, John was in a folk-dance troupe. When he and his wife, Sharon, stepped in to the English country dance realm, he hadn’t danced for a long time.