by Gina Sestak
Sometimes it seems as if all we writers ever do is write. We picture ourselves hunched over a keyboard, minds awash with scenes of murder and mayhem while our less creative, rational brain puzzles out the complex interaction of nouns and verbs. Well, let me tell you something: You can't just write. No matter how great the imagination, every once in awhile a writer has to dip into the real world and do something. We need to venture forth and experience things for ourselves.
Hence the past weekend, which I spend at a gathering in rural Pennsylvania learning folk dances.
That's the real world? you ask.
Kinda. Sure. It's just a step or two removed -- no pun intended!
And folk dance camp is the perfect place for a writer. Think about it -- or rather, don't think about it. Get up and dance. There is something liberating about rhythmic motion. It clears the mind and lifts the spirits. It's even exercise. Plus, it's fun, in that non-verbal way that sliding down a sliding board is fun. Fun like grown-ups hardly ever get to have.
Perhaps I should back up a pace or two and explain. Recreational folk dancing involves doing traditional dances of various nations. People of all ages participate and, since many dances are done in a line (think Zorba the Greek) or circle, you do not need to have partner. You do not have to be graceful enough to avoid stepping on a partner -- as long as you move in the same general direction as everybody else, you'll do no harm.
I've been dancing for several years with a group that meets every Tuesday night in Oakland, the same group that sponsored the dance camp. We spent the weekend dancing in a big old barn in SNPJ, Pennsylvania. Yes, that really is the name of the place -- it's an acronym for the Slovenian words for Slovene National Benefit Society, which runs the recreational center.
So, what does one do at a folk dance camp? you are probably wondering.
Well, you, uh, dance.
There's more to it than that, of course. Two guest instructors, David Vinski and Lee Otterholt, took turns teaching. There was a lot of hand-holding, hopping, stepping, turning, and stomping, with the occasional clap, shout or whistle thrown in, all done to energizing music. There were also meals and parties, drinking and dancing 'til the wee hours.
If you think you might like that kind of thing, why not come dancing Tuesday night?
Or, if you'd rather stay at your keyboard, Yemenite on down and help me plot out "Murder at the Folk Dance Camp." I can almost see it now . . .