Winner of NEA’s National Heritage Award for folk arts in Bethlehem

On November 12, Valley Contra Dance will feature Dudley Laufman, winner of the nation’s highest honor in the folk and traditional arts, the NEA National Heritage Fellowship. With his wife Jacqueline on fiddle and Jill Smith on keyboard, Laufman will call the moves for a “Back to the Roots” Contra Dance.

He is recognized as a leader in the renaissance of dance forms that arose in colonial times, such as the Virginia Reel. During this revival, many of today’s callers and musicians learned at Laufman’s dances and carried the art nationwide. One of his gifts is making the dance fun for beginners.

Open to the public, this event is for dancing or just listening and watching. The calls are taught at 7:00; dancing goes from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m. in the gym of the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Lehigh Valley, 424 Center Street, Bethlehem. No experience is needed and it’s not necessary to bring a partner. Admission $9; students $5. This rare appearance by Laufman is supported in part by a grant from the Bethlehem Fine Arts Commission. For further information go to their website or call 610-868-7432.

What does this really mean? It means that there is a nationally recognized folk arts expert coming to Bethlehem. To win an award from the National Endowment for the Arts means one of the highest levels of recognition by a panel of super judges. The NEA National Heritage Fellowships recognize the recipients’ artistic excellence and support their continuing contributions to our nation’s traditional arts heritage.

So what’s contra dancing? Instead of describing it, here’s a video of the Virginia Reel:

I went to a contra dance session last year, just to observe. In short time, I was jumping into a circle; partnered with a lovely gentleman who (for the first time in my life) properly turned me out of a two step. I was not only in good hands, I was among instant friends. It’s great fun, and it’ll get your heart rate up, too!

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