Historically speaking, contra dancing, a New England style of square dancing, was how settlers in the region socialized in those long ago days before Tweets and Facebook.
And though it’s decidedly low tech, it’s still a great way to get to know your neighbor and swing your partner.
You’ll have the opportunity to do just that on Saturday, May 27 when Sylvester Manor Educational Farm, in cooperation with Shelter Island Town Recreation Department, presents a lively evening of barn dancing at the Shelter Island Youth Center.
The dancing begins at 8 p.m., but beginners will have an opportunity to learn the moves beforehand with an instructional segment at 7:45 p.m. Don’t forget to wear comfortable shoes and bring a snack to share if you like.
Live music will be provided by Bennett Konesni and Edith Gawler who will be joined by musicologist Jeff Davis, the legendary Yankee fiddler from Port Jefferson who now resides in Woodstock, Connecticut.
Edith and Bennett are well known fixtures on the East End folk music scene and they share their love of traditional fiddle tunes and farming work songs with audiences around the world as cultural ambassadors for the U.S. State Department. Having recently returned from tours in Ukraine and Norway, they balance their time between Shelter Island and their farm in Belfast, Maine.
For his part, Jeff has played with many of the greats of traditional music over the years and also travels internationally. His witty presence and distinctive voice have made him one of the most sought-after performers on the traditional music scene. Jeff is also known for having done more to research and resurrect Long Island’s native fiddle tunes than anyone on the planet. As a side note, he recently came across two massive fiddle tune archives — one from the William Sydney Mount collection in Setauket and the other from the collection of Isaac Homan in Bellport.
While the music is important, no contra dance is complete without a great caller, and for this one, Dave Harvey will be on hand, letting dancers know just what to do. A regular at the Long Island Traditional Music Association’s Water Mill dances, Dave provides expert instruction and a great sense of humor, guaranteeing a wonderful time for dancers of all experience levels.
Tickets to the barn dance are $14. Admission is free for kids under 10. Buy tickets online at sylvestermanor.org or call Sylvester Manor at (631) 749-0626. Shelter Island Youth Center is located at the American Legion Mitchell Post 281, 281 North Ferry Road, Shelter Island.