Does a community dance or is dance the community?


My grandfather, an optician owned a shop down on Canal St in NYC. He was the kind of guy that saved the old glass frames and didn’t always have the latest styles. One might say he was kind of cheap in that way. Today you might say that the frames he kept in his shop were “retro”. To young 70’s Brooklynites Jay Unger and Lyn Hardy I think they were what they opted to wear. My father was working for my grandfather when Jay and Lynn would cross the East River, get their wire rimmed frames and chat. I have visions of them playing tunes right in the middle of the shop. When established in friendly relationship with my father they gave him one of their LP’s and invited them to one of their gigs in the suburbs. That album would get played by me and my sister almost daily. We’d stomp around the house to “Rocky Road Cindy” and various rowdy fiddle tunes making the record skip. Over the years we would encounter Jay and Lyn in other settings.

I grew up in a musical family. My grandfather a classical violinist, my mother taught piano. My mother connected with Pete Seeger when she called him to sing at my sister’s nursery school. Instead of a “yes” she got an earful about a budding organization called Clearwater. Pete talked about the boat that he planted the seeds for a few years back to get people rallied around cleaning up the river. He solicited her help in starting a local Yonkers chapter of the group. I was 2 or 3; the beginning of a life devoted to folk music and environmentalism thanks to Pete. But I digress. Fast forward a bit. At the Clearwater annual meetings held at a rustic camp in Beacon, NY I would always look forward to a square dance. led by Jay and Lyn. The people I knew and loved from the the community danced. It was a meeting of the generations and a celebration of something larger. Much the way I imagine old barn dances in small towns throughout the country happening; folks getting together after a harvest or a weeks work and celebrating with a dance. Perhaps I idealize the event as I was young and it was perhaps the happiest of childhood memories, but I distinctly remember the jovial, beginner quality to the event. I was hooked.

To be continued….

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