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My Two Left Feet: A Review of the 25th Annual Flurry Festival

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The 25th Annual Flurry Festival, Review

Puttin’ On a Pair of Boogie Shoes at the Annual Dance-a-Thon

The 25th Annual Flurry Fest. Photo by Aubree CutkompSaratoga Springs Mayor Scott Johnson declared February 12th-19th as Celebrate Traditional Music and Dance Week, and that is exactly what festival-goers did during this past weekend’s Flurry Festival.

Saratoga’s City Center was alive with music and dance during the festival’s 25th annual celebration. Flurry Fest has come a long way from its inaugural event – a single Saturday in a Guilderland school with a few workshops, 30 performers and 300 dancers. This weekend there were an astounding 400 performers, 250 events and thousands of dancers/participants. Flurry Fest truly has something for everyone, from Afro-Caribbean Belly Dancing to Zydeco, and there are so many different kinds of activities, workshops and performances, that you could dance for three days straight if you’d like. People from all over the country, young and old gathering here together once a year, united by their love of traditional music and dance, is a powerful thing.

Honestly, I wasn’t looking forward to checking the festival out. I have nothing against the Flurry Festival, it’s just that I have something against dancing; I don’t have a rhythmic bone in my body. I, without a doubt, have two left feet and have finally come to the realization that I have a dance disability. After years of stressful school dances and sitting songs out at weddings, I now avoid dancing at all costs. You won’t see me at your Zumba class and on the rare occasion I find myself on the dance floor, it’s because I’ve had way too much to drink.

Within minutes of arriving, I knew that I was worrying about nothing. The building was bustling with excitement and music of all kinds was coming from every direction as if a band competition were about to take place. Latin music, Irish step-dancing music, African drumming and the blues all blended together, but it wasn’t noise – it worked; the sounds were as eclectic as the crowds. There wasn’t a person in the place without a smile on their face and the joyful atmosphere was contagious. And it’s not like someone was going to pull me onto the dance floor. (Insert ominous music here)

Balance Partner at the Saratoga Springs Flurry Festival. Photo Courtesy Katherine WardleI poked my head in and out of the rooms. I saw bits and pieces of a Native American flute workshop, beginner ukulele class and gypsy jazz basics. I heard and saw a lot of interesting things, from how to dance at a Jewish wedding to what a Scottish tea dance is. Unplanned jams would pop up in corners and hallways, wherever musicians met for a “break.” One of the most memorable events I sat in on was Dudley Laufman’s Old New England Barn Dances. Dudley, a spunky New Hampshire man in his eighties was the dance’s “caller” and member of Two Fiddles, his group, which includes his wife and two others. Dudley and Two Fiddles have tirelessly worked to preserve and promote New England barn dancing. What is New England barn dancing, you ask? Dudley describes it as “a dance that can be done with everyone from school children to drunks.”    The dance looks as how you would imagine it; however you would imagine dancing to fiddles in a barn. There’s sashaying down the lines, building a bridge (lifting your arms up to your partner’s to form a “bridge” for the rest of your line to go under), do-si-do-ing and swinging. I was thoroughly enjoying watching everyone else have a great time, until a nice older man asked if I’d like to be his partner. Flustered that my worst fears were coming true and conflicted, (because at Flurry Fest are you even allowed to turn a dance down?) I just said yes. The camaraderie amongst this room full of people (switching partners here and there, helping each other out after a missed step or confusing call) gave me the courage to get out on the dance floor long enough to learn what a Paul Jones is. Paul Jones, an American naval hero, who also fought for Portugal, France and Spain was known for switching “partners” so often that he supposedly had a giant flag made out of the petticoats of his trysts. After a Paul Jones was called, it was my cue to duck back out, but for the two minutes I was on the dance floor, it was awesome!

The Flurry Fest has braved floods, snowstorms and even with 45° weather this year, it makes you forget all about the midwinter blues and whatever is going on outside. There was such a strong sense of community amongst everyone, and in celebrating old time dance and music, it’s as if the old-time values re-emerged as well. Each and every year Flurry Fest grows larger, and I can’t wait to see what next year holds. Maybe I’ll even participate in a beginner workshop or two…

Aubree Cutkomp is an Assistant Editor for The Free George. Photos Courtesy of Aubree Cutkomp and Katherine Wardle.

The Free George is the online magazine and visitors’ guide of Upstate NY, covering things from Albany to Lake Placid, including Saratoga, the Lake George region and the Adirondacks. Check out our City Blogs section for our extended coverage areas as well.

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