The kick-off session featured circle dances, line dances and frolicking shuffle steps and fostered an undeniable sense of the classic Gestalt theory: that the whole was greater than the sum of its parts.
The class explores this idea through different forms of "social" or "community" dances, dances from other cultures which emphasize circle and line formations and, above all, interaction with others. These are "contra" dances, dances about moving together and coming together as one collective body.
The hour began with a 30- minute tutorial on several different cultural dances, including "Pata Pata," a novelty dance accompanied by music from the South African Miriam Makeba, the Israeli dance "Zemer Atik" and an upbeat French-Canadian "mixer" called "La Bastringue."
Anne von Bibra, an assistant professor of dance and the programs instructor, guided the group of approximately 20 students, faculty and staff, as it took its first gingerly steps together. Shaky palms were joined and comfort zones were pressed, but not a single dancer seemed to care. The dances were engaging and the group eager.
The first half-hour of the Community Dance Hour serves as a stepping stone for beginners and advanced dancers alike to learn from von Bibras broken-down, easy to follow instructions.
"The idea is to get people up, dancing together, and relatively quickly. The first half is for anyone to try a different kind of dancing: dancing with each other as a community," von Bibra said.
The second half-hour is "request and review" time, which provides the opportunity for a review of the first dances taught and acts as "a dance outlet, for those who learned these dances at another time. It provides the opportunity for more advanced students to request their favorite dances, which others will be welcome to try out," von Bibra said.
Von Bibra said dancers can request anything from the Viennese waltz to the electric slide.
The hour-long class features an array of different forms of dance, explores varying levels of interaction among participants and welcomes all levels of skill. The emphasis is not only on the spontaneity that this type of class allows, but also on strengthening the muscles of the St. Olaf community.
Community Dance Hour is held in Dittmann Studio 1 and is free of charge. All members of the St. Olaf community are encouraged to attend. Non-street, wood-floor friendly shoes are welcome, but socks or bare feet are the more popular alternative.