Peanut butter and jelly.
Abbott and Costello.
Music and dance.
They just go together.
And nowhere was this more evident than at Roots & Blues on the weekend. Whether it was a full blown, head banging, leg-leaping motion, or a gentle full body sway, music inspires our bodies to move.
For some, it was classic motions, for others it was more a free-for-all – with partners, with the crowd or standing alone under the fine spray of a mister – it was nearly impossible to remain motionless when the beats began.
This is something Jens Goerner and Heather Stranks of City Dance understand.
The pair are partners in City Dance Studio in Vernon and also teach a wide variety of classes in Salmon Arm. Latin, jive, swing, tango, waltz, country and hip hop are among their repertoire and they brought a sampling of all to this year’s Roots and Blues Festival.
Both are firm believers that there is a dancer in everyone.
“Just look around you,” says Goerner. “People are dancing. Many people say they can’t dance, but you see them at something like this and their bodies are moving to the music. That’s dancing. What we do is just refine that for a specific type of music or feeling.”
The pair held a variety of workshops at multiple stages, to give festivalgoers of all ages a taste of what dancing could look like. They began with the very basics, a walk or a step of two to the beat. Within minutes, those attending had a few elements of their dance down pat. Moms danced with babies, women danced with women, strangers met and learned to jive together. There was a some nervousness, but a lot more laughter.
“The party atmosphere makes this a bit easier to get people up and move,” says Stranks.
And when the dancing meshed with the band that had just played, people stayed to attend the workshop and learn some moves. At the Barn stage, for example, a Latin band made for a captive audience for City Dance’s salsa workshop.
“We had like 80 people all up doing the salsa, and it doesn’t matter if they can do it perfectly. It’s about liking the music and having fun,” said Goerner.
Polishing a few moves was something that drew Julie Bradley to a swing workshop, even in the mid-afternoon heat.
“I like to dance and I like different kinds of dance, so this was a way to get a few tips,” she said. But Bradley lamented the fact that many men seem unwilling to get out on the dance floor, or dance field, in the case of Roots & Blues.
“I wish more men understood that women love a man who can dance.”
One man who has that all figured out is Eric Marks, a senior from Nelson, who began dancing five years ago and now calls it his passion.
“Dancing is great. It’s the only way you can put your arms around a person of the opposite sex and move in fun ways and no one raises an eyebrow, even in the most conservative of company. It’s the greatest scam going,” he says with a grin. “We do need more men to learn to dance. The ladies love you, even if you are only half-way decent.”
Goerner and Stranks agree that dancing can be a harder sell in North America, whereas in Europe and South America, men are much more likely to learn to dance and keep it up for their entire lives.
“People used to grow up going to the community hall and dancing and learning to dance from their parents and grandparents. It was what everyone did. Kids danced, adults danced. That’s kind of lacking now,” says Stranks. “Dancing is another way to bring people together, instead of being at home alone in front of our screens.”
City Dance is offering group and private lessons in Salmon Arm on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday. Their website is www.citydanceok.com