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Students can take part in contra dancing during Lafayette’s birthday celebration Sept. 6

During the Marquis de Lafayette’s 250th birthday party Sept. 6, students and others will have the opportunity to participate in contra dancing starting at 5:15 p.m. on the Quad.

The College is planning a yearlong celebration during 2007-08 in recognition of the life and legacy of the man for whom it is named. In addition to the birthday party, major events will include a lecture series, entitled Lives of Liberty, featuring renowned speakers, and a historical exhibit at the Williams Center for the Arts, entitled A Son and his Adoptive Father: The Marquis de Lafayette and George Washington.

  • A web site dedicated to the celebration and to the Marquis’ unique connection to the College provides information and updates.

Contra dancing is traditional New England folk dancing which Americans have enjoyed since Revolutionary times. It combines elements from French and English country dancing with a community-oriented spirit. Each dance consists of a sequence of moves dictated by the caller to dancers who are paired in long rows. Contra dancing was very popular in the 1800s, but continues to be popular today. It is easy to learn and mostly involves a smooth walking step.

Dancing at the celebration will be led by folk dance experts and partners Peggy Leiby and Ret Turner from the Philadelphia area. They will be leading a core group of 8-10 student participants who have had prior experience with contra dancing, as well as anyone else who wants to join in the dance.

“Contra dancing is so much fun. There is wonderful music, it is great exercise, and it creates a real sense of community. It’s also danced by all ages and all over the country,” says Leiby.

Music will be provided by Matt Brown & friends. Matt Brown is an old-time fiddler from West Chester, Pa., who also sings and plays the banjo.

The caller for the event is Donna Hunt. Hunt has been calling contra dances for many years. She presently lives in the Philadelphia area and is a regular caller at the Thursday Night Contra Dance and the 3rd Saturday Contra Dance, both in Glenside, and the Valley Contra Dance in Bethlehem, Pa. Donna has called for dances throughout New England and Mid-Atlantic States and as far away as California.

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