The Troy Savings Bank Music Hall presents:

5.11.19 @ 7:30PM

Pickers’ Paradise: From the Balkans to Bluegrass Community Dance

A special night of dancing led by square dance caller Hannah Johnson and Balkan dance master Beth Stafura

This dance will take place at the Rensselaer County Historical Society. Everybody is welcome, no experience required, and no partner needed.

  • General Admission: $5
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Please note - a limited number of tickets are available for this special event, get your early!

A special night of dancing taught and led by square dance caller Hannah Johnson of Keezletown, VA, and Balkan dance master Beth Stafura of Pittsburgh. Music provided by the finest musicians from Appalachia and Pittsburgh’s Eastern European immigrant communities. 

Everybody is welcome, no experience required, and no partner needed. Be sure to bring your most comfortable attire and shoes to dance for several hours.  This dance will take place at the Rensselaer County Historical Society, located at 57 2nd St, in downtown Troy - just down the street from the Music Hall. 

Dust of your best dancing shoes and join us as Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, in partnership with the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, presents a fun-filled evening of dance and music that celebrates two virtuosic string music traditions—bluegrass and old-time from the mountains of Virginia, and Balkan music known as tamburitza from the urban community halls of Pittsburgh. Whether you are a beginning-level dancer eager to learn, active in the local contra scene, or a Balkan dance enthusiast, this special evening presents an exciting opportunity to learn traditional dances from master dance teachers and try the steps you learn to the playing of two great bands.

Old-time fiddler and square dance caller Hannah Johnson will get the fun started. Hailing from the Shenandoah Valley, Hannah learned how to call square dances in the region’s distinctive tradition, especially in and around Highland County, VA, by apprenticing to several of the region’s most respected callers. The Highland County style is known as “Big Circle” because the dances begin with everyone together in a large circle. Dancers spilt into groupings of two couples, do a basic figure, and then each couple moves on to form a new grouping with another couple. This structure repeats until the caller brings the music and the dance to an end. With only two couples per group, Big Circle square dancing is one of the more accessible styles, but it is also high-energy, a great way for dancers who are new to square dancing to learn and have fun. Backed by Danny Knicely’s Next Generation, Hannah will teach the basic moves of a dance, and combine the steps with traditional calls and patter (the clever, rhythmic word play that callers are known for) before cueing up the band to provide high-energy music so participants can execute what they’ve just learned. Hannah will start with easy dances, and then build to more complex ones as attendees get comfortable.

From the mountains of Virginia, the evening will then head to the Balkans, by way of Pittsburgh. Tamburitza music, often called the “bluegrass of the Balkans,” is the virtuosic, lively string band music that for centuries has been the iconic sound of the region. Dance teacher Beth Stafura began performing and dancing to tamburitza music in her family’s home and their Pittsburgh neighborhood as a young child. She danced with the Duquesne University Tamburitzans (DUT) in college, and is now a dancer and instructor knowledgeable about a wide range of Balkan line and circle dances collectively referred to as kolo dances. For generations, these were village-style dances; in the U.S., they are still vital to celebrations and festivities in Eastern European immigrant communities across the industrial Upper Midwest. Beth will lead attendees through individual dances from Bulgaria, Macedonia, Croatia, Serbia, and other countries from the Balkans. Teaching one dance at a time, she will begin with dance steps in small combinations and build incrementally to the full dance. Tamburaški Sastav Ponoc, a tamburitza ensemble from Pittsburgh, will provide the music as Beth leads attendees through a variety of kolo dances that will weave and circle across the dance floor.

When the music stops and the dance is over, beginning-level dancers will be looking for the next opportunity to practice these two dance traditions, while dancers experienced with other traditions will feel rewarded for having expanded their horizons.