Live counter-dancing returns to Shepherdstown! | News, Sports, Jobs


For over 40 years, Shepherdstown has hosted a wonderful community event on the first Saturday of the month, at the War Memorial Building. Bringing top dance callers and nationally acclaimed musicians to an age-old dance form in our local community has been the mission of Shepherdstown Music and Dance, whose contra and square dances combine happy, easy dances with fiddle tunes happy and lively. Then we had a pandemic, and everything came to a screeching halt. We are now back, with our first dance on September 3 at 8 p.m.

Now that we have vaccines, and very good anti-viral treatments, the balls start again elsewhere. Dances that have required vaccinations and forced masking have very good safety records, with almost no COVID infections, so we hope to resume our dances here in Shepherdstown and hope you will join us.

So what is counter dancing? Well, it’s a lot like square dancing, but the dances are done in lines up and down the room, with a simple set of figures that repeat with the music as you move up and down the line to dance along with other pairs. Each dance is taught, then each move is called out at the start of the dance so even new dancers can feel comfortable. The dances match the music and feel great to do. . . and you get to see everyone in the room. There’s no fancy footwork, it’s all done in an easy step, with swings, stars, circles, ladies’ chains and Germans being common moves in the dances.

Each dance in the evening lasts approximately 10 minutes and dancers are encouraged to dance with different partners, so it is not necessary to come as a couple. This gives new dancers the opportunity to dance with experienced partners, allowing them to get comfortable with dancing more quickly; but romantics need not despair, for the evening ends with a waltz.

Our guest for the evening is Janine Smith, who travels the country singing contra and square dancing and is known for her clear teaching, pleasant voice and incredible sense of fun. She is renowned for creating magical evenings and making dances fun for everyone in the room, regardless of experience level.

Our musicians are also among the best you can find. Fiddler Joe DeZarn, hails from Winchester, Virginia and has been a frequent musician to our dancers in many dances over our 40 year history. He is best known for his “as soft as silk” Irish Fiddling, but is also adept at French Canadian, Old and New England styles, which are common elements of the dances. Paul Oorts has mastered many instruments and is one of the most active dance musicians in the country, performing nearly 100 dances a year at festivals, weekends and weekly dances in a wide variety of styles. He will play mandolin, guitar, bouzouki and melodeon, and provide a catchy beat to get the dancers moving.

So come join us on September 3 at the War Memorial Building at 8 p.m.! We want to keep everyone safe, so we will be collecting contact details, checking vaccination cards and requiring masks to be worn for the dance. We will have a “new dancers workshop” at 7:30 p.m. that day, to orient our new dancers and help those whose talent has grown a little rusty in recent years to refresh their memories. All ages are welcome, admission is $10.

For more information, see our webpage at, email us at, or call 304-263-2531.

Joanie Blanton, of Shepherdstown


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