By Karen Tutkowski - Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Want to get a foot in the door. and onto the floor of one of the finest folkdancing festivals in the country? Come to the Door County Folk Festival held every July in the scenic Door Peninsula area, situated in beautiful northeast Wisconsin between the waters of Green Bay and Lake Michigan. Tourists find themselves outnumbered on this long weekend as hundreds of folkdancers flood the streets of Sister Bay, heading for the recently-renovated Village Hall-with its rebounding wooden floor-which is the central site of four nights and three days of dancing.
Festivities begin on Thursday night with mini-workshops and a taped-music dance party, hosted by volunteers from various mid-Western dance groups. Requests are made and played until the last dancer fades into the sunset. or until sunrise, whichever comes first. Next morning, the first workshop of all three days, "Rounds and Squares", starts promptly at 9:00 (depending upon how early the early-risers rise and get there). You don't have to know what you're dong to enjoy this wake-up workshop-steps are taught, reviewed and built-upon progressively each new morning thereafter. Friday and Saturday feature a total of fifteen sessions, led by renowned Midwest dance instructors. A wide variety of international dances are taught, at both beginning and intermediate/advanced levels. Certain Friday workshops are also repeated on Saturday, thus giving the poor working stiffs who couldn't get there on Friday equal opportunities. This also allows Friday attendees more chances to master new dances by repeating sessions, to expand their repertoires by attending alternate sessions, or to save their feet for later by taking much-needed naps.
Interspersed among the dance workshops are music jam sessions for both new and experienced musicians. Instrumental to participation in these noteworthy events is simply showing up with an instrument-anything from a kazoo to a concertina. Lunch-breaks feature brown-bag forums in Sister Bay Waterfront Park (adjacent to the Village Hall), at which dance leaders, along with general dance lovers, can share their ideas and experiences. There are also foot and leg massage workshops.
On Friday evening, the traditional Sunset Concert Dinner Cruise sets sail for a three-hour excursion that includes live music, dancing, and a buffet dinner. For landlubbers, there is an Alternate Group Dinner where you can dine with new friends on a fixed-price meal served at a local café. A Friday night live-music dance party follows, with taped-music taking over afterwards until the last live dancer departs, no matter how ungodly the hour.
On Saturday evening, after a full day of sunshine, the park is the site of a traditional Door County Fish Boil. While the cauldron steams, dancers "miserlu" across the pier to the music of volunteer musicians.all silhouetted against another dazzling Door County sunset. (Of course, if it rains, all this idyllic park stuff moves into the dry Town Hall.) The Saturday night live-music dance party is usually full of surprise performances, culminating in the Annual Folk Dance Olympics, which is also full of surprises - it doesn't start until about 2:00 a.m.; anyone can enter; the goal is to get the loudest applause from the half-asleep audience via serious, comical or downright ridiculous performances (one troupe wore kneepads and blinking lights last year); and you have to hang around until 4 or 5 a.m. for fear of missing something great?
Sunday morning slips in unnoticed and launches itself with two hours of Squares and Rounds, followed by three mind-boggling review sessions ("Did we really learn all this?"). For the fleet-of-foot. or the foolhardy. a final "Survivors" party begins at 9:00 p.m. in the Village Hall.
You can attend as many or as few of the sessions as you want. A discounted weekend pass is available; workshops and parties are also individually priced. Door County is full of parks, beaches, scenic trails, art galleries and unique shops. Festival housing arrangements can be pre-arranged (info follows) or you can find your own. but this is a popular mid-American vacation spot, so arrangements must be made in advance. The Door County Folk Festival is a July weekend full of fun, new friends, folklore, feasting and folkdancing. To get your foot in the door (two feet would be even better), write for more information:
DCFF c/o Paul Collins, 4760 N Virginia Avenue - Suite 1B, Chicago, IL 60625, (847)-846-8139,Karen Tutkowski