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Posts tagged ‘Philadelphia’

Chinese Lantern Festival Lights Up Franklin Square

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When the Chinese Lantern Festival came to Norfolk, Virginia, my sister and her family reported back that the display was amazing and not to be missed when it comes to Philadelphia. On opening night, the display was spectacular, illuminating over seven acres of Franklin Square!

Artists create the lanterns using cloth and heavy wire, creating a mosaic-like effect. In addition to light shining through the cloth, thousands of LCD lights outline some of the designs. Against the night sky, the colors looked brilliant.  Wheels whirled along one of the pathways, and a two-hundred foot dragon glowed with yellow and red.

The festival marks the beginning of the Chinese New Year, typically held around the beginning of February but postponed in Philly to April for friendlier weather outcomes.

Not to be missed: a ride on the carousel . . .  for all ages! Spinning around while riding the horses, viewing the kaleidoscope of colors, truly a magical moment.

Springtime at Morris Arboretum: KyoDaiko Drummers and Trees Wearing Sweaters

Percussion in the Park

IMG_3728Enchanted by the beautiful gardens of the Morris Arboretum on a early September afternoon a year ago, I returned to visit again, this time on spring day in April. This weekend the arboretum celebrated their annual Japanese Cherry Blossom Festival.  As part of the celebration, KyoDaiko, a community-based taiko drumming group, presented a stunning visual and sound performance. I admired their synchronized movements as they beat the drums in unison. According to Wikipedia, taiko drumming goes back to the 6th century; the Japanese used the drum for communication, theatrical performances and religious events.

Yarnbombing!

That’s what they’ve called it when trees, bridges and gazebos are covered with crocheted yarn. Melissa Maddonni Haims is the local fiber artist who wrapped up the limbs and structures, mostly from recycled materials. Well, I think I’ve seen everything now after finding trees adorned in sweaters.

Fish and Fowl

Gurgling streams flowed into peaceful ponds where swans paddled gracefully and ducks splashed around in the water or in one case, take a nap on the nearby wall. In the fernery, carp swam in the shallows of a rock garden.

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The arboretum has 92 acres to wander and each vista offers something interesting to study. Stepped into a grotto, passed through the rose garden and explored a woodland path–a warm spring afternoon at the Morris gardens has stayed with me for days.

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Photo Ramble: Filter Square Neighborhood, Philadelphia

To Meander: following a winding course: a meandering lane. Proceeding in a convoluted or undirected fashion.

The Philadelphia Photo League sponsored “Meandering with Mike K” street photo walk. Members met at the Good Karma Cafe at 331 S 22 Street to get coffered up before heading out on our late afternoon trek. Below is the street scene along 22nd and Good Karma’s back patio.

Filter Square is located in the area west of Center City, bordered by the Schuylkill River. Mike, who presented commentary and helpful photo suggestions, led us down Rittenhouse Street and Delancey Place, where we admired and photographed the Victorian architecture.

We then paused as we passed through Filter Square, a quaint residential neighborhood park built more than a century ago. Surrounded by mature trees stands the park’s central feature, a Victorian-era fountain surrounded by an iron railing and a ring of white flowers. Children chalked on the sidewalks and neighbors chatted on the benches as we photographed the goat and other animal sculptures.

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From this neighborhood, we walked several blocks to the Schuylkill River Park, where the skyline of Philadelphia poked above the trees, and as Mike put it to give us the opportunity, “to take the golden hour skyscraper shot.”

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We finished our meander on the Schuylkill Banks boardwalk, which I followed back to 30th Street Station to catch my train. What a delight to visit this section of Philly, finding so many places to photograph and to just enjoy being in this picturesque city.

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Bernie Sanders for President: Rally in Philadelphia

I jumped back into politics placing a reservation to attend the Bernie Sanders Rally in Philadelphia on April 6. I’m very much a pragmatic thinker. As much as I would like to overhaul the American economic system, replacing corporations with worker-owned collectives, I can support a candidate who strongly endorses unions and a living wage.  Bernie’s positions on income inequality, living wage, medicare for all, tuition-free college are issues I strongly support. Bernie cannot, however, change the broken economic system alone.  It is up to the citizenry to create that sweeping change. We must be invested in our democracy by participating in ways that guarantee that every citizen has a voice.

The Rally

I returned to my graduate school Alma Mater, Temple University, for the rally. When I arrived at the Liacorous Center a little after 5, the line, ten deep, snaked along the sidewalk, weaving through the side streets for ten blocks. I thought I’d never get in, seeing that many people; and the doors had already been open so more folks were already inside. By 6 o’clock I entered through the security check, the Secret Service, inspecting coats and bags. My necklace alerted the wand, but the guard finally let me pass through. We waited until 8:30 for Bernie to speak because it took so long for people to get through security and get seated.  I didn’t think the arena would fill, but it did, all but some seats on the balcony. I estimated 5,000 but turns out more like 10,000 were present.

The crowd, mostly students and young people under 35, were friendly and well-mannered. No one was pushing or shoving in line, and most were engaged in happy conversation. Someone was carrying a sign, Free Hugs, and Philly Jesus showed up, giving his blessings. I sat down on an aisle seat for good visibility. The young man sitting next to me introduced himself, and we had a conversation about Pennsylvania politics. I met everyone around me, and turns out we were all alums of Shippensburg! I heard stories of underemployment and low wages, even for college graduates.

When Bernie walked to the podium deafening cheers erupted. As Bernie spoke the audience responded with enthusiastic cheers or boos, depending on the subject, i.e., living wage or mention of Trump.

Pennsylvania Primary, April 26

The Pennsylvania primary will take place on April 26. Political history in the United State will be made if we elect a progressive candidate for President such as Bernie Sanders.

 

 

Democracy Spring: The Philadelphia Story

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On the lawn in front of Independence Hall, Philadelphia, a crowd gathered to support and to send off 150 activists, who plan to walk the 140 miles to Washington, D.C., launching a civil disobedience campaign, Democracy Spring. The goal of the march: “Congress must act now to end the corruption of money in politics and ensure free and fair elections.”

The enthusiastic crowd responded to a series of speakers and performances that called on elected officials to support their initiative, an equal voice for everyone. The rally is Washington is set for April 11 at the Capitol Building and organizers have said that thousands have pledged to sit-in for seven days. Over 100 organizations have signed on in support of Democracy Spring.

Overturning the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision, which has resulted in big-money interests buying elections, corrupting the political process, is fundamental to keeping democracy sound.

New Freedom African-American Historic District Tour

New Freedom African-American Historic District Tour

IMG_2954Philadelphia Hiking Meetup Group sponsored a tour of West Philadelphia that focused on African-American historic sites. The organizer, Jed McKee, plans hikes that are transit friendly and is one of the reasons I selected this walk. The tour began at 30th Street Station, which is a hub of the rail lines, including Amtrak and Septa, that go in and out of Philadelphia.

Our group met under the Pennsylvania Railroad World War II Memorial, a 39-foot monument commemorating the Pennsylvania Railroad employees who died in World War II. The bronze sculpture, Angel of the Resurrection, represents Michael the Archangel raising up a dead soldier out of the “flames of war.” Assistant Organizer, Scott Maits, our guide and local historian, began his commentary with a history of the station and of early Philadelphia.

As Scott led us west along Market Street, crossing under the freight train tracks, he told us the story of Frances Harper, who protested segregation on the trolleys in 1858.  Frances refused to give up her seat or ride in the “colored” section of a segregated trolley car. Frances, an abolitionist, was also a writer and poet, author of the poem, “Bury Me In A Free Land,”

I ask no monument, proud and high,
To arrest the gaze of the passers-by;
All that my yearning spirit craves,
Is bury me not in a land of slaves.

We crossed through the campus of Drexel University into the area known as Black Bottom, a predominantly African-American community that was almost completely destroyed in the 1960s for “urban renewal.” Penn, Drexel, University of the Sciences, and Presbyterian Hospital worked together to acquire properties for eventual demolition.

Kitchen Sink Sculpture

Kitchen Sink Sculpture

Scott gave us an opportunity to view the facilities of the Community Education Center, that once housed the Quaker Friends School and Meetinghouse, rebuilt at the turn of the 20th century. Local community members founded the CEC “to promote shared experiences and nurture fellowship among its varied neighborhoods across cultural and economic differences.”  The Center supports local community art programs, especially dance and performance.

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The neighborhood varied from grand mansions to row homes.

Dupree Studios just won their long battle with the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority (PRA); the agency has ended condemnation proceedings to acquire the property by eminent domain.

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We walked along Lancaster Avenue, originally called the Lincoln Highway, finding these wonderful moments along the way.

Hall Rennovation

Lovely old building needing funding to restore to former glory,

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Inspection Station with mural and mosaics.

Included this photograph of CBM Tires because I like old gas stations!

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Bicycle Shop

Bicycle Shop with clever display of wheels and gears. Can’t find anything like this at the mall.

Belmont Mural

Welcome to Belmont Mural

Lava Space Mural

Murals on Lancaster Avenue/Lava Zone Mural

Martin Luther King Mural

40th Street and Lancaster Avenue, Martin Luther King Jr. mural. Mural recreates “Freedom Now” Rally held on August 3, 1965, during the Civil Rights movement.

Our last stop was at the intersection of Lancaster Avenue, 42nd Street, and Brown Street, near the New Africa Center Muslim-American Museum, before heading back to 30th Street via Number 10 trolley.

IMG_2982The contrasts on Lancaster Avenue are striking: blighted stretches of store fronts and sidewalks in desperate need of cleaning juxtapose with the creative art displays, both public and private. Derelict buildings stand next to colorful sidewalk mosaics. After years of economic decline, revitalizing the neighborhood is a challenging task: to create a prosperous commercial corridor while preserving and encouraging a mixed-income community.

Extended thanks to Jed McKee and Scott Maits for giving our Meet Up group an opportunity to visit and to learn about the history of this important Philadelphia neighborhood.

Philadelphia Honored as a World Heritage City

Moon over Philadelphia

November 6, 2015

On this day, Philadelphia became the first city in the United States to be designated as a World Heritage City. Philly has joined 266 cities with this honor, including Paris, Florence, Prague and St. Petersburg.  The City of Brotherly Love, so named by William Penn, who used the Greek words for love (phileo) and brother (adelphos), has earned its nickname: abolitionists, animal rights and Aids activism and origins of ACLU. Philadelphians are active protestors.

Philadelphia is a city of neighborhoods and each has their own charm. An exploration into any one of the city’s 18 districts, visitors can find ethnic food, bike paths, hiking trails, historical streets and buildings, entertainment facilities, parks, sport’s arenas, cultural events and eclectic shopping. The visitor will not have to travel far to find a mural to admire.

In celebration of this wonderful accomplishment of our city, I’ve posted my favorite photographs of our hometown.

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Forbidden Drive Photo Credit J. R. Blackwell

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From the sailing ship, Amistad, on the Delaware River

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Sculling on the Schuylkill River

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Benjamin Franklin Bridge

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View along South Street

 

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Dilworth Plaza in front of City Hall in the Summertime

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Water Works on the Schuylkill River

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Boathouse Row

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Side Street off of Filter Square

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Penn’s Landing

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Waterfall at Schuylkill River

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Schuylkill River Park

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One of the 3,000 Murals across the City

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View from the Market-Frankfort El

In Remembrance of Megan

Megan

Megan McFadden

March 9, 1981-August 29, 2015

IMG_1803When someone so young passes from this earth, the shock reverberates for days, weeks and months, as it seems impossible that Megan will no longer be with us.

As Megan came into my life, I watched her as a year went by, and I saw how she was working through the difficulties of her past to move forward into a new day. We thought this new beginning would be bringing her success with her art. 

We will miss you, Megan. We’re so sorry.

Her Father’s Eulogy

When you have a drug-addicted child or sibling, you live in dread of the phone call that tells you she has overdosed and died in some abandoned house. My son Jim, her best friend, and I got that call on August 29th about Megan.

Rather than mourn over Megan’s tragic death at 34, let’s celebrate what was wonderful about her. She was a sweet, beautiful, and funny little girl. She had an adorable little speech impediment until she had it fixed at therapy in first grade. We had a squirrel that visited us on the deck of our apartment almost daily. We asked her for a good name for him. She said, “Mistoow Sqwool.” From that good day on, he was Mr. Squirrel, “Mistoow Sqwool” to Megan.

Megan was all her life a gifted artist and was passionate about it and lived for it. She was enrolled in school to pursue and enrich her passion, but was taken from us just before she was to begin.

She left a great legacy with her son Michael, who has brought great joy to every person he’s known in his 13 years. Good job, Megs.

The only consolation that we, her family, friends, and all the people who knew her, was that she was a person of great worth. What we can take from her death so young, is the knowledge that her pain and struggles are over, and the belief that she will find the peace with her heavenly Father that she was unable to find in this life.

Pro-Act Recovery Walk, Philadelphia, September 19, 2015

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Philadelphia Photo League

Philadelphia Photo League Photographers, Konrad Jones, Mike Browna, Spencer Lewis

Several weeks after Megan’s passing, I received a notice from the Philadelphia Photo League about an upcoming event, the Pro-Act Recovery Walk. In 2012 a group of area photographer/activists, who were committed to social change through documentary photography, established a mission to assist civic organizations to affect change through photography. Photo League members have photographed the Recovery Walk in past years and shared their photographs with the Pennsylvania Recovery Organization–Achieving Community Together. By participating in this year’s photography project, I hope that I might help in some small way to document the event.

Morning has Broken

As I approached the staging area at the Great Plaza at Penn’s Landing, the sky appeared gray and dark as the fog began lifting from the Ben Franklin Bridge. As the presenter led a prayer from the stage, the clouds opened to a magical reflection on the river. Sun beams streamed down to the water–it was as if the universe was blessing the gathering.

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Participants in their colorful t-shirts began gathering in front of the stage. The photographers took photos from the vantage of the stage, and then we split up to cover different aspects of the walk. I took a position at the start of the parade on the Chestnut Street Bridge under the balloon arch. As marchers began to stream under the arch, I began to video the walk. What amazed me was the diversity within the crowd: young and old, men and women, abled and disabled and all ethnicities represented.

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The participants kept coming, walking, cheering, as those standing on the sidelines clapped.  Group after group, representing organizations advocating for recovery, passed in front of me. These people have endured the challenges of addiction. Society could mediate these tragedies by implementing social policies that bring people out of addiction without stigma. To be immersed in this experience became a humbling moment, realizing that these warriors are ready to continue their fight for freedom from alcohol and drugs. Last year 600 people died from drug overdoses. It seems that a tainted batch took Megan as well as other victims, one evening in August.

Will we stand with the 25,000 Pro-Act crusaders? Our society failed Megan, we cannot fail again.

Links

Recovery Walks

Thousands march in support of and hope for addiction recovery

ProAct: Ambassadors for Recovery

Teresa Forcades Speaks on Women’s Ordination

Women’s Ordination Conference
 A Voice for Women’s Equality in the Catholic Church

“We have a church that’s misogynist and it’s representing the Gospel. We need freedom, equality, and the people’s capacities to participate in the conversation. I look forward to having this discussion in Philadelphia.” –Teresa Forcades

Teresa Forcades WOW

Teresa Forcades: History

As a supporter of anarcho-syndicalist movements, which advocate for democracy for the working classes in politics as well as the workplace, I’ve followed the news about the strikes against the Spanish government’s spending cuts, which create severe consequences for workers and their families. Following these events, I read about one of their leaders, Sister Teresa Forcades.For folks who have their doubts about capitalism, Teresa has launched a political manifesto to counter austerity measures by the Spanish government. The document calls for an independent Catalonia to carry out a more democratic and progressive agenda, including nationalizing banks and energy corporations. I visited Spain in 2013, and on my first evening in Barcelona, I attended an event, Women, Spirituality and Social Change, a dialogue between Teresa and Lekshe Karma Tsomo, a California Tibetan nun, who share the same commitment: to promote social change based on inner transformation.

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A year ago I heard Teresa speak again, this time in my relative neighborhood, at Red Emma’s in Baltimore. Red Emma’s, a worker cooperative started in 2004, supports a bookstore, restaurant and community space and is “dedicated to putting principles of solidarity and sustainability into practice in a democratic workplace.” The namesake of the cooperative, Emma Goldman, a political activist known for her promotion of anarchism, is another woman I admire for her progressive views on women’s rights, prison reform, racial equality and right to organize our workplaces.

While some may consider Teresa’s ideas radical, I think of them as being common sense, such as viewing capitalism as an unethical construct. Sometimes when I’m talking with people about the problems of capitalism, they agree but then say, “Well, that’s the way it is.” Teresa says it doesn’t have to be that way.

When I learned that Teresa was speaking at the WOW conference in Philadelphia, I immediately signed up to attend.

Women’s Ordination Conference, September 2015

WOW Protest

WOW Prayer Vigil at Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul

The WOW Conference represents forty years of advocacy for women to become full participants in the Church by allowing women’s ordination. I am a former Catholic and what drove me away from the Church was thinking about my daughter’s perceptions of how affirming Catholic practice contradicts a fundamental belief that women must be treated as equals. The Church’s embedded bigotry against women, which arises from historical chains of oppression, undermines women’s liberation.

Teresa flew into Philadelphia just before she spoke, as she had to stay in Spain for an important leadership event on Saturday. Teresa presented an inspiring talk, a few of the highlights in the video:

I met Teresa after her presentation, and we talked about the political situation in Catalonia and her candidacy. She asked about my son, John. Truly a remarkable experience to connect with a woman who is on the world stage advocating for her fellow citizens and for equality for women in the Church.

Links:

Teresa Forcades Facebook Page

The Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research

Mt Airy Contra, Dancing with your Neighbor

Henry Avenue Bridge

Returning to Mr. Airy, Philadelphia

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Commodore Barry Club

Driving from the Western suburbs of Philadelphia, I negotiate through the treacherous, if not beautiful, Lincoln Drive to get to the dance hall. The impressive Henry Avenue Bridge, constructed in 1932, extends over the road and the Wissahickon Creek. The heavily wooded gorge form part of the Fairmount Park system, but I can’t take my eyes off the twisting road for a minute.

This was the route I took several years ago when I found myself at the corner of  Green Street and Carpenter Lane, looking for Big Blue Marble Bookstore where I signed up for a writing course. Little shops lined the streets inviting me to stop in to visit. I’m back on Carpenters Lane once again where the sprawling Commodore Barry Club, or Irish Center, occupies a corner. A spacious ballroom, one of the largest in the area, is the venue for the dancing.

The Music: Borrowed from the Celts and English with Appalachian Influences

On my first visit, what amazed was to see a live band setting up on the stage. Each week a different group performs, filling the hall with traditional fiddle tunes. Reels and jigs are the most common tunes played, but musicians also play the hornpipe, waltz and polka for variety. To learn more about these music forms, check out this page for details, as the differences require lengthy explanations. Accordions, harmonicas, flutes, bass fiddles, violas may accompany the traditional instruments, such as the fiddle, piano, and guitar.

Free Raisins

Free Raisins

For this evening, The Free Raisins, a band from Boston and self-described as “fusing New England roots with a modern groove,” performed with Audrey Knuth on fiddle, Jeff Kaufman on mandolin and trumpet, Amy Englesberg, on piano and accordion. I enjoyed their contra music interpretation with a rock beat, and I noticed that some of the dancers improvised swing-like twirls to their moves.

Rick MohrRick Mohr called the dance. According to CDSS Country Song and Dance Society, calling for contra dances “is a fine art and a science, with subtle skills that can take a lifetime to master.” The caller instructs the dancers, usually with a run-through first without the music. The caller continues to announce the moves until the dancers have learned the steps, which may include from six to twelve figures, and then repeats. Dancers use smooth walking steps for movement between figures. The “swing” requires some practice, holding the right hip at the center while pushing around with the left foot. At break time, volunteers instruct dancers on the nuances of the swing.

The Dance

One website described contra dancing this way,

Contra dancing is social interaction, meeting people, and making new friends, set to music.
The rest is just details.

On my first visit, I joined the beginner’s lesson, which started half-an-hour before the dance. I could explain all the contra dance terms, but for the most part it is possible to learn as you take part. One of the moves is called a “gypsy,” where you circle around your partner without touching but keeping eye contact. Maintaining steady eye contact, as least for me, was a bit unnerving because it felt like staring, but this is common practice and underlies the importance as a social dance and connecting with folks. I found I couldn’t keep the gypsy without smiling.

The gypsy stare also helps reduce dizziness. Yes, while dancing the swing, you can become quite dizzy, which happened to me the first couple times. Partners turn at different rates and if you are paired with a spirited dancer, by the time you land back at your place, the room can still be going round and round–and there’s not a lot of time to recover as you’ve got to be ready for the next move. What I noticed was that if I fixed my gaze, I experienced less dizziness. If I glanced outward at the room, it was whizzing by in a blur.

I came without a partner, and because policy underscores the social nature of the dance, I could still dance every number, if I wanted. Dancers are encouraged to find different partners, and dancing with same-sex partners is perfectly acceptable and may have no relevance to orientation.  In reality, you dance with everyone in the room as you cross over or change partners. Couples form long, parallel lines, starting from the stage and stand across from or “contra to” their partner. Traditionally, couples move up and down the line as the dance progresses. When arriving at the end, you pause with your partner, which gives you a welcome but brief rest before joining the dance again.

Three Hours of Dancing! 

contra dance lineSnacks and water provide rejuvenation during a twenty-minute break, which gives me some time to reflect on the experience. I noted diversity of age among the dancers, from children to college students to seniors. People come to the dance from all over the city and neighboring states of Delaware and New Jersey.

After drinking three or four glasses of water, I’m back on the floor scouting out someone for my next partner. I especially enjoy the flourishes that some of the experienced dancers add to the steps, usually involving the woman twirling around once before settling into her spot. With new dancers, it’s great to help them out and encourage them if there’s a misstep or two, which adds a bit of humor to the experience in a shared fumbling moment. The dancing is so energetic, I think to myself, “Oh, I’ll never be able to dance the next one, and yet, I am back on the floor looking for that next partner.

Video: September 10, 2015 . . .a friend remarked to me after watching the video, “Dancing looks complicated, I could never remember all those moves!” Experienced participants prompt the newcomers, and they’re ready to dance!

If you like exercise tied with meeting new people and enjoying live music, find a contra dance venue in your area. If you live in Philadelphia, check out the Mt. Airy Contra Dance schedule. See you there!

Many thanks to the Mt. Airy Contra Board for their support for this blog post.

 

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