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The Dance

Finally there were no more hungry customers lining up for our eclectic feast, and Tori and Christy were almost out of cones on which to swirl cotton candy--our outside party was winding down.

Dark had fallen, and in the community centre parking lot children of all ages played on in the night.

I wandered into the brightly lit centre, and pushed the big doors open to enter the gym. Earlier that day, during the men's conference, a sign was posted on the door saying, "Quiet please, drum ceremony in process." There had been a sense of something private and sacred going on, but now there was no quiet, there was the beat and rhythm of loud fiddle music and a party was in progress.

People sat on chairs that lined the walls of the gym, while others danced and followed the instructions of a "caller" for the square dancing. Round and round they went to the music; children and adults of all ages.

I found Paul and sat down beside him with Joyce and Sharon, but I have always found the beat of music irresistible. I watched and clapped from the sidelines for as long as I could restrain myself, but then I launched from my chair and broke into a pair of joined hands of the people going around in a circle.

Picture a happy looking white woman with black-fly bitten calves and no pride in the rest of her appearance anymore, enthusiastically breaking into a circle of Ojibway people doing a square dance. I wish I could have seen it myself; I'm sure I would have laughed. I was just so carried away by the music. I did notice Mervin, who was in the circle, calling to Paul in desperation, to come up and join us. I already knew that he wouldn't. Paul hasn't danced since he got me under false pretenses by dancing during our courtship. Mervin started calling to other people around the edge but no one else came up either. It was then that I realized that people in a square dance have partners! Suffice it to say that I wrecked the dance and we all had to improvise with much laughter until the end, when I went and got my camera to take photos instead, probably to everyone else's relief. :)

I was fascinated by a ritual that seemed to be part of the dance. A sort of shawl or big square scarf would be laid down by one of the women in the centre of the circle. One of the men would approach it thoughtfully as if sizing it up, then, with a sense of challenge, begin poking, then kicking it with his toe. Then suddenly he would toss it up in the air with his foot, catch it, and then he would go up to a woman and tie it around her neck. then they would all continue dancing around in a circle until that woman took off the scarf and laid it down in the middle. I wondered what the significance of it was.

One of the men, whose name was Caulie was an amazing dancer. He wore a bright red shirt, with a grey vest, and red scarf on his head, topped with a hat. His feet were like quicksilver!

 The next day Caulie was at the school and he told me that he has won awards for his dancing.

I couldn't wait to ask him the significance of the cloth on the floor in the dance. 

"What's it all about?" I asked.

Caulie said, "It's a square,"

"Yes?" I said, expectantly.

"It's a square dance," he said, and that was that. Sometimes a square is just a square! :) I felt silly; not for the first time in 24  hours.

One little boy asked me outside, after the dance, "Where you the lady who was dancing?" I said "Yes!" I'm so glad that kids notice the important things and know what parts to forget!

Dance--a universal language of friendship in which we hold hands and lift our feet from the earth, if only momentarily.


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