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Contra and Squares Dances being revived in Ketchikan
as "Sweet Second Saturdays"


August 31, 2004

Ketchikan, Alaska - The Contra and Squares Dances are being revived in Ketchikan as "Sweet Second Saturdays" every second Saturday at the United States Coast Guard's Upper Base Crow's Nest. The first dance of the season is the 11th of September, featuring live music by "Paddy's Leather Breeches", and a guest caller from Juneau, Odette Foster.

jpg Foster Ketchikan, Alaska

Odette Foster, traditional
dance caller and instructor...
Photo courtesy Carol Alley

Odette Foster, traditional dance caller and instructor, who will be calling the opening dance for Ketchikan's new Second Saturday Dance series has called dances twice before in Ketchikan. She has been calling contra dances for sixteen years. Foster helped start Juneau's New England Barn Dance series in 1988 and the Thursday Night Contras dances in 1989. She's called dances in Anchorage for the Dancing Bears, and has also been a guest caller in Fairbanks, Sitka, Haines, Skagway, Whitehorse, Seattle and Portland.

"I particularly enjoy calling dances for newcomers," Foster writes. "I like enticing the unsuspecting, the wary, the fearful - exposing them to the playfulness of dance and the pleasure of moving to good live music. People are hungry for ways to connect with each other; they want to be in a safe social; and they like to be part of a circle of family and friends. Contra and square dancing is a powerful way of building community in our modern life. And it happens over and over with the combination of good music, clear and straight-forward calling, and friendly courtesy on the part of the dancers."

"It's very important that new dancers have a good first experience," Foster continued. "Most of us have to overcome our fear of dancing, our shyness, and our certainty that we'll look ridiculous. My idea of a successful dance is one in which a new person has a surprisingly good time. That new person is welcomed into the group, invited to dance, and coached courteously through the moves. The reward for me as the caller - and for experienced dancers - is seeing the joy on that new person's face."

In the 16 years Foster has called dances in Juneau, she has trained other callers and learned to play back-up piano. "I stepped off the dance floor to become a caller and later learned how to play an instrument in the band. In the best of all dance worlds, a dancer is also a caller and a musician. The knowledge and skills of one enhances the others and strengthens the bonds of the dance."

Odette also plays back-up piano with two Juneau bands, 6th and Main, and Impromptu and also organizes and calls a monthly English country dance. Before discovering contra dancing, Odette taught and performed clogging, danced with the Juneau Folk Ensemble, and taught and performed oriental dance.

Foster works as an accountant at KTOO Public TV and Radio. She enjoys hiking and quilting... and she is a mother and grandmother.

The Ketchikan Area Arts and Humanities Council and the United States Coast Guard are hosting this up and coming local event. According to information provided by Ketchikan resident Carol Alley, dances will be scheduled every 2nd Saturday, at 7:30 pm at the USCG's Upper Base Crow's Nest, September thru May, excluding December.

Alley invited everyone to "Dust off your dancing shoes, or come do-si-do in your Extra Tuffs."


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