Tag Archives: Asheville

Contra Dancing Is NOT About Revolutions (but maybe it should be)

When you take dancing lessons, you learn steps and you learn steps and you learn steps. It can go on for a long time. And then one day, you just learn to dance, and it is so different. (Bill Austin)

One of the new things that Deena and I took up in Asheville was Contra Dancing. It’s deceptively simple with plenty of room for improvisation. We learned enough basics in three nights out on the floor to dance as a couple.

Contra dance is a North American derivative of 17th century English country dancing. Although it fell out of favor, along with square dancing, it’s in the midst of a revival, and apparently quite popular in the Appalachian hills. Couples dance together, but in a long line of couples so that your foursome changes constantly as you move up and down the line.

The number of basic moves is fairly small, and unlike Irish set dancing (which we’ve done), there is a caller that instructs the moves for the first few rounds of each dance until everyone is moving more or less correctly. The real beauty of the contra dance scene is the people are open to beginners, helpful and tolerant of mistakes. Another great thing about contra dance is that there’s always live music. It needs at least a caller and a fiddle. Deena and I had a blast!

I love dancing as a metaphor for life, or even traveling. There’s a rhythm to everything in the Universe. In dancing, the rhythm is set by the musician. In theater, the rhythm is set by the playwright and the director. In life, we have to discover our own rhythm. Some days, we’re just not in the right meter, tripping on our own metaphorical toes, making decisions like two left feet, Some weeks, years if we’re lucky, the rhythm is deep in our soul and we move with life like Baryshnikov in a pas de deux.

Watch a child dance and you’ll see uninhibited movement, bold experimentation, amazing grace and hilarious awkwardness. Why should life and love be any different? In contra dancing, I made many mistakes, as did others, and no one blinked an eye. Sometimes I was rescued by an experienced dancer and sometimes I recovered myself, gracefully or otherwise. It’s that way in life too. Sometimes, a friend rescues you; sometimes you just have to recover and find the rhythm again.

In Costa Rica, Deena and I met a retired Iranian living here in Costa Rica. He’s a happy, gregarious man who clearly loves his wife. He told us how his heart had been broken and how he’d fallen into a deep low. His life became a hollow shell. He couldn’t eat or go out. Another man, so deeply hurt, may never have loved again, but not this one. He loved again without fear, without history. He loved like a child dances.

We should all live, love and dance without fear — uninhibited and laughing out loud.dancers_icon

So you can’t dance? Not at all? Not even one step? … How can you say that you’ve taken any trouble to live when you won’t even dance? (Hermann Hesse)



Dupont State Forest Hike


Triple FallsNo one replied to our previous post asking if anyone recognized these falls. We took a hike in North Carolina’s Dupont State Forest. The area was used as a location for the 2012 movie The Hunger Games.hunger_games6

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Asheville Has Got It Right

Asheville, North Carolina, is the echo of the Hippie shout of the 60s. Everywhere you look, hand bills urge residents to keep it local: local art, local food. The residents support their own. There are eighteen craft breweries in the area. It’s really, really hard to get a bad beer here (unless you order a Bud). The city is a mecca for artists, writers, beer aficionados and nature lovers. Did I mention the dozens and dozens of hiking trails in the surrounding mountains?

Deena and I were downtown looking at the menu of Farm Burger, whose speciality is local, grassfed beef burgers. I’m sure they were fantastic, but a waiter from next door convinced us to eat at Salsa’s. We enjoyed a squash quesadilla, made with their own winter squash, and other local ingredients. The restaurant has its own farm and makes dishes and hot sauces from their organic produce, printing the menu daily. This is one fine model for the rest of the country to follow. In Asheville, they’ve taken to heart “Think Globally, Act Locally.”

The creativity of the art in Asheville puts the gallery walks we used to do in South Florida to shame. Everywhere you look, artists here are pushing the envelope. American Style Magazine has listed this city in the Top 25 Small Cities For Art.

The city is full of history, with the area counting 1000 residents before 1800. Ideally located in a gap through the Appalachian Mountains, the area was on the trade and travel routes of an expanding United States. It boomed in the roaring 20s. Deena and I enjoyed the Asheville Urban Trail, a marked walk-about in the downtown area with plaques pointing out the various historical features. The city is very conscious of their history and architecture and has preserved it where possible.

Asheville has its own flat iron building
Asheville has its own flat iron building
Gotta love the gargoyle's on Asheville's first skyscraper
Gotta love the gargoyle’s on Asheville’s first skyscraper
The home of Asheville's famous author son, Thomas Wolfe.
Rocking the porch at the home of Asheville’s famous author son, Thomas Wolfe.


Maybe the prices haven't been preserved, but the building has
Maybe the prices haven’t been preserved, but the building has