Spotlight on the Arts: Mountlake Terrace resident drawn to period dancing

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Diane Brown in pink
Diane Brown (in pink skirt) dancing for “Nonesuch English Country Dancers”. (Photo courtesy of Rachel Pucey)

Mountlake Terrace resident Diane Brown is drawn to dance forms that are steeped in history. My Neighborhood News arts columnist Emily Hill had the opportunity to chat with Brown, who works at the Lynnwood Library.

You’re invited to listen in as we (EH) interview Lynnwood librarian, Diane Brown (DB):

EH: Diane, when did you discover period dancing – what was going on in your life, academically, or otherwise?

DB: I did some Scandinavian dancing in the late 70’s. I got into Contra and English County in 1981. I was in a choir and a couple of people told the group about Contra Dancing and that a partner was not needed. I was tired of going to the discos and not doing much dancing, getting smoke in my hair and clothes. Contra dance was smoke free and everyone dances with everyone. There’s live music – not recorded – and instruction for the dance was provided. For me it was perfect!

EH: Are people who participate in dance styles that fit into a tight historic niche romantically – or spiritually – drawn to a particular era in history?

DB: Some are. It is the live music with great musicians and really nice people who like to dance that keeps me coming back dancing all these years

EH: May we have a short biography of your Mountlake Terrace, Lynnwood “roots”?

DB: Actually I grew up in Seattle – south end of West Seattle north of White Center in the Highland Park neighborhood.

My family has long time Seattle roots. My great grandmother was in the Seattle Fire of 1889 and my dad was born in Seattle in 1914. My mother lived at the top of Denny Hill – when it was a hill and not the regrade.

I got a job with Sno-Isle Libraries in 1990. I lived in Lynnwood for a couple of years then bought a house in Mountlake Terrace so I would have a short commute to work, yet still be close to Seattle where dancing, singing and other activities that interest me are located.

EH: The segment of the population drawn to period dancing is so small comparatively speaking – it would seem … that the experience of relating to such a unique community would be rather intense. Can you speak to that observation?

DB: I think more people would be drawn if they knew about it. Seattle’s Folklife Festival always draws in new people. The music is a big draw for many people; and the fact that the dancers are welcoming (for the most part) and are smiling out there on the dance floor helps.

EH: What is your personal involvement – and investment – in English Country Dancing? Do you have closets full of costumes? Do you travel to England, or Europe as the case may be?

DB: I am actually not a costume collector. Even though I attend a couple formal balls each year – in which people do dress in period costume, I rarely do so. I generally wear one of my formal dresses for the occasion.

I want a dress/skirt that is fun to dance in; whether it’s at the weekly dance or at a more formal ball. The dancing I do does not require special clothing – with the exception of the performance groups. I dance for fun and to hear wonderful music played by fantastic talented musicians. Dancing to live music can’t be beat!

Yes I do travel to England. I have gone on Contra Dance trips to Scotland and the USSR. I have been to a fold festival in Sidmouth (England). I have been to weekend and weeklong dance camps here in the States. While dance camps are held are all over the U.S. I mostly attend those on the west coast.

I am going to spend a week in Ely England at a Contra Dance event in April. http://www.contraholiday.net/ So, yes dance has opened many travel and vacation opportunities for me.

I also sing in choirs. I am currently involved in the Phinney Chorus http://phinneychorus.ning.com/ and I have done some singing weekends as well. One in England. Some in Oregon. Most with Village Harmony http://www.northernharmony.pair.com/

EH: Do you participate in dance competitions?

DB: No, dance for me is for fun. I dance for the joy of being one with the music, musicians and other dancers. Competition is not for me.

EH: You’re a librarian – in what manner does your love of literature, history, and dance converge? Are your “heartstrings” tied to 19th Century England?

DB: I do like to read about the Regency or Georgian eras both in fiction and non-fiction. I have always enjoyed history. I understand some references in literature that may pass others by, maybe a song title, dance titles, or history in general.

EH: In what literature would we find English Country Dancing, or any of the other styles of dancing that you participate in?

DB: Jane Austen and other Regency or Georgian era Literature. You wouid also find these styles in Early American literature – George Washington’s era. Morris dances are mentioned in some literature and occasionally in British TV shows, even sometimes as a joke.

EH:  If someone were interested in trying out, or watching English Country dancing, where might they find English Country dancing in the area?

DB: Sno-King International Dances do an English Dance every so often, I would suggestion going to this link for more information: http://seattledance.org/international.

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Emily Hill is the author of two novels and a short story collection. She also writes the “Artfully Edmonds” column for My Edmonds News. Emily is retired from a career in public information and news media relations. Emily invites you to contact her at emily@lynnwoodtoday.com.

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