About this Project -1

My Mom, Fran, is 82 years old and my Dad is eighty-five. Over the last several weeks, I have documented their participation in the Old Time Country Dance community at both Century House Senior Centre in New Westminster and at the Sunnyside Hall in White Rock. The ages of the dancers range from their 70’s-90’s, which sadly makes me wonder whether this delightful, supportive subculture is going to disappear.

My mother grew up with Old Time Country dancing whilst living on a farm in southeastern Alberta. My parents met at a dance when my Dad, who is from the west coast, was temporarily working on the Prairies.

I grew up going to dances on Saturday nights: waltzing, polkas, heel and toe, foxtrots, the butterfly and squares. There weren’t any western costumes at these dances, just down to earth folks, mostly migrants who had fled the cold, harsh prairie winters. It was during these formative years that I learned there is a ritual to each dance:  my Dad polishing our shoes, the importance of dressing up and the routine of the whole dance event. People have their regular spots to sit so if you ever decide to visit, beware!

My parents graciously allowed me to document this time. Their friends/dancing community so warmly welcomed me that this project took on a whole new life. I will be forever grateful for the experience and the uplifting people I have met.

It’s interesting to note here that when my Dad was about to retire 20 years ago, I was working at a Recreation Centre in Burnaby. I would regularly visit one of the large rooms where seniors were dancing to Old Time Country music. I told my parents about this weekly event and my gentle father caught me off guard with a sharp retort: “look Lani, we aren’t going to be hanging around a bunch of old farts when we retire.” Ironically, my parents discovered that this is where fit, lively aging people congregate and their immersion into the community of dancers would include becoming a “dance caller” and presidents and vice-presidents of their dance organizations over their retirement years.  And they love it so much they have almost never missed the 3-4 dances they have attended every week, for years.

Ah, there is so much I can tell you… that I want you to know, such as how my father and mother make sure all the single elderly ladies have a dance. Women dance together. There are more of them. There are more women who have lost their partners.  I want you to know that my Dad taught me at a young age that the man should always take “the lady” back to her seat once the dance is complete. Simple. Old fashioned. Maybe. But certainly gracious and I miss it in my own age group. I want you to know that when people greet, they often hug, which can be the only touch they will receive all week. I want you to know how tender people can be with one another and how despite some people dancing with crippling pain and loss, the old flames are still burning bright.

These people at the Old Time Country Dances seemed to live in the present. They were not caught in the past. They certainly were not worrying about the future.

I hope you enjoy these images. There are so many more. It was difficult to choose…
Lani Hyde

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