by Johnny Jeans
Early records are sketchy but it
dancing was a regular part of the Mountaineers scene from
soon after the founding in 1906. It was certainly a
activity at all the lodges, Snoqualmie, Meany, Baker,
Kitsap. I have run dances and taught at all of the first
first mention of a significant dance I could find in the
Climbing Bulletin, referred to elaborate plans for an
evening dance at
New Years in 1918 at the Snoqualmie Lodge, so it is most
there was much earlier dance activity. A former Stevens
reported that with 70 people signed in at the lodge, he
than 80 dancing ! Skiers would come from other lodges
since they "knew
the Mountaineers would have the best dance".
Dancing was not limited to the
mountains; from the
beginning the Club had held dress-up dances at many place
greater Seattle area. Starting (perhaps in the low 1900s)
as an "old
time" dance featuring American square and round dancing,
we have found
records that the Club was holding regular dances at Norway
certainly through 1938, moving to Polish Hall in 1939.
1945 we moved to the Lindgren Hall in Kenmore until it
burned down in
1956. Gradually it evolved into a fully fledged folk dance
from many countries and regions.
However, the Mountaineers dances had an individuality all their own by retaining some of the better" old time" and "ski lodge" dances, mixed with favourites from the International folk dance repertoire. Couple dances, sets and mixers from Mexico, Canada, and just about every European country including much from various regions in the UK, Germany, Austria and all of Scandinavia. Also, Greek, Balkan and Israeli line dances were added, still much used today to begin the sessions when the numbers are small or unbalanced, or as couple/mixer breaks.
By 1967, the first Friday dances were described as
"the oldest and largest folk dance in the area".
That was the same year
that rising costs forced a change to recorded music.
Yes - up to that
time, the music was live. For more then 20 years
prior, the music was
provided by Bob Olson's five-piece orchestra. When I
Mountaineers in the early 80's, during the ski
season we still had live
music every Saturday night at our Meany ski lodge
dance. We brought
live groups back a few times during the 2004-2007
seasons until several
major surgeries curtailed my teaching. Through to
the end of our Friday
night dances, we always scheduled a live orchestra
about four times a
Dance venues went from Norway Hall, to Polish Hall, to the Encore Ballroom, and the 17+ years from 1967 to 1984 at the Masonic Temple at Harvard and East Pine. They were held on the first and third Friday of each month from October through May at 9:15 to 11:45pm. On the first Friday from 8:15 to 9:15 an instruction period was held for learning new dances and review of the old ones.
At the that time and for some 25+ years it was the
largest dance in the area, with an average
attendance of over 200 per
evening. Dance classes were held for 10 week
sessions, Beginners on
Tuesday evenings and Intermediates on Thursday,
rotating evenings each
quarter, Fall, Winter and Spring.
* On the first Saturday night in June (up to about 2002 ?) a dance was held in the pavilion at Kitsap Memorial State Park. Family folk dancing early, followed by the adult dancing to round out the night. Many of us would camp there for the weekend. It was timed to coincide with one of the annual performance weekends of the Mountaineers Players staging a show at the Forest Theatre on the Saturday and Sunday afternoons.
(These plays are still continuing with two separate shows, May/June and August. Started in 1923, it is the oldest continuously operating theatre in Washington. In fact, the Mountaineer Players is possibly the oldest "community" theater under its original charter in the United States).
In January 1985, the dances and classes moved to the
new Mountaineers Clubhouse, a newer "Norway Hall",
on Lower Queen Anne
at Third and Thomas. This building had housed the
Norwegian lodge and
restaurant, the Norselander. They continued there in
full fling, adding
a fifth Friday dance when the calendar offered.
* Around 2000?, however, attendance began to drop off with the changing social customs, creation and restoration of other dance venues, return of major interest in Swing, then Salsa, and the general "balkanization" of the greater Seattle dance scene. Most dancers,especially the crucially needed younger set, preferred doing the same dance all night, as opposed to the variety we offered and still love doing today.
In fact, I took a
of why those that came did so - overwhelming
response was the variety
and the friendly welcome and attention to newcomers.
we began holding first Friday dances only,
dropping the third and fifth, and classes on
Tuesdays only, dropping
about 2006?, we ran only occasional Friday
night dances then dropping them completely. We also
split the Tuesday
sessions to teach beginners from 7:30 to 8:30, and
then play requests
at any level for the rest of the evening. I
should add than on a more
positive note, from the late 1990's?, by a big
demand, we expanded
the Tuesday sessions to run all four quarters, thus
year round - which
continues today. The only Tuesdays we do not operate
is when it
coincides with a national or parks holiday - and
that's rare (see Homepage) !
This was a big change at that time since the
Mountaineers had always
considered the Summer period to be a rest session
for the committee as
well as a sacred time for outdoor pursuits.
In October 2008, we moved again, to the Community
Center in Magnuson Park, near to the main
Mountaineers Program Center, adjacent Lake
Washington in NE Seattle. This
move happened because our much beloved downtown
building was sold,
losing our two huge ballrooms. This was a much
smaller space with poor acoustics, but
our spirit is still as strong. Tragically, we have
lost several core
members in the last few years or so, four passing on
and others moving away
- but many new members are joining.
And, once more, in
January 2014, in order to keep dancing on Tuesdays,
we moved again.
This is our first Eastside location - the Kirkland Community Senior Center - and a really beautiful room, with easy parking.
Once folk find out
where we are,
our group will continue to prosper - we do continue
to have great fun.
and join us - walk
through lessons every Tuesday !