The bush dance lottery

A nondescript rectangular building stands some distance from the small township it serves. At one end is the kitchen from which the local CWA ladies serve supper. At the other is the stage.

Down each of the side walls are rows of folding wooden seats.

The band consists of a large lady, of mature age, on the piano, an adolescent boy on a saxophone and a rotund, elderly man with a piano accordion who doubles as the MC and ‘lead vocalist’.

He tells us to take our partners for the Canadian Barn Dance. Would-be dancers form two concentric circles. Males on the outside circle, females on the inner one.

As the music starts, each circle does two ‘reverse pivots’ and dancers end up facing their next partner with whom they, briefly, circular waltz and then repeat the pivot process.

After dancing with a jovial grandmother, who is a worse dancer than I am, I engage with a gigantic lady who towers above me, shouts in my ear and moves me around as though I were a sheep that she was about to shear. ‘Reverse pivoting’ out of her clutches with a sigh of relief, I wonder what my next partner will be like.

Turning, arms outstretched, with a tentative but polite smile on my face I see … nothing.

Glancing down, I see a broadly smiling, freckle-faced girl-child who comes up to my breastbone. I sigh with relief. She tells me that this is her first bush dance and points out her proudly smiling mother and grandmother who are sitting on the sidelines.

By great good fortune, the music ends and I am able to escort her back to her proud relatives and thank her (and them) for having made my evening such a memorable one.

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Written by Peter Leith

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