The band practices for the Old Time Square Dance at Janette Cormier’s and Lonnie Morse’s house.

Square dance the night away

Inaugural square dance hopes to raise money to supply and staff the Alberni Valley Gleaning Project.

After years of promenading around square dance halls all over the United States and Canada, Janette Cormier is excited to bring her love of dance to Port Alberni.

“Promenade around the room—that’s all most people know about square dancing,” said Cormier.

“I like dancing. It’s fun but I’m not very good at it.”

They’re about to learn a lot more this Saturday, as Cormier throws Port Alberni’s inaugural square dance at the Cherry Creek Hall to raise funds for the Alberni Valley Gleaning Project. Cormier will have Anne Louise Genest as the caller and a band made up on Lonnie Morse, Steph Kokesch, Guy Langlois, Steph Wightman, James Inkster and Karley Bracey.

“We’ve wanted to put one on for years,” said Cormier.

“We love traditional dance and especially when we’re traveling in the States we go to a lot of dances.”

Knowing the first thing about square dancing isn’t a prerequisite to come out and have a great time this weekend, she added.

“Lonnie [Morse, Cormier’s partner] played at one in Ucluelet with the same people that are coming out and we went and it was so adorable—nobody knew how to square dance. It was really cute,” Cormier said.

“I think it will be similar here in that there will be a lot of beginners.”

Cormier’s own first dance was down in Victoria about a decade ago.

“They have a traditional old-time dancing scene down there.”

It’s that fun-loving, no pressure vibe that Cormier wants to bring to Port Alberni.

“You go to dances in Portland or Asheville and there’s tons of people—tons of young people—and really good music and it’s always just a really fun time,” she said.

“It’s nice to have that as an option for going out—something that’s more involved than people just sitting at a table.”

It’s also open to everyone.

“We want to see everyone from your baby to your 90-year-old grandmother there!”

Cormier originally got into square dancing when her partner, Morse, started playing at dances.

“For about 15 years, Lonnie has played old time banjo and it’s just part of that music scene,” said Cormier.

“We’re really into old time music—like an old time string band—Southern Appalachian tunes, which is really good music,” said Cormier, who’s excited to see her town embrace it as well.

“Its been great and everyone’s been super into it.”

The square dance will be the gleaning project’s big year-end party and fundraiser.

“I would like to do it annually,” said Cormier.

“If there’s a lot of interest and people are into it we could have more than one a year. A lot of places have monthly dances but I don’t think we’d do that in Port Alberni.”

To stick with the gleaning theme, Cormier has The Pressing Matter, a mobile juicing company, down from up Island to press apples into cider.

Fruit must be registered beforehand by e-mailing heather@edentreefarm.ca. Costs range between $1 per litre for unpasteurized and $6.50-8.50 per litre of pasteurized juice.

“You want to go through your apples and make sure none of them are moldy—bruised is fine,” said Cormier.

“But apples that aren’t great for eating are often better for cider.”

The apple press runs from 3-7 p.m. at the Cherry Creek Community Hall. The square dance will take place immediately after at the hall from 7-10 p.m.

The dance is an all ages event and tickets are $12 for adults, $8 for youth 12-18 and free for kids under 12.

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