Something We All Need
On my first Saturday night in Canton for the summer, my supervisor and I made the drive to Lowville for a square dance with the Adirondack Playboys. When I walked in, I immediately saw the best dressed woman in the room. She wore a short-sleeved dress with southwestern coloring and patterns that ended just below her knees with a white, lacy hem. Antique leather cowboy boots and white gold jewelry completed her outfit. Her partner wore a bolo tie, a western shirt with embroidery across the upper chest and shoulders, white slacks, and a Lone Ranger-esque white cowboy hat. As I stood there, somewhat stunned by the care the couple must have taken in getting ready for this dance, the woman leaned forward and said to me, “I love your sandals.” I almost laughed at the irony, but graciously accepted her compliment.
Other dancers had dressed up for the occasion, also donning bolo ties and cowboy hats, with others wearing vests displaying western-related embroidery and fringe. A relative of the band wore a bright green shirt that read, “Adirondack Playboys Band No. 1 Chair Dancin’ Fan - ‘CRAZY’ Cousin Alice.” The dancers were happy to help the less fortunate; one gentleman tried to teach me how to waltz (“tried” being the operative word). Another older gentleman asked me to dance, saying little to me other than a very sweet “thank you” when the music ended. But one of the most special moments of the night was one I almost missed. During a square dance, there were two sets on the floor, and I had been filming the dancers in the set toward the back of the room. I panned over just in time to see an elderly couple passionately kissing and embracing as the others from their set joined hands and circled around them, laughing and cheering.
It was clear that no one had come to this dance begrudgingly; they weren’t there just to kill time on a Saturday night. People look forward to these bi-monthly dances, and some said seeing the Adirondack Playboys is the highlight of their week. The dancers have the chance to socialize, hear outstanding live music, stay active, and have a genuinely good time. The Adirondack Playboys, whether they know it or not, are providing a unique and incredibly valuable service to a community that needs it.
Before meeting the Playboys, I had no concept of the prevalence and popularity of square dancing in the North Country, and although the square dance was only one night of a ten-week internship, it gave me context for understanding exactly what TAUNY does. TAUNY finds the special North Country traditions—like square dancing, summer camps, and old engine shows—that can seem inconsequential to some, but in fact are massively important because they achieve the goal that we sometimes lose sight of in our busy lives— bringing people joy. It reminds me of the oft-quoted saying, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” Everyone at the dance had undoubtedly faced hardships, and some might have even put aside their suffering just for that night. But the simplicity of music and dance brought a smile to all faces and a warmth to all souls. In the world we live in - where we face new and worsening tragedies every day, where it is easy to lose hope in what we once believed, and where our neighbors, families and loved ones live in constant fear of being in the wrong place at the wrong time - we could all use a little joy.