Today, Saturday and Sunday, the Chapel Hill International Folk Dance Club will celebrate its anniversary with events in Chapel Hill, Durham and Raleigh.
The group, which was started in 1964, has sampled numerous traditional dances from around the world.
“Folk dancing of this sort has been taking place since the ’30s and ’40s, especially on college campuses,” said Bob DeMaine, who has been a member of the dance group for 44 years.
He said the group started when a student from Reed College came to UNC for graduate studies. Gradually other students joined him in dancing, and the club was born.
With more than 600 members to come and go throughout the years, the task of keeping in touch with everyone might be difficult, but the group has been able to stay in contact by using phone books and the Internet.
And some of the members went beyond simply keeping in touch. A few built lifelong friendships and even marriages. The DeMaines, the Sawyers and the Oldmans first met through the group.
“We were both dancing in the same group for over 12 years before I asked my wife on our first date,” said Dan Oldman, a longtime member. “So we sort of knew each other for a long time.”
Members insisted that the club is more than simply a dance group.
“We have a member now who is very sick with cancer,” Oldman said. “We are working together to ease his care and help him get through it. So we are more than a folk dance community.”
After 45 years, members remain enthusiastic about dance. The group holds regular dance sessions on Wednesdays, and a sister group in Raleigh has classes on Fridays.
“What brings us back is the dancing and the people,” said Henry Sawyer, who traveled from San Jose, Calif., to be a part of this weekend’s celebration.
“In my mind, international dancing has to have three things: good music, good dancing and good people.”
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