Folk Dance group’s 25th anniversary has members on their feet

International Folk Dance group members perform a dance at Kuhn Barn Saturday night. Photo: Mady Newfield

It was a festive scene Saturday night at Kuhn Barn where folk-dance enthusiasts of all ages shuffled, twirled and stomped their feet to tunes such as the Salty Dog Rag, Irish Stew and Russian Round Dance.

It was the celebration of the Fermilab International Folk Dance group’s 25th anniversary. Around 60 lab employees and local residents came out to enjoy a night of dinner and dancing.

“I am very pleased with the turnout,” said founder Mady Newfield. “It’s been great to just get together, dance and enjoy each other’s company.”

Newfield, who has danced for much of her life, started the group in 1988 after her husband, Rob Plunkett, accepted a job at Fermilab. They found no nearby dance groups to join when they moved to the Batavia area.

Now the group has around 20 regular participants, and many have attended since its inception. But some events attract nearly 50 people, Newfield said.

The group’s repertoire is truly international, with dances from Europe, Asia and North and South America.

Folk dancing can be daunting at first, said long-time member Mark Fischler. But once you recognize similar steps in every dance, it gets easier.

“There is such a large number of dances that we do, but there are only around 100 different steps,” Fischler said. “It’s easy to pick up a dance once you understand how to put the different steps together.”

The chance to learn these dances attracts people of all ages, Newfield said.

“We have 18-year-old kids who started coming 10 years ago. With traditional art forms, if you don’t have the younger generation to do them, they don’t get passed down,” Newfield said.

The group meets every Thursday evening at 7:30 p.m. in Kuhn Barn and is open to all ages and skill levels. Those looking for more information on the group can e-mail folkdance@fnal.gov or visit the Fermilab International Folk Dancing Web site.

Sarah Khan