Family ties through music

Recently I attended a wedding of a friend at church, followed by the customary reception. After a delightful meal, some charming innovations to commemorate the occasion and the cutting of the cake, there followed hours of dancing, slow and fast, as also is customary. What struck me in this quite ordinary and conventional setting was how a kind of folk music has returned to our society that had been practically banished long ago by the popularity of ballroom dancing with the waltz, foxtrot and two-step and the decline of what was called folk dancing, not to mention square dancing. The latter are by no means dead but it would be inaccurate to say that their appeal had not been eclipsed by the dancing of couples as distinguished from larger groupings. As a children, many of us developed a decided prejudice against folk dancing as quite beyond the pale, for squares and old fogies. But those who have attended ethnic weddings, as we tend to call them, particularly Jewish and Greek (or just seen movies), experience, if only vicariously, group dancing on as big a scale as the number of people in attendance will encourage. Young and old, "cool" and "uncool," will join hands and dance with abandon with no reservations about being out of place, or worse, mixing adult dancing with kid dancing. I still recall a comment made by a friend who suggested that we not object to loud, raucous music played by young people because it is "their" music. That divide always has bothered me.

However, partly because I am widowed and partly because I like the exercise, I have taken to the floor and "danced' for hours to whatever music was being played, occasionally but not often well, and enjoying it. (I just learned how to line dance too.) At the wedding last week I danced with my 30-something daughter and two teenagers from her church youth group and realized that it might just as well be a Jewish or Greek wedding, because adults were dancing with children and bonding by means of music. Indeed, the bride was holding a small child and dancing around the room, quite common these days. I realized that some of the music was the sort that I have long disdained, especially "rap," but because the occasion called for a sort of communal expression, I danced to whatever was playing.

I used to criticize the rather unstructured form of dancing that has become so popular, on the grounds that there were no partners per se. But that presupposed that the only legitimate form of dancing was the kind I grew up with. (Granted, growing up in the 1950s, as I did, meant learning to dance to rock 'n roll, etc.) As a parent I tried to impress upon my children the virtues of slow dancing, and that lesson has been learned well enough. But now I'm just having fun and glad that the generation gap can be bridged at least under the circumstances which originally threatened to foreclose that possibility. If it is natural for families and friends to bond, then nature has found a novel way to reassert itself. That's a gain.