No room to groove at this year’s Folk Fest
There was a moment on Thursday at the Calgary Folk Fest when bassist Paul Collins of Beirut took centre stage with a request for the audience. After quickly paraphrasing the story of the 1984 film Footloose, his plea coincided with the main message of the movie. “Let the kids dance,” Collins beckoned the audience after the main stage crowd had politely sat through the majority of Beirut’s set.
It wasn’t the only time people got to bust some moves during the festival, but it certainly didn’t feel like a welcome activity. Even with workshop sessions entitled “Funk and Disorderly” and “Invasion of the Booty Snatchers,” dancing was not a common theme throughout the weekend.
For those who enjoy dancing when they hear good live music (and the Calgary Folk Fest was full of that this year) it became frustrating. Kimberly Burke, who has been going to the festival for nearly two decades, said she was disappointed.
“On Friday night, while my friends and I were dancing to Dan Mangan, security came to alert us that we were too disruptive to the other people around us,” Burke said.
After lining up for hours before the festival gates opened she wasn’t about to just give up her prime space, so she and her friends had to suck it up and not dance, she said. The other chances for dancing throughout the weekend were few and far between for those who didn’t want to brave it out and dance either by themselves or a small group of to the sides of stage areas.
A few bands, such as Hungarian band Besh o droM who played music that would have sounded just as appropriate at a wedding celebration, tried their best to get the crowd going by into the audience and attempting to get a reaction. It was not a winning cause.
The majority of people just want to wander from stage to stage, sit and enjoy the music. Dancers tend to get in the way, especially with the low stages — even the main stage was only about four feet high. Making matters worse, the designated dancing section was frequently abused by people trying to get as close to the stage as possible.
“I looked over at the dancing section to see a whole bunch of people just standing around, which was frustrating,” Burke said. “We were told that we would have to go somewhere we wouldn’t be in anyone’s way to dance.”
Most stages had a spattering of dancers off to the sides, who were sometimes mocked by the sitting crowd. Besides the occasional snickering, Twitter was filled with comments like, “No one likes your dancing, pink shirt,” using the festival’s hashtag so that everyone could get in on the joke.
There are clearly those who want to dance freely at events like the Folk Fest, and there is a problem when they’re consistently told to dance like no one is watching, when really it seems it should be dance when no one is watching.
Unless security cracks down on the designated dancing areas next year, which would be a fairly difficult job, it seems as if they’ll have to make the choice between grooving on the inside or sticking it to The Man.