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Posted on Mon, Aug 31, 2009 : 5:53 a.m.

"Dancing in the Streets" returning to downtown on Sunday

By Jenn McKee

Though things have been pretty rough in Michigan for a while now, locals will likely be kicking up their heels when Dancing In The Streets — a free, one-day event sponsored by Ann Arbor Council for Traditional Music and Dance (AACTMAD) — takes over a major downtown intersection on Sunday, Sept. 6.

Now in its 12th year, the festival was born when a few AACTMAD members “thought it would be really fun to try and get in "The Guinness Book of World Records" for the longest contra line,” said AACTMAD spokesperson Joan Hellman.

More than 800 people participated in that contra line, which at that time constituted the outdoor portion of a Labor Day Weekend-long traditional dance festival. (The line established a new Guinness category, but because fewer than 1,000 people participated, the results didn’t appear in the print edition.)

And while AACTMAD unsuccessfully tried to beat its own record the following year, “going forward, we decided just to have the one-day event and just focus on the various kinds of dancing — mostly traditional and ethnic dancing,” said Hellman.

This year’s festival, for example, offers a broad variety of styles, including English country dance (think Jane Austen film adaptations), Scottish country dance (like English, but with a bit more spring in your step), contra, Cajun, middle Eastern, Argentine tango, ballroom, swing, Charleston, a maypole (popular with little ones) and a “family dance” program.

“Family dance is for parents or grandparents with young children, where the dances will be a little bit simpler,” explained Hellman.

One of the festival’s four stages will be a concert areas, for those who want to sit and listen to live music. (This year's lineup includes the Dodworth Saxhorn Band, who will lead the opening parade, and the Millers.) But Hellman expects attendees to otherwise be taking part in the dancing, not watching.

“All of the dances are taught, so almost everything is participatory,” said Hellman. “The Scottish dancers, for instance, will show what the dance looks like and then teach it to everybody else.”

So dust off your dancing shoes and hoof your way downtown on Sunday.

Jenn McKee is the entertainment digital journalist for Reach her at or 734-623-2546, and follow her on Twitter @jennmckee.

Dancing in the Streets
What: One day festival that highlights a variety of traditional and ethnic dance styles and encourages attendee participation.
Who: Ann Arbor Council for Traditional Music and Dance sponsors this event.
Where: Downtown, at Main and Washington.
When: Sunday, Sept. 6, 1:45 p.m.-6:30 p.m.
How much: Free.
Info: Check out the complete schedule of events on the DITS page at AACTMAD's web site.

File photo by Leisa Thompson: Ann Arbor residents George and Debbie Upton dance the sidestep during Dancing In The Streets 2008.