The roar of the fiddle, the steady thump of an upright bass, the pluck of banjo strings and the energetic shout of "swing your partner 'round and 'round." Those sounds and more will be ringing through the town of Thomas during the monthly square dance on May 23 at the Thomas Community Education Center.
This month's dance will be part of Tucker County's annual Art Spring festival, during which the communities of Davis and Thomas come together to show off the many facets of a rich and diverse local arts scene. Visitors to Art Spring will experience a blend modern art, eclectic music and traditional craft, which makes the square dance the perfect way to kick off the weekend's festivities, according to organizer Sheena Williams.
"This region of West Virginia is so rich in the mountain traditions of music and dance, with square dancing being such a big part of that," Williams said. "Luckily, our area is blessed with so many young people dedicated to carrying on those traditions in their own unique styles."
One of those young people is Becky Hill, caller for the May 23 square dance, from Elkins. Hill coordinates the Mountain Dance Trail, a recent initiative to preserve traditional West Virginia square dances in towns such as Helvetia and Dunmore, as well as to promote newer events like the dance in Thomas.
The Thomas Square Dance, which has occurred monthly since December 2012, has attracted some of West Virginia's legendary musicians and square dance callers, as well as plenty of beginners who return each month. The best part of traditional square dancing, Williams says, is that everyone can participate. No prior experience is necessary.
"The Appalachian square dance has lived on for so long because it's something entire communities would come out for. There truly is something for everybody," Williams said. "So we're excited to let our community carry this rich tradition forward, especially during an event like Art Spring, when so many folks are in town to take in the entire spectrum of local arts, craft and music."
Providing high-energy music for this month's dance, the Elkins-based trio of Josh Wanstreet on fiddle, Mike Costello on banjo and Kevin Chesser on guitar will be joined by Corey Bonasso, of Dry Fork, on the upright bass.
The Thomas Square Dance begins at 8 p.m., and will follow a potluck dinner at 7 p.m. Admission is $5. Thomas Community Education Center is located at 324 Brown Street.