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Historic Jonesborough Dance Society Welcomes Alaska Band ‘Eel House’ to the High Country

June 19, 2013. The Historic Jonesborough Dance Society will present a contra dance during the annual Jonesborough Days Celebration on Saturday, July 6 at the Historic Jonesborough Visitors Center at 117 Boone Street. Admission to the dance is $7 per person, $5 for HJDS members and full-time students. An entire family can gain admission for only $15. A class for beginners will be held at 6 p.m. The dance will run from 6:30-9:45 p.m. finishing in time for the fireworks show at 10 p.m. No Partner is necessary. All dances are taught by the caller. All dances are smoke, alcohol and fragrance free.

Event organizer David Wiley states “being a part of Jonesborough Days gives us a chance to showcase our dance program to everyone in the region. Our dancers come to enjoy the traditional music and dance, get some exercise and be a part of a dance community that is intergenerational and family oriented. Now in our eighth year in Jonesborough, we have produced over 200 dance events that are open to all comers. We are so lucky to catch a touring band from Alaska for this event,” Wiley said. 

IMG_1373-002Eel House, from Fairbanks, Alaska, is a progressive contra dance band that plays a mix of traditional Celtic, jazz, rock and fiddle inspired tunes. The band consists of Eric Barker, Susie Hallinan, Chazz Gist and Alisa Williams. The recipe for Eel House: mix one part fiddle and contra dance, one part folk, one part rock, one part jazz, add a pinch of classical and season with wild creative energy. Add four musicians who grew up in Fairbanks, Alaska and were immersed in music since before they could remember, and who played music with their families. Despite their shared roots, each member of Eel House has traveled a different musical journey to bring a unique set of skills into the group.

Eric took the modernistic approach, emerging from Oberlin Conservatory with a degree in electronic music composition. Returning to Fairbanks, he threw his energies into a rock band and meanwhile discovered New England Contra dance music and traditional Irish tunes.

Ryan was more old-fashioned. He learned acoustic bass on the job performing with a young contra dance band and soon was writing and singing his very own quirky and engaging brand of bluegrass. Ryan is nearly finished with a degree in vocal performance from the University of Alaska in Fairbanks. 

Susie was not truly born with a fiddle in her hand, she waited until age four to begin classical violin studies. Soon she discovered something more joyous: Fiddle music! A four-year stint at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks earned Susie a music degree, a teaching certificate and a determination to train up a whole new crop of fiddlers. 

Alisa, on the other hand, was born into a family of singers. Besides learning every instrument she could get her hands on, she showed her exquisite craftsmanship writing country and folk songs. In college, she also studied classical cello and earned a music minor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. 

Anne Marie Walter is a long time caller in the Ashville area. She also helps to organize and call for the monthly English Country Dance there. For more information about the event, contact event organizer David Wiley at 423-534-8879.