Sarabeth Hamberlin held onto her mother, Cynthia Huard, as they twirled together and in a circle with about 100 other couples Saturday in the large ballroom of the Saratoga Springs City Center.
The mother-daughter duo were learning the Hambo, a Scandinavian folk dance. Neither could catch onto the rhythm of the dance and decided it would be more fun to let go of each other and twirl themselves silly.
“We don’t usually do this type of dance,” Hamberlin said. “It’s difficult because if you or your partner don’t know what you’re doing, you are constantly stepping on each other’s feet.”
Sarabeth, 16, her mother and father, Larry Hamberlin, came to Saratoga Springs for the 21st annual Dance Flurry Festival, which concludes today at a variety of downtown sites.
Dance Flurry is a local nonprofit organization of dancers, instructors and musicians who support traditional dance in the Capital Region. The festival is the organization’s biggest fundraiser.
The hallways of the Saratoga Springs City Center and Saratoga Hotel were filled with dancers sitting in small groups or talking, and around nearly every corner musicians played traditional music to pockets of listeners and dancers.
Last year’s festival attracted more than 4,000 people to Saratoga Springs. This year, administrative director Doug Haller said he was expecting a record turnout.
More than 250 dance workshops were offered at six different venues throughout the three-day festival that started Friday evening. The sessions were geared toward children, beginners as well as those experienced in traditional dance.
Sarabeth might not have been good at the Hambo, but she was skilled at contra dancing, a traditional New England folk dance characterized by couples dancing in two parallel lines, moving and twirling in and out of different formations.
The entire large ballroom in the City Center was filled with dancers for the experienced contra workshop.
Participants included Ian Jerolmack, 32, of Vinalhaven, Maine, who said contra dancing was “kind of a rural tradition,” but one that the farmer quickly picked up on.
“It’s the only kind of dance I know,” he said.
Suzanne McQueen and her husband Bill Caldwell from Washington, D.C., who were participating in their fourth Dance Flurry Festival, said they also started traditional dancing by learning contras. But now they know various styles such as waltzes, swing and zydeco, they said. The couple was free-style dancing to Cajun music by the Redstick Ramblers in the Saratoga Hotel’s pavilion.
“The best thing about the Dance Flurry is the music,” Caldwell said. “There are a lot of young bands and young dancers that have that exuberance and vitality that we love to see.”
“There is that kind of synergy that happens between the dancers and the musicians, they all feed off each other and share ideas,” McQueen said.
Workshops were scheduled until 1 a.m. this morning before resuming later today.
“It really is like a big party here,” McQueen said.