I've been dancing ever since Barbe Gallagher dragged me out to one, a contra dance eight years ago in Durham, NC. My first experience playing for a dance was a post-midnight session at Camp Sertoma in NC, with Gene Hubert generously staying up late to call for our big group of enthusiastic hopefuls. I moved to Seattle in 1994, thinking I was leaving the fiddle music and dancing behind. Go figure! I've found my niche in life here playing piano for contras, and count myself lucky for every single chance to play.

Seattle is doubly fortunate to have a bevy of incredible fiddlers and piano players -- Cathie Whitesides, Terry Wergeland, and Alan Roberts have offered the biggest boosts to my little career -- as well as a solid and supportive group of dancers, enough to support two or three dances a week in Seattle alone.

I've been playing dances now for four years or so, and dancing for eight. I've had the pleasure to share a stage from time to time with musicians ranging from string quartets to marimba players to Vivian Williams' incredible waltzes. From June of 2000 to the time I left Seattle in 2002, I've been averaging about a dance a week.

And even so, I'd rather be dancing.

My favorite fiddler

My favorite fiddler is
Alan Roberts. We play just fiddle-and-piano, but it's a big sound. Jigs from Cape Breton, Irish reels, midwestern polkas, Southern breakdowns, and lots and lots of modern composed tunes in many different styles -- we mix it up, and we play loud and strong, and people dance, by God they dance!

My philosophy

My philosophy of piano playing is pretty simple: Pound on the balances, and drive to the top of the phrase. We use a lot of dynamics to build up drama, and then punctuate it with those balances. It's not pretty, and it's not even terribly difficult; and no "real" musician will respect you much for playing this stuff. But who cares? Dance music is for dancing!

My influences

Some of the bands and fiddlers I've played dances with: One Man Band, Scotsbroome, the Warm Jammies (from NC), Bill Gordon (who taught me about metronomes), the Loose Strings, Pleasures of Home, Island Time; and Deb Kirkland and Dave Bartley and Alan Roberts and Cathie Whitesides (thank you, Cathie!) and Charli Meacham and Jon Singleton and LeeAnneWelch and Ruthie Dornfeld and Mike Richardson and Lindon Toney and Jean Schweitzer and Doug Broyles and Vivian Fetty and Pat Spaeth and innumerable open band nights around Seattle. What joy!

Alan Roberts

Alan Roberts had been playing fiddle forever, mostly old-time Southern and midwestern tunes, before simultaneously discovering Northern jigs and contra dancing a couple of years ago. Since then we've played dozens of dances in Seattle and the Pacific Northwest and California. Highlights included a set at the Northwest Folklife Festival in May 2000 (recording available on request), the Bear Hug dance camp at Flathead Lake, MT, the Wintergreen Dance Weekend in Bozeman MT, and the recent Fall Has Sprung festival in Grass Valley, CA. We travel anywhere (Whidbey Island, Port Angeles, Ellensburg, Bozeman MT, Eugene OR, Monterey CA) -- send us mail if there's a chance we could play your dance. Alan's playing combines the powerful rhythms of the best grinding Southern tunes with the harmonic intricacy of Celtic reels and the cheerful bounce of the Cape Breton jigs. And when he's not playing, you'll see him out there dancing!

Alan Eric

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21 November 2003