A twangy new St. Nick’s tradition lands in Vršovice

Free bluegrass music and dance lessons accompany the kick-off of a new square dancing event in Prague

This Wednesday marks St. Nicholas Eve, a Czech custom that sees angels, devils, saints, and revelers taking to the streets of Prague for some holiday fun.

For those in search of advent entertainment of a different — though no less devilish — variety, a night of square dancing and bluegrass music will take place this Wednesday in Vršovice. The evening will be hosted by Emily and Lee Bidgood, American Fulbright scholars from Tennessee who aim to spread their love of community square dancing wherever they go.

The Bidgoods, who arrived in Prague last August, have strong ties to the Czech lands. “Prague is like a second home to us,” Emily says. “We’ve spent a lot of time here due to Lee’s research and writing about Czech-American relations.”

Bidgood’s husband Lee, who is currently teaching American music history at Charles University, is the author of Czech Bluegrass: Notes from the Heart of Europe and has written extensively on Czech tramp singing.

As devoted musicians back home in Tennessee the Bidgoods are also long-time square dance enthusiasts with Emily calling out the steps and Lee performing mandolin with his bluegrass group.

The Prague event took shape after the pair met John Redmond fellow Tennessean and outgoing pastor of the English Speaking United Methodist church, where tomorrow evening’s dance will be held. (His predecessor just happens to be a bluegrass musician and future events could be in the works, says Emily).

So what can first-timers expect?

“We do the West-Virginia style which is accessible for beginners and families. You don’t need to know what you’re doing, it’s just about community and having fun,” she says. Banjo, guitar, and fiddle players are encouraged to sit in during Wednesday evening’s session.

While Ms. Bidgood is uncertain about the turnout, she says she’s expecting a good mix of Czech and foreigners. “We know that there is a large, active community of Czech square dancers here,” she adds, noting that no matter how many people turn up, the band will play on: “We dance if there are 8 or 38 people.”

Anybody who’s looking for a Czech devil at this Tennessee square dance event by way of West Virginia (in a church) may be disappointed; when asked about their decision to host a square-dancing event on St. Nicholas Eve, Emily demures:

“It just coincidentally fell on this day. We simply see it as another opportunity for family fun.”

Besides, any good two-stepper knows the Devil went down to Georgia.

Square Dancing In Prague with Emily Be Good
English Speaking United Methodist Church (28 Pluku 484/15)
Wednesday, December 5
6:30-8:30 pm
Facebook page for the event here.

Read more about the history of square dancing here.

Also read:  Czechs, other Europeans do not regret the fall of Communism, says new poll

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