May I Have This Dance?

“Then I offer my waiting self to the One who’s never stopped believing in me, and the dance begins.” – Joyce Rupp

When most people think of “dance,” they usually think of A) people (typically young women) presenting athletic, skilled awesomeness to music on a stage, or B) raucous parties packed with bodies jumping joyfully to a DJ driven beat so loud it is felt.

But there’s another option out there, one with its foundation in the mists of time and refined in the ballrooms of the 19th century: English Country Dances and Contra dancing. Picture a dance scene from Jane Austen, or the Fezziwig dance in “A Christmas Carol” – that’s what I’m talking about. Believe it or not, these dances still happen in quiet communities across the United States.

Many years ago, jaded by the inflated, insecure egos of concert dance (see “A” above) and too weary for “B,” I’d essentially given up on dance, until I experienced “Contra dancing.” It was an unexpected evening of joy, invigorated by a sense of community. For a few hours, I danced without fear of judgement or expectation. I went home with a face weary from smiling and feet weary from moving, having re-discovered why I loved to dance. Friends, music, rhythm and pattern – the dances may feel weirdly “old-timey,” but that truth lends to them a nostalgic calm and ease that is surprisingly charming and fun.

Because of their historical significance, and for the last 34 years, English Country Dance/ Contra dance “Balles” have been incorporated in the Historical Social Dance class. This year, with my retirement, the last Balle offered under my purview happens this week.

THIS FRIDAY, YOU HAVE THE CHANCE TO TRY THESE DANCES AT 

THE SPRING BALLE

Friday March 29, 2019, Maas Auditorium, 7-10pm

OPEN TO THE HOPE COMMUNITY

FREE

Refreshments provided.

Glen Morningstar calling, Mark Schrock and friends providing live music

NO EXPERIENCE IS NECESSARY: All you need to bring is a willing heart and an open mind

DANCES ARE TAUGHT: Experienced dancers will help you, if you wish.

Costumes encouraged, but not required

For more information call: 616-395-7700

Charles Aschbrenner’s Gift of Music Forever

The late Dr. Charles Aschbrenner, long-time professor of music at Hope, has left a lasting impression upon the college beyond his 53 years of teaching piano. Aschbrenner’s personal grand piano — a Steinway over 100 years old — now resides in the college’s presidential home, a gift given to Hope by his spouse Chris Spencer recently. Aschbrenner passed away in in September, 2016.To celebrate its arrival to its new and permanent location, members of the Hope music department performed a dedication concert in the President House in Aschbrenner’s honor last week. The piano, both figuratively and literally, was the centerpiece of the event in the formal living room of the house. At 6-foot-11-inches, it is the second largest piano Steinway builds. Made of tiger, or flame, mahogany, the instrument took a year to construct and was completed in 1914. It first belonged to Aschbrenner’s mother from whom he received his first piano lessons.

Violinist Craioveanu with Pianist Le. Photo by Greg Olgers

Pianist Dr. Andrew Le accompanied both violinist Mihai Craioveanu and flutist Dr. Gabe Southard at the installation concert. Le also performed two solo works written by Claude DeBussy, an Aschbrenner favorite. “Charles loved DeBussy, and anything French actually,” Le said before he performed. “This is for Charles.”

Flutist Southard with Pianist Le. Photo by Greg Olgers.

Aschbrenner joined the Hope faculty in 1963 after receiving his master of music degree from Yale University. He further studied with renowned teachers Nadia Boulanger in France and Adele Marcus in New York City. But piano was not his only instrument. Aschbrenner also studied oboe with Ray Stills of the Chicago Symphony.

“An instrument is an extension of the musician. Sometimes we choose them and sometimes they cross our paths. This piano is very much an extension of Charles,” said Le. “It’s very generous. It’s warm and it’s delightful.”

“An instrument is an extension of the musician….This piano is very much an extension of Charles. It’s very generous. It’s warm and it’s delightful.”

While the warm and delightful Aschbrenner piano had a meaningful introduction to the president’s home — President Dennis Voskuil called the event one of the highlights of his time at Hope — it also has special significance for the new presidential residents moving in this summer. Sarah Dieter ’02 Scogin, wife of Hope’s next president Matthew A Scogin ’02, was a music performance major at Hope (as well as a computer science major).

Charles Aschbrenner was her mentor.

Listen to the Aschbrenner piano played by Dr. Andrew Le!