The Arden, Delaware,
folk dance club must be the oldest continuing international group
in the country-in North America, in all the Americas. (If not
let us know.)
The Arden Folk Gild is part of the Arden Club. The village of Arden, near Wilmington, Delaware, was named for the Forest of Arden from Shakespeare's play As You Like It. It was founded in 1900 by sculptor Frank Stephens and architect Will Price, who sought to create a society based on Henry George's single tax economics.
When the old Derrickson's barn was converted to the Gild Hall in 1909, the Folk Gild and others were organized. The eight other current gilds are Library, Dinner, Gardeners, Swim, Scholars, Shakespeare,
Ardensingers who do Gilbert and Sullivan operettas, and the Georgist Gild that discuss the economic theories of Henry George. All the gilds join together to host the annual pre-Labor Day Arden Fair, its farewell to summer. (This year in 1999 is the 92nd Arden Fair.) Gilds may connect with one another, also. The Folk Gild, for example, annually cooks a popular Indian-Pakistani dinner for the Dinner Gild.
Our dance space with its bouncy hardwood floor is now called the Rae Gerstine Gild Hall. Our oldest and most cherished dancer, Rae Gerstine passed away two years ago at the age of 98. She danced with us until then and always said, "If you want to live long, keep on dancing."
The Folk Gild celebrates the changing of the seasons with special events, such as Ground Hogs Day with TRIKKIWIKKIT playing for French Folk dances, July 1st Sunday CONTRA-CAJUN COMBO, Thanksgiving Dance party, and the New Years Day Dances. Some special events this year will be TRIKKIWIKKIT playing for the Folk Gild and Alliance Francaise, HAMBO Workshop instructed by Cliff Rainey and his CD instructional voice over music and separate men's and women's dance, and Folk Dance Lessons taught by Donna Abed and Jenny Brown.
The Arden Archives revealed the programs from over 10 Folk Festivals that included music and dance weekends held in Arden. Some interesting musicians such as Leadbelly and the young Pete Seeger played at these festivals.
The Arden Folk Dance Gild has managed to keep social dancing alive for nearly a century. According to the oral histories, it started to be very active in 1942, with interesting theme dances attended by the Arden community. International folk dancing had peaks in the 1970's, and provided the repertoire, along with square dancing, until the late 1980's. In May 1989, the 1st Sunday contra dance started and remains the mainstay. The third Sunday Cajun dance came in early 1990s, but has become only an annual event for the CONTRA-CAJUN COMBO. At present, every variety of dancing teaches lessons before the main event to encourage new dancers. The idea is to have good clean fun with gregarious people in a great atmosphere on a grand dance floor.
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