NORWAY — If you have never experienced Zydeco dancing, your opportunity has arrived! The First Universalist Church of Norway will host an evening of Zydeco dancing from 7 to 9 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 25, in the church concert hall.

Zydeco is the music of Southwest Louisiana’s Black Creoles, a group of people of mixed African, Afro-Caribbean, Native American and European descent who settled in the bayous. Zydeco was influenced by Cajun music, the Blues and R&B, as well as by the music of Creoles’ original cultures. No one can keep from dancing once they hear the Zydeco beat.

Dave Drago of West Paris, a 20-year aficionado of Zydeco dancing, will give everyone a dance lesson, then the CD dance party will begin. Drago and his dance partner, Melissa Pritchard of Portland, will demonstrate the dance steps and help everyone on the way to becoming Zydeco dancers.

For Drago, Zydeco dancing is an essential part of life. Asked how he started Zydeco dancing, he said, “Twenty years ago I met a woman at a party and I asked her how I could get to know her better. She said, ‘Zydeco dancing.’” So, he took up Zydeco dancing. Drago and the woman were dance partners and an “item” for seven years but ultimately broke up. Nevertheless, he is still Zydeco dancing.

The word Zydeco gets its name from a colloquial Creole French expression “Les haricots ne sont pas salés,” meaning “the snap beans aren’t salty,” a Creole idiom for “the times are hard.” Like many forms of music, Zydeco music (and dancing) provides an escape from the hardships of everyday life. Core instruments in Zydeco bands are the accordion and the frottoir (a washboard worn like a vest), in addition to the fiddles, keyboards, electric guitars, bass and drums. Zydeco songs are about everything from food and love to the injustices rural southerners have to bear. But it is the joy of the accordion driven Zydeco beat that brings people of all cultures together on the dance floor.

Drago retired to the Oxford Hills two years ago after a long career as a quality control engineer in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. He drives back to Massachusetts, to Portland and other distant places for Zydeco dances. He hopes he can bring Zydeco dancing closer to home. “For me, not only is Zydeco dancing fun, it is community building,” he said.

Zydeco dancing is its own genre but it is somewhat like swing dancing. To learn more, Drago recommends the Boston Zydeco website. But the best way to learn more is to go to the First Universalist Church of Norway Zydeco Dance and “Laissez Le Bon Temps Rouler!” (Let the good times roll!).

Admission will be $8 a person, $12 a couple, $20 for families. Proceeds will benefit the First Universalist Church of Norway, 479 Main St. Refreshments will be served.

Zydeco dancing instructor, Dave Drago, with his dance partner, Mellissa Pritchard. Submitted photo

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