In the Spring of 1986 I traveled to the USA to become a full member of CALLERLAB at the convention in Baltimore. But before that Ted Sannella, a well known Contra Dance Caller, hosted me fo a week at Boston to show me the contra dance community there. This is built quite differently from clubstyle square dance. There are small groups who organize the hall, the caller, and the musicians. The participants are not members, but paying guests without further commitment.
I decided to start something similar at Hannover. Another man, who had been to Boston that same year and was enthusiastic about this idea, found a room at the Freizeitheim Stöcken which we could use every fortnight as a community service. On August 8, 1986 we started to invite to open contradancing. Part of the deal was that we should not set a fee; but I am allowed to ask for "financial applause".
I called Contra Dance in German language. This was grave heresy at that time. But many dancers attended for just that reason. Thy had not learned English in school, and now wanted to dance, not a language course.
In 1992 I was asked by a nearby cowboy club to teach them traditional square dance. Unfortunately, this group was beset with internal quarrels. In the Fall of 1993, I had enough of it. The hall at the FZH Stöcken was now available every Monday, and so I decided to add Open Square Dance to my schedule, alternating with Open Contra Dance. To obtain GEMA coverage for this doubled program, it was declared to the EAASDC as second club night of the Happy Squares Hannover under the name of Happy Squares Traditional Style. But since Ralph Page referred to the mixture of contra dances in long lanes and square dances in four couple sets as "Country Dance", among us we named the Monday group "Open Country".
At the CALLERLAB Convention mentioned above, the idea of the Community Dance Program (CDP) was devised and presented to the membership. Therefore I like to boast that there is a CDP since I am a member of CALLERLAB. And for sure I am among the first to use it.
However, I call square dance mostly in English language - it is easier. Especially singing calls do not sound well in German language. Therefore I had to change to bilingual calls at contra dancing, to serve everyone. Those inclined against English left by and by in any case, mostly for health reasons from disease to decease. And you need some English even in daily life. For Example, at Hannover's public transportation you cannot get a "Fahrschein" any more. You either have to buy a "Ticket" or hold a "Card".
In 1999 the Happy Squares became indisposed against me, and I left. Consequently the Monday group formed kind of a club and in 2000 joined the EAASDC under the name of Open Country Hannover. But since I also went to retirement, Open Country sprouted to different places in Hannover. Check out the actual schedule at www.opencountry.de.
As an aside - at the end of my tour to the USA in 1986, some of my American friends were seriously concerned whether I dared to return to Europe, because the nuclear power plant Cernobyl had exploded. But I did, and survived.
Compare also my biography
Published 2006-05-07 / Heiner Fischle, Hannover, Germany