Born to Dance, Mariposa Chapter

I was born to dance. Some people are born to sing or perform or be the boss. I was always dancing within, and when I could move to the rhythm or extend my body to express what I was feeling I was happy and content.

When I was a child I joined all my classmates in taking ballet lessons, and then modern dance lessons, and ballroom lessons. I never considered myself good at performing, but I never gave up the movement which always bubbled inside of me. As I came into my teens there was jitterbug—now known as swing, and slow dancing, which I didn’t much appreciate because there wasn’t much movement to it.

In December of 1942 I was working at the Radiation Lab at the University of California at Berkeley, and this young physicist asked me to the company dance. He was a superb dancer, and I married him six months later.

Twelve years and four children later we separated. Then the man who brought me a clipping from the Santa Monica newspaper announcing a Tuesday night class in folk dancing and said to me, “I want us to take this class, to be partners all the way through,” was the one I married a year later.

Carolyn (on left) folk dancing with Bob Brent (center)
Carolyn (on left) folk dancing with Bob Brent (center)

Folk dancing became an important part of our lives. We danced for recreation, for socialization, for physical activity, and exploring multi-cultural diversities. We had music from over the world in our home all the time, and holidays and parties for the whole family always included dancing. Our children grew up learning the steps, learning the cultural aspects, making and procuring costumes from the world over. Classes, festivals, dance camps, were open to everyone, and our kids participated in performing groups. It was wonderful that they could stay out til 2:00 a.m. as teenagers because we always knew where they were and who they were with, and there were always adult friends who were there who would let us know if anyone got out of line.


Decades passed, and I found myself alone in the world looking for a retirement location. I picked Mariposa, which had all the attributes I listed for myself except for dancing. Well, if Mohammed couldn’t go to the mountain I would bring the mountain to Mariposa.

I started a folk dance group, which flourished for two years, and then withered. So then I decided to have regular parties where I would have music and dance and food and costumes and fun. We did Greek and Bulgarian, Hawaiian, Phillipine, Turkish, Mexican, and Yugoslav. At that point I was low on ideas so I said to my friends, “What kind of party should we have next?” It was at the beginning of the Country Western Dance craze and they chorused, “We want to learn Country Western.”

I didn’t know how to do Country Western, but of course I knew someone who did. So I called up my friend Anthony Ivancich (a real Croation from Lubliana) and asked, “Would you come to Mariposa and do a Country Western dance workshop for us?” He answered “Yes, and I’ll bring my performing group with me.”

longhornsLonghornProgramI hired Bootjack Stompers Hall, wrote notices for the news­papers, and passed the word. Then Anthony sent up posters for his performing group. I took one look and my heart dropped to my feet. They were gay!

Now if you had asked me whether Anthony was gay I would have said yes. I had known him since he was 16. But I was thinking in terms of dancers, not in terms of sexual preference. Here I was sponsoring a group of gay guys to come to red-neck Mariposa to teach dance! After some soul searching I decided to let it ride, and see what happened.

The day came. Over 100 people showed up to learn Country Western Dancing. Anthony is a superb teacher and dancer, and people of all ages were enthralled and learning. After the break his performing group put on a quality demonstration, and then even did a fashion show of the costumes the ‘49ers wore from then till now.

After the workshop, some of the performing group went to the Hull House, and some went to the Miner’s Inn. The population was so enamored of Country Western Dance that they spent the night teaching and dancing. At 2:00 a.m. the manager of Miner’s Inn shooed out everyone else he didn’t know, then locked the door and kept everyone inside, and they danced until 5:oo a.m.


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