North Star Homestead Farms, LLC

  (Hayward, Wisconsin)
Know your Farmer, Love your Food!

Barn Dance

Circle to the left

And back to the right

Right-hand star

And a left-hand star


Do-si-do your corner

Then do-si-do your partner

Circle left, then

Moving couples on you go to the next set!

A few folks who are new to old-time country dancing gently bump into each other, laughing, as the others pull them along.  It’s early evening, and 80-plus adventuresome people have journeyed down the long gravel road to Farmstead Creamery for a night of local fun and flavor in the Locally Grown Summer Music Series. 

The American folks dance band Duck for the Oyster plays beneath a canopy outside, with the historic yet contemporary blends of fiddle, mandolin, guitar, and upright bass.  Blue and red and green lawn chairs scattered in the yard hold everyone from boisterous children as well as white-haired grandparents, while the dancers circle round in the parking lot.  Dragonflies and hummingbirds flit overhead, there is a gentle breeze, and the air is just cool enough to make the dancing quite a pleasurable invigoration.

Lines go forward and lines go back

Right hands round your partner

Then left hands round your partner

Top couple chasses down the line

Then come on back

Reel the set—there we go

And cast off

Cathy (the dance caller) wears her classic red dress and black dance shoes, directing the participants through the different parts of the dance—like building a story in movement, piece by piece.  In the 18th Century, and even into the 19th, dances were often taught by dancing masters that would travel from village to hamlet.  Flamboyant characters, these masters often created quite a stir in the community, especially for the young ladies.

Community dancing was a way to spend time having fun with your neighbors, to meet the new folks in town, or to look for an eligible partner.  Holding a dance at a farmhouse or a barn was a way to celebrate the completion of harvest or other important seasonal transitions.  If you’ve ever been folk dancing, then you’ll know the unique feeling of coming in at the end of a long day, bone weary, only to feel the spizerinktum come back after a whirling session of dance to lively old tunes.

Heel and toe and heel and toe

And slide, slide, slide

Heel and toe and heel and toe

And slide, slide, slide


Right-hand clap

Left-hand clap

Both-hand clap

Clap your knees

Circle round, then change partners!

Sometimes we Midwestern folks can get a bit hesitant to dance together.  We don’t get many chances to dance together, we feel awkward, and what might other people think of us!  But at a barn dance, it doesn’t matter when you last danced.  It doesn’t matter if you know the steps because everyone’s happy to help you learn, and there’s no fancy footwork involved.  Feel the rhythm of the music and the pressure on your hand from your partner, and just enjoy moving together, laughing together, and being together.

The other magical part of barn dancing comes by working with your partner.  Whether it’s the same person throughout the dance or it changes after each round of the melody, you get to learn something about them through the strength or warmth in their hands, their boldness or fluidness of movement, their smile.  Swings, when executed with confidence, give you that moment of centripetal force that one person alone cannot achieve.  Harkening back before the days of roller-coaster rides, this moment of pull and twirl must have been a special thrill.

Forward, two, three, pivot

And back, two, three, four

Forward, two, three, pivot

And back, two, three, four


Step together, step apart

Put the ladies to the middle

Step together, step apart

Under the arch to your new partner

The music gradually begins to quicken.  Some of the listeners are clapping along, while two of the little girls hop from side to side next to Grandma, in rhythm with the dancers.  The sun is slowly sinking behind the farm, casting golden shafts of light over the tops of the trees.  Then the music stops, everyone claps, and it is time for the groups of twos and threes and fours to pack up their lawn chairs and saunter back to their cars.  Everyone is chatting, shaking hands, and calling, “See you next time!”  Perhaps this has been an evening they will remember for many years.

Have you made it to a barn dance yet?  Sweep off the floor, grab your dancing shoes, and come to the gathering.  You just might surprise yourself by discovering something you didn’t know you enjoyed.  See you down on the farm sometime.

Laura Berlage is a co-owner of North Star Homestead Farms, LLC and Farmstead Creamery & Café. 715-462-3453


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