Nearly 100 people flocked to the Silverthorne Pavilion last month for the first in Mike "Tex" DeGarie's country dancing series, now in its second year at the location. The popular dance returns tonight, starting with an hour-long lesson at 7 p.m. sharp, followed by open dancing until 11.
For only $5, participants can learn a new dance - tonight it'll be West Coast swing - before dancing the night away. DeGarie doubles as a DJ and plays "music you can dance to" like cha-cha, waltz, triple step, triple two-step and a lot of swing, he said.
"When I play music, I play music where you can hear the beat. A lot of bands, when they play, they play music you can listen to - not dance to," he said. "Being a dance instructor, I play music you can dance to and listen to."
Of the various types of swing - including West Coast swing, East Coast swing and cowboy swing - he said cowboy swing is easiest.
The dance has "a four-count beat done at a fast tempo," he said, unlike the eight counts of West Coast swing or the six counts of East Coast swing. "It's the easiest one to pick up because it's four count," DeGarie said. "It's a partner dance. I teach them how to keep up with the beat, and I teach them some spins and twirls." The open dancing from 8-11 p.m. is generally partner dancing too, and he teaches a line dance - tonight it's El Rio - around 9 p.m.
DeGarie wasn't always a dance instructor. In fact, he and his wife first became interested in Country Western dancing 25 years ago after their two daughters became teenagers and "they did not want to hang out with us anymore," he said, chuckling. "Instead of staying home, eating popcorn and watching movies, we decided to find something to do."
They started as students, taking classes around Summit County, including lessons in the school gymnasium and upstairs at Salt Creek Saloon, plus a few classes in Denver.
"Once we started liking it, we took more classes and got better," he said. Before long, people began asking him to give classes. "We had a lot of fun, and we still do," he said, speaking of the current Country Western dance series at the pavilion, the summer series at Dillon Amphitheatre and prior dances through Summit County Dance Club, which has since disbanded.
Their daughters, now 32 and 33, have yet to take up the hobby. "But they think we're pretty cool, though," DeGarie said.
There's no dress code for tonight's dance, which is sponsored by the town of Silverthorne, though DeGarie will come clad in cowboy boots, cowboy hat, Western shirt and jeans. There's a cash bar, and participants are invited to bring their own snacks. The Country Western dances take place on the second Friday of each month through May. After tonight, the next dances are Nov. 9 and Dec. 14.