Lake Norman & Mooresville

Contra dance at Davidson College raises $800 for Davidson Lands Conservancy

Violinist Dennis Spring plays at the Green Ball at Davidson College on March 12.
Violinist Dennis Spring plays at the Green Ball at Davidson College on March 12.

With its elements of line dancing and folk music, ties to Old World culture and intergenerational appeal, contra dance has a certain free-spiritedness about it. For a man itching to don the kilt, contra dance can provide the perfect setting.

On March 12, the Davidson College student Environmental Action Coalition hosted its annual Green Ball in which contra dance – which spread from its English, Scottish and German roots to New England in the 17th century – was the format of choice.

Charles Rappe, with his dark green plaid kilt flopping and swaying through his various steps, was one of about 40 people attending the fundraiser to benefit the Davidson Lands Conservancy. Davidson students, residents of the Town of Davidson, and fans of contra dancing from the Charlotte region covered an age-range from teenagers to those in their 60s.

“(Wearing the kilt) gets me in the spirit of the event,” said Rappe, a senior anthropology student from Fort Collins, Colo. “I’ve had a different number of people who’ve approached me and shown their appreciation.

“The entire idea behind the event is the sustainability and the environmental endeavors of the Environmental Action Coalition. Showing support by attending and giving money is a great way to show you are environmentally conscience.”

The 12th annual Green Ball, named for its environmental mission and its proximity to St. Patrick’s Day, raised $832 for Davidson Lands Conservancy, a nonprofit organization committed to protecting land, environmental education, and advocating for the environment.

Founded in 2000, Davidson Lands Conservancy is led by executive director Autumn Michael, a Davidson resident. She said the organization has a membership of about 400 people and an annual budget of approximately $100,000.

Davidson Lands Conservancy is also known for its primary fundraiser: the annual Run for Green fall road race through Davidson which features a half-marathon, 10-kilometer and five-kilometer events. Other conservancy events including star gazing gatherings at Fisher Farm Park and its World of Wonder (WOW) education programs for families at the Davidson Farmers Market.

In the past, an Environmental Action Coalition member has served on the conservancy’s board of directors.

“It’s really encouraging and it’s inspiring to be around folks with that kind of energy and who care about issues that are bigger than themselves,” said Michael.

This school year, the Environmental Action Coalition is led by co-presidents Cater Corley, a junior Environmental Studies major from Georgia and Laura George, a senior English major from Charleston, S.C. Corley says the club has a membership close to 100 students, but that there is an active core of about eight members.

The coalition’s main purpose is to raise environmental awareness among Davidson students. With support from the college’s sustainability office, the coalition promotes a “Do It In The Dark” program in the spring that is a friendly competition between dorms to see which residents can conserve the most electricity over a designated month.

Last year, Charles Rappe was a resident adviser in the on-campus Belk Hall dorm. He encouraged his residents to turn off their lights more often and to conserve water. Rappe’s date to the Green Ball, Molly Walker, remembers studying with fellow students in Belk Hall corridors so the building could conserve electricity.

Walker and George are roommates and Rappe is a good friend to both. They are all invested in the Environmental Action Coalition and Davidson Lands Conservancy’s respective missions.

This year’s Green Ball was held in the Lilly Family Gallery inside the college’s Chambers Hall. Dennis Spring and The Sons of the Full Moon provided the contra dance music. Catfish Disco, a college rock ’n’ roll band, played afterward.

Joe Habina is a freelance writer: