- Associated Press - Saturday, June 20, 2015

AUSTIN, Minn. (AP) - The Austin Big Band began to play, and Marian and Tom Niemiec began to dance.

And so began the last dance of the season for the Austin Cotillion Club. The name harkens back to formal dances of the 1800s, the minuet and ladies in hoop skirts but is, in fact, a laid-back chance to socialize, laugh and, if you wish, dance.

That the Niemiecs were first on the Austin Country Club’s dance floor on June 2 was fitting because they were the best dancers - smooth, graceful, elegant and a delight to watch.

They have danced together for about 40 years and are trying to attend a formal dinner dance in every state. They even have a web page, www.dancefifty.com, to explain what they’re doing.

They live in St. Paul but also have a farm in the bluff lands east of Austin. They especially enjoy the cotillion’s June dance because the Austin Big Band plays, the Post-Bulletin (http://bit.ly/1dzopr1 ) reported.

Next on the floor were Rachel and Adam Stange, relative novices. But they danced for the joy of dancing, and that simple pleasure overwhelms many missteps.

They enjoy the cotillion so much, in fact, that they will be co-presidents next season. He is an accountant at Hormel Foods Corp., and she is a fourth-grade teacher at Neveln Elementary School.

They learned about the club when playing in the big band and friends gave them a dance lesson.

“We had a blast,” she said.

“Dancing is a way to communicate on another level,” he said. “We have to be on the same page. We have to learn each other’s tendencies.”

At the cotillion, they dance, but they also get to sit with others during the social hour beforehand, or during the sit-down dinner. It’s an intergenerational mixer, Rachel said.

The Stanges enjoy that cotillions are a bit old-fashioned and that people once had to dress formally.

“We’re in the wrong generation,” she said.

The club membership is dropping, and they are trying to coax younger people to come to a dance.

The popularity of the TV series “Dancing with the Stars” has interested more people in dancing, Adam said. “But it’s intimidating,” many believe they have to be as good as the stars, to wow people, he said.

In fact, most of the people on the country club’s dance floor were not nearly as good as the Niemiecs, but they still enjoyed getting out on the dance floor.

Among the couples on the floor was Kelsey Field and Michael Walker. They are young, they don’t mind dressing up. They are friends with the Stanges, who invited them to a cotillion dance.

“We went to check it out and we liked, it,” she said.

They are not great dancers, she said.

So what? “There are a lot of levels of dancers out there,” she said. “I never felt anyone is paying any attention to what we’re doing.”

They are very much in the learning stage. “Mike has to think about it a lot, he’s not a great dancer,” she said. “I count for him, I’m a fair dancer.”

Her favorite is the polka, Mike likes slower dances. “He only has to count to two,” she said.

And so the evening went, from swing to polka to waltz to fun.

___

Information from: Post-Bulletin, http://www.postbulletin.com

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