Local Hero: Eric Engles
Trying to list all of the contributions Eric Engles has made to Sierra foothills contra dancing is exhilarating—and exhausting. Plus, it's hazardous, because it's a good bet something will be left out. Eric has been contra dancing in Northern California since the 1980s. In 2001, he and his wife, Lisa Frankel, moved to Nevada County, home of the Foothill Country Dancers, a nonprofit that organizes two contra dances a month—in Nevada City and Newcastle. Eric quickly joined the FCD board and got busy building a publicity machine.
Everything Eric does is aimed at his focus of growing our dances, and it has paid off, especially in Nevada City, which has one of the most vibrant, age-diverse dance series in the Golden State. Eric was the brains behind FCD's first webpage, and recently he spent hours updating it with a graceful, informative redesign. In the process, he composed thousands of words of resource material—everything any new or experienced dancer might want to know. Eric maintains FCD's membership and social media operations, handles almost all of the publicity for the dances, and, with Lisa, manages the monthly Nevada City dance. He shows up early to move furniture, refills the toilet paper in the restrooms, mops the floor, helps schlep the sound equipment down the stairs, sets up the money box, helps out with the beginners lesson, greets newcomers, dances like a maniac the entire evening (always with the new dancers), helps schlep the sound equipment back up the stairs, moves more furniture, sweeps the floor again, throws out the trash and locks up the hall long after all the other dancers have gone home.
Even when he isn't managing a dance, Eric shows up early to help out the other volunteers. No detail escapes Eric's laser-like focus. For our two fairly small, semi-rural dances, he maintains a publicity email list so vast and comprehensive that other, bigger regional dance organizations beg to use it to publicize their events. Besides Eric's contributions to the regular dances, he also was an important force behind Fall Has Sprung, FCD's annual 12-hour dance event that was retired in 2013. He helped with booking bands and callers, wrangled the volunteers, did virtually all of the publicity, and designed the artsy nametags. In his spare time, Eric has written a widely distributed—and very persuasive--treatise on why booking ahead at contra dances hurts community. Along with Lisa (who is the FCD board president and heroic in her own right), Eric hosts social events to bring the dance community together off the dance floor.
At board meetings, he is a voice of reason and wise compromise when it comes to policy discussions, and due to his gift for diplomacy, he's often the one tapped to have those difficult conversations with "problematic" dancers (of which we have very few, thanks to Eric's fine example). If there is a task Eric can't or won't do, it probably doesn't need doing. He has been known to get down on his hands and knees and singlehandedly clean the entire floor of the Nevada City hall. Oh, and sometimes he does the sound. And ... and ... and ...
- Submitted by Joyce Miller