Local Hero: Fae Fuerst
Fae Fuerst is an accomplished organizer, a super-enthusiastic dancer and a wit. She is treasured by many for her contributions and for her vast memory of dances and tunes. In experience she is, in my opinion, lightyears ahead of most dancers in many ways. She challenges us, she corrects callers at times (her wit shines) and she has a great deal of support for what she is doing, from local dancers and many others. Our ECD community finds the advanced English dance that she runs to be of the highest quality in the state, and it occasionally draws dancers from around the country.
Fae started English country dancing in 1976, when she was 21 and looking around for something new to try. Her mother, Ruth Hapgood, had found ECD at Swarthmore College like so many others, joining the varsity team and attending what was probably the last big national rally in 1940. Ruth danced to May Gadd in New York City and went to some early Boston Centre dances after moving to the Boston area, until work and family took up too much of her time. By 1976 she was ready to go back, and returned with Fae to check it out. Fae loved ECD immediately and "dove in," attending the Wednesday night Boston Centre English dance almost every week for nine years. Bare Necessities was the band for most of that time, with calling by Helene Cornelius and others -- "some of the best ECD musicians and callers on the planet" as Fae would put it. She also says "ECD has been one of the best things in my life and I'm very grateful to have found it."
In 1985 when Fae moved to Michigan (an hour from Ann Arbor) there was no English dancing. Husband Carl convinced her to do some calling through the local Community Ed., and for a few years she did random gigs around the state (including Lovett Hall and the Morris Ale) and one in Rochester, NY. It all went pretty well, but after awhile she realized she'd much, much rather be on the dance floor than "up there" on stage, and she stopped calling. In the meantime Don Theyken, Eric Arnold, and Erna-Lynne Bogue started to organize English dances in Ann Arbor. By 1998, when Helen White started the advanced English series (turning it over to Pat Schulte a year or so later, to move to NYC) the Ann Arbor ECD scene was fairly well-established.
When Pat Schulte moved to Kansas in 2004, Fae was the obvious choice as a replacement: opinionated, knowledgeable, and very enthusiastic about ECD. But she was shy, reluctant, and had already turned away from previous chances to be a public figure. It took Ann Arbor's main dance powers a long two weeks to convince her to do it, and Fae says she needed lots of hand-holding and help at first. However, it turned out to be a blast, and has mostly gone extremely well, and she's grown more comfortable with being in the public eye. Sometimes, she says, she's not even that anxious about how an event will go!
Fae will tell you that her own Ann Arbor dance heroes are longtime organizers like Don Theyken and Ray Bantle and Marge Cramton, and people who pitch in and help with a generosity she modestly doesn't claim to have, like Ruth Scodel, Kay Brown, Arlene Kindel, and many others.
Fae is grateful that Ann Arbor has developed such a nice, friendly, fun ECD community, and this community wholeheartedly celebrates Fae Fuerst.
- Submitted by C. Catherine Kendall