Barbara Coeyman, CDSS English Week, 2009

"I feel I gave something to the dance world."

- Barbara

Pat MacPherson interviewed Barbara Coeyman at CDSS English Week, September 2, 2009 at Pinewoods Camp.

Barbara talks about her part in supporting English dance in Austin, TX, circa 2002-2009:

Part of the initial catalyst for this success story was in March of 2002, when Jacqueline Schwab did her one person workshop. There were 50-60 people who showed up in this community in which English dance had died, so we had hope. And then Dave [Macemon] and Cynthia [Stenger] moved to Austin. We had maybe eight dancers to start, and then ten, and a few more, and teaching from both Cynthia and David, and I would manage the band and arrangements. That went on for about two years through 2005 and then I moved away in August of 2005, and they moved back to Portland in September or October of 2005.

And we were sure that it was going to fold. It hasn't! Last April [2009] the Austin community sponsored the first Texas English Ball for about 150 people. It was because of Joseph Pimentel moving to Houston around 2005. I won't say it's because of what we did in reviving it back when Cynthia and Dave were there, but you know, I just felt so rewarded when I saw these 150 people out on the floor, that they might not have been there – I get weepy over this – they might not have had a chance to enjoy this beautiful art form if Cynthia, Dave and I hadn't done that. So that's my story about how you never know how you're going to influence people.

I feel I gave something to the dance world.

A couple of weeks ago, I had to go to Austin for some business, and I had told the dancers if I come through I would be happy to lead a workshop. It was at somebody's house, and it was a hot August Saturday afternoon and I figured, yeah, I'll get 10 people – we ended up with 20 people, we were double-booked, we were just crammed into their living room. It was just amazing!

What tipped the scale was the excellent teaching and calling, from Dave and Cynthia. Even though it was a small and fledgling group we had live musicians every week; every month. Folks sensed my passion for it, and my commitment to it, so they wanted to support me.

Barbara talks about the importance of dance in her life:

I see English country dance as probably my most important spiritual practice. And it's important for ministers to stay spiritually in tune; that we stay right with ourselves and right with the world. I've got to do this dance to be what I have to be as a minister. It focuses me. If I haven't done this for a while and I get out of sorts, I know I haven't danced. Dancing just pulls me back to where I want to be in terms of my relationship with myself and with the whole world around me.

I officially call dance a professional activity, so I take it as a professional expense, because to me it's part of what I am professionally. I'm not a whole person if I don't do this. I need to support this art form; I have to spread the word. I feel as committed to it as I feel committed to spreading the word about our religion, because it's a way to help the world be a better place.

I had an experience at the ball in Austin. I was dancing with someone I had never met before, a male, and the synergy that was created in the course of the dance, between us together, clicking, and the musicians and what the musicians added to it; there was great collective energy. And by the end of the dance we looked at each other and we started weeping together. And we'd never met each before. It was a profound moment – when it all goes right; when it gets in our soul, it is just incredible.