Last Friday night, I went square dancing in Bryant Park. I have a special love for Bryant Park. Right before I moved to New York, I came in for an interview, and that summer evening I went with two friends to the park and sat at one of the tables in the twilight and fell for the city because of the blue shadows the trees cast on the sidewalk. I tell that story to pretty much everyone I’ve ever been in Bryant Park with, but the park still has a bit of that magic for me each time I visit.

I started going contra dancing (similar to square dancing but not exactly the same) in New York about a year and a half ago. I’d done some line and square dancing on choir retreats in college, and it seemed like a fun idea for a birthday outing. I dragged some friends with me (birthdays are useful for that), had a lot of fun, and started going once in a while to dances in Brooklyn. There’s always live music, the people are nice, and dancing is both fun and awesome exercise. Plus sometimes they have dances in neat locations, like at Dekalb Market, or the Brooklyn Waterfront Museum (which is a boat).
This square dance in Bryant Park was a bit different. For one thing, it was free. For another thing, it was in a hugely visible public outdoor space. These two factors meant that the majority of people there had little or no experience with square dancing, making it perfect for beginners. It’s less ideal for non-beginners as you have to wait through explanations, but my square picked up the moves pretty quickly and had a blast. Our favorite move was one that the caller explained and then discarded as too difficult for beginners. It involved two dancers slingshotting a third dancer across the square, back to her partner. We figured it out just fine.
The park is hosting another square dance this Wednesday evening, details here: It’s free, and the dancing starts at 6:15 and goes till 9. You can show up with a partner or alone, and it looks like the weather is going to be gorgeous. Fall is a perfect time to dance outside—cool enough that you don’t get sweaty but not so cold you’ll freeze between dances. If I didn’t have choir rehearsal, I’d be there!