Every time Brooke Maxwell steps into the Neighbourhood Hootenanny Time Machine, he sees something that warms his heart.
At the Esquimalt United Church in front of a four to five-person band and dozens of people, those young and old find the confidence to get up and show off their talents during the all ages community dance.
During one dance, a young musician wanted to play a song on the fiddle that she learned in school. The Grade 4 student stood on stage and, along with the impromptu help of the band, played the can-can and taught the crowd the dance.
“She was super enthusiastic about it . . . she got the whole crowd involved in this sort of fearless Grade 4 way that a kid can do that. It was the music, people were singing along, it was awesome,” Maxwell said.
During another dance, five four-year-old children, dressed as princes and princesses, sang ‘Let it Go’ from the Disney movie Frozen.
The Neighbourhood Hootenanny Time Machine is an all-ages family dance with a live band that gets families up and moving during the winter blues.
It’s an idea that originated with Maxwell, a Victoria musician, a few years ago, when many of his friends were having children, but found there were a lack of spaces where families could spend time together in a musical setting. Shortly after in 2016, the inaugural Neighbourhood Hootenanny Time Machine took place with roughly 100 people in attendance.
Now, there’s a steady stream of anywhere from 30 to 50 people, from babies to seniors, who take part in the dance on Sundays.
“Much of the music that I admire comes from a tradition where everybody in the room is clapping or singing or participating in some form or another. Our culture has become a little more sit back, watch and press play, and consequently some have lost confidence in their skills of dance or what to do when there’s music,” said Maxwell, adding musicians play a lot of ’50s rock and swing music, and a number of tunes people are familiar with such as ‘Splish Splash’, ‘Tainted Love’ and the ‘YMCA’ that encourage audience participation.
“Realistically, singing and dancing is part of being a human being and interacting with culture.”
The dance has become something many families, including Sarah McCagherty’s young family, look forward to doing together.
The Vic West resident has taken her four children to several of the dances since they began last year. She admits her children, who range in age from two to 14 years old, were shy at first, but now they’re comfortable running around and dancing to the music. In a particularly touching moment for McCagherty, her 12-year-old son asked her to dance.
“I love that I can go with my kids and they’re all comfortable there,” McCagherty said. “(I get to see) people I don’t necessarily see in my daily routine . . . it’s such a wonderful thing.”
The dance isn’t just for the young, but also for the young at heart.
Seventy-five-year-old Esquimalt resident Selma Sheldon has been to several dances and enjoys singing and dancing to the music, and watching the children and young families interact with each other.
The Neighbourhood Hootenanny Time Machine takes place Sundays from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. until Feb. 26. Tickets are $5 per person. For more information visit the Facebook page at the Neighbourhood Hootenanny Time Machine.