Arts and Entertainment

Dancing parties on Halloween

Brian and Linda Bartlett get a little practice in before the Halloween Costume Ball at Bayview Community Hall from 7 to 11 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 31 - Patricia Duff / The Record
Brian and Linda Bartlett get a little practice in before the Halloween Costume Ball at Bayview Community Hall from 7 to 11 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 31
— image credit: Patricia Duff / The Record

Halloween has become mainly about handing out candy to impossibly cute costumed trick-or-treaters and giving adults a great excuse to put on a costume and party.

But at one time, the flickering lights of jack-o-lanterns in windows signaled a night on which the living honored the souls of their dead ancestors.

The original idea is that one must be kind to the spirits of the dead or they will play a trick on you.

Halloween revelers in North America honor their ancestors on Oct. 31 — also knows as All Hallows Eve or the night before All Saints Day — a night that was once believed to be one on which any souls who had not yet passed into the paradise of the “summer lands” might return to wander the streets and visit their old homes once more.

Celtic history describes the day as a turning point between the old and the new year, the end of summer and the gateway between the worlds of the living and the dead.

On the eve of Samhain, as it was called by the Celts, the veil that separates each world is at its thinnest, and on Halloween there is a smashing pumpkin good chance to communicate with one’s ancestors.

Well, the ancestors of those who live on South Whidbey should brace themselves for an earful on Saturday night. There will be plenty of events to keep those lines of communication open, and lots of parties for all ages to honor the dead.

If you enjoy a nice festive two-step, a little West Coast swing or perhaps prefer to get feisty with a sexy salsa or cha-cha, the Halloween Costume Ball at Bayview Community Hall is for you.

A quick lesson with local ballroom dance teacher Janice Eklund begins at 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 31, followed by a night of whirling to the sound of dance band Locomotion from 8 to 11 p.m.

On the dance floor, you might run into Bayview Community Hall dance regular Kelly Keith, who said the ball will be a “wicked cool time” while also raising crucial funds to help maintain the hall.

“Whidbey is blessed with some wonderful instructors, and the active dance community we have on the South End wouldn’t be possible without them,” Keith said.

The ball will mark an anniversary for local dancers. For the past year, Keith and about 30 other dance aficionados and beginners have been meeting from

6 to 9 p.m. every Tuesday at Bayview Community Hall for a half-hour lesson followed by a fun-filled, stress-free session of partner dancing.

Dance instructor Walter Dill, who is currently on a European tour, was a key player in the renaissance of social dance on Whidbey, Keith said.

“Many of us got our start in classes taught by Dill, who was assisted by Janice Eklund. Janice maintains a connection with Dill, and in his absence, offers instruction at the Deer Lagoon Grange,” Keith said.

Every Thursday between 6:30 and 8:30 p.m., Eklund teaches East Coast swing, salsa, the cha-cha, nightclub two-step, and the waltz, in addition to organizing the monthly “Second Saturday Dance” at the grange.

“These are lovely occasions, which Janice precedes with a short mixer workshop,” Keith added. “She has an artful talent for bringing people together in community and in friendship.”

Debra Raden and Judy Van Wickler teach the Tuesday evening classes at Bayview Community Hall. Teaching both beginners and more advanced students the West Coast swing and country-two step, they encourage dancers to focus on the technical aspects of style and form.

Anyone is welcome to join the dance fray, and no partner is needed to attend. Van Wickler is encouraged by the rebirth of the dance scene on Whidbey.

“When we moved here in 2001, nobody danced,” Van Wickler said. “Then it started, and it seems to have grown in the past seven years. We’re just here to practice our moves; there’s no pressure. It’s just a nice, non-stressful way to spend the evening.”

Dancer Kathie Errico remembers back to 1998 when the Harvest Moon Dance was held at the fairgrounds every year.

“Then it kind of just waned, and now it’s back,” Errico said. “And I’m so glad to be associated with this wonderful group.”

The Halloween Costume Ball costs $15 per person at the door and includes the workshop and light refreshments. Costumes are encouraged but not required.

Proceeds will benefit Bayview Community Hall, located at 5642 Bayview Road in Langley.

Join the Facebook group “whidbeydancers” for general info about the social dance scene on the South End, or e-mail Keith at

Other ancestors may be contacted down at Freeland Hall, where the Black Cat Ball will be in full swing.

Begun by local Halloween-lover Jess Dowdell about seven years ago, the Black Cat Ball warns newcomers to be prepared for anything, to escape reality for the night and to let your wild side take flight.

From 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 31 until whenever those souls are satiated, a costumed throng of partiers will bring food and their best spirits to share in the revels of All Hallows Eve, where the music of the Western Heroes and the cutting edge DJ stylings of The Kettle (aka Denis Zimmerman) conspire to keep bodies moving on the dance floor, along with other dark-of-night surprises.

Tickets for the ball cost $10 in advance and $15 at the door. A limited amount of tickets are available at Mukilteo Coffee Roasters in Langley. Prizes will be awarded for best costumes and scariest potluck dishes.

Freeland Hall is at 1515 Shoreview Drive. Costumes are mandatory to get in the door.

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