Submitted by Kelsey Nelsen
Teen band The Sassafras Sisters will be playing at the monthly square dance at the Lopez Island Grange. The Sassafras Sisters are a trio of teenagers from Olympia, Washington, who play and sing old-time music, honky-tonk, old country and more. Ruby Neatherlin, Annie Davis, and Ellie Davis play bass, fiddle and guitar respectively, and sing in rich, three-part harmony. They’ve been playing together since elementary school and love exploring old Appalachian music as well as bringing in new current day music and incorporating both into their repertoire.
The teens grew up in the intergenerational Old Time Music community in Olympia, and have been inspired by working with musicians from across the country at events like The Festival of American Fiddle Tunes in Port Townsend. In 2018 the teens got the chance to travel to Sparta, North Carolina for the Allegheny Fiddlers Convention, where they took first place in the youth Stringband category. Ruby, Annie and Ellie are influenced by both traditional music and modern genres and say, “We draw the most inspiration from female legends who’ve paved the way for more diverse musicians, and we try to take on the same initiative that they had. We are three women singing songs that are traditionally sung by men, and we choose songs that are sensitive and empowering to women.”
This month at the dance, special prizes will be awarded for best outfit, best group outfit, the largest group in attendance, and more. All ages are welcome and teens are especially encouraged to attend. The band says, “What we’ve found is that most teens just haven’t gotten the opportunity to learn how to square dance, but once they do, they love it! It’s such a fun way to build a community and interact with music in a new way. Sometimes it’s hard to step out of your comfort zone and dance with people you don’t know, but it’s truly such a fun experience for anyone who tries it.”
One tenet of the Lopez Island Square Dance is that community dancing in a time of growing social isolation can be a radical act of hand-holding and community-building. The Sassafras Sisters say, “Another great thing about [Square Dancing] is that it is anti-corporate, very inclusive, and a great way to meet new people and interact with your community. It gives the youth a safe space to be themselves and is completely open to anyone who wants to try it!”
The dance will take place on Saturday, December 14th with a potluck at 6 and the dance at 7:30. Seattle caller Alex MacLeod will be calling the squares. All ages and experience levels welcome; all dances are taught and no partner or experience is necessary. Cost is sliding scale $10 for adults, sliding scale $5 for teens and kids are always free.