In May I was invited to China for two weeks to call square dances for Americans living in Beijing. A generous businessman named Mark Atkeson had square danced at his wedding 20 years ago and decided to spread the joy to his friends in Beijing. He teamed me up with a top notch crew of American musicians living and working in Beijing. Matt Forney, the banjo player, was my host and teacher. A journalist in Beijing for the last 20 years, Forney was able to answer my innumerable questions about China with incredibly detailed responses as well as insights into their cultural context.
Fiddler Amy Gardner, guitarist Kirk Kenney, and bassist Jackson Garland rounded out the team and together we performed 2 two hour concerts and got people moving at two square dances, one of which was in a former Daoist temple. Any night that we weren’t performing we would meet up at a bar and play music until the wee hours only to repeat it the next evening. It has been years since I had been part of a band and it felt amazing. By the end of my stay we were an impressively tight band. For two weeks they lead me by the hand through Beijing showing me around, educating me, making me laugh, ordering for me, and translating everything with incredible enthusiasm. Many thanks to my crew in China.