Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Dancers of all ages take to the floor at the Veterans of Foreign Wars hall on Huron Avenue on Nov. 10, 2005. The dances now take place at the West Cambridge Youth and Social Center. (Photo: Schuyler Pisha)

For the concern displayed Monday over weekly dances at the West Cambridge Youth and Social Center, one would think the events were to be filled with angry rap music riling gang members and preteen girls lasciviously grinding away their honor.

“I have concern as a taxpayer, as a real estate owner, as I’ve lived at Fresh Pond Place for 17 years … I don’t feel that this is how I should have found out about it, as it’s such a concern for the neighbors,” said Sharon Herman, one of the at least two neighbors attending the meeting, referring to news of the rental she’d seen that morning.

They had been promised by Deputy City Manager Richard Rossi “you won’t have to worry about late-night dances,” Herman said, but have suffered them anyway. “It’s not working out and now I feel really concerned we were misled, not that we could have done anything anyways, and that this is happening.”

“I’m afraid some kid is going to get hurt,” she said, citing concerns about teens driving near trees before summing up that “I’m frightened … about setting a precedent about rentals. I feel like rental should be there for youth soccer leagues, things for the city, but not private organizations.”

But the dancing going on isn’t grinding, freaking or crunking, but contra — described by longtime, multigenerational participants as barn dancing, or New England-style square dance, and such events have been taking place in the West Cambridge center two times a month for the past year, generating only one complaint when the air conditioning failed and a door was opened, councillor Marjorie Decker said she’d learned since filing the order.

The actual issue is that the contra dancers are hoping to pay a little less for use of the center, Decker said.

“We want this buildings to be used as much as possible,” councillor Ken Reeves said, rejecting the notion city youth and social centers should deny space to such activities as contra dancing.

“It’s not rowdy dance at all,” he noted.

Councillor Craig Keller, who had inadvertently alarmed neighbors by forwarding e-mail about Decker’s policy order, used his “charter right” veto power to delay conversation on it, ending discussion of contra dancing for the night.