Square dancing in the middle of the concrete jungle?
That’s exactly what people have been doing for the last eight years at Bryant Park during its annual free square dance extravaganza.
On Friday evening, the park’s lush green lawns will be filled with music and transformed into the site of cornhole competitions, mechanical bull riding and square dancing.
Dave Harvey will put his barn dance caller skills to work from 6 to 7:30 p.m. and from 8:30 to 10 p.m.
Last year, thousands of people descended on Bryant Park to find a little country in the middle of midtown Manhattan.
None of this is surprising to Carol Harris Stern. Stern’s grandfather — Ed Durlacher — was a legendary caller who worked at massive square dance events hosted in Central Park back in the 1940s and 1950s.
“He was calling to 10,000 people in Central Park,” Stern said.
Stern said Durlacher believed square dancing was especially important for disadvantaged kids, and aimed to teach them important social skills. Throughout his career he traveled the country, visiting schools far and wide. He also started a record publishing business that went on to focus on the importance of movement and music in education, now known as Educational Activities Inc. Stern serves as vice-president of the company.
“You work together in square dancing, it’s really a group effort,” she said. “People look at each other – and they tend to smile.”
Durlacher continued to call events at Jones Beach until his death in 1963.
Taking part in the Bryant Park festivities doesn’t require square dancing experience — or even a partner. The event runs from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Don’t feel like dancing? There will also be instruction in trick roping and lassoing.
“Square dancing does keep you active and moving,” Stern said. “And it’s just a lot of fun.”