Dancing on Air at Danceland on Little Manitou Lake, Saskatchewan
After exploring Great Sand Hills Ecological Preserve a day earlier, Bob and I were now en route to Little Manitou Lake in Watrous. What we did not expect to find was Danceland, a world famous dance hall overlooking the lake.
As we traveled from Leader to Watrous, frequent stops were made by roadside ponds to photograph birds such as these Franklin’s Gulls.
In Outlook, it was a historic old bridge affectionately known as Big Orange Bridge that drew our eye where it spans the South Saskatchewan River.
Added to our list of bird sightings was a Sora, seen above, and a Black-crowned Night Heron that were taking advantage of a small wetland near Hawarden.
Once checked into our accommodation in Watrous, a bit of exploring was in order. We were intrigued by Danceland, the historic dance hall at Manitou Beach. It was built in 1928 during the heyday of Big Band Music and the increasing popularity of new dances.
The dance hall sits on the shore of Little Manitou Lake now, but it wasn’t always at that exact location.
When Bob and I pulled up near the popular dance venue, we were really impressed. It immediately reminded me of stories shared by my mom and dad of their years dating and dancing in early 1940s.
Members of the band, Neon Blue, were just arriving to set up.
Bob and I chatted with them briefly before entering the hall.
Wow! It was like stepping back in time. Nostalgia swept over me owing to the old-time atmosphere within the cavernous building.
With a simple concession stand set up at the front of the hall for the snack bar, the interior reminded me of our favourite skating venue in Ontario, Cedarena.
On the opposite side from the entrance was a similar arrangement that served as The Bar.
The regular Saturday night buffet and dance was underway after a 2-day event to which people came from all over the province to square dance.
The lady manning the door invited us to try a couple of complimentary dances rather than pay $18 a head since we’d already had dinner.
After mustering a bit of courage, Bob and I tried a couple of rumbas. It was a riot!
I would love to have stayed and danced the evening away, but Bob and I struggled to remember most of the dance steps we learned in the ’90s when attending ballroom dance lessons.
A couple of days later, Bob and I hiked a trail from Manitou Beach that conducted us to a lookout above the community.
It provided a wonderful view of Little Manitou Lake and the prominent and recognizable architecture of Danceland.
It was that same evening that Bob and I revisited Danceland. Despite inappropriate footwear for kicking up our heels, on Toonie Tuesday, there wasn’t much to lose.
There was no way that we were passing up an opportunity to dance on this unique dance floor.
A special kind of magic happens when dancing on a horsehair-sprung dance floor. The horse hair makes one’s dancing as light as a fairy.
The dance floor is 5,000 square feet of maple suspended over coils of horsetail hair on rollers enabling the tension of the dance floor to be adjusted.
The most famous dance hall in all of Saskatchewan, Danceland is one of two such dance floors in that province, and only one other that floats on a bed of horse hair exists in Canada.
We were entertained that evening by a trio of locals jamming together. Old time tunes had us singing along occasionally and dancing a few waltzes and foxtrots. The most memorable song of the night was Home on the Range because it summed up for us our experience to date on the prairies. Yee-haw!
Frame To Frame – Bob and Jean