A bushfire recovery initiative to 'bring back the town hall dance' is spreading across the Hawkesbury in the form of SoDa - a social dance designed to bring the community together and foster 'bonhomie'.
The free-of-charge and free-of-alcohol events are designed to facilitate connection, support and wellbeing, and are being held monthly on Friday evenings at Bilpin, St Albans and North Richmond. Everyone is welcome.
The initiative is a Bushfire Community Recovery and Resilience Fund project delivered through the joint Commonwealth and State Disaster Recovery funding arrangements, and Peppercorn Services is a key partner. The innovative mental health initiative utilises partner dancing in conjunction with psychological support, to initiate 'social recovery' from the fires.
After SoDa secured the joint-government funding, the pandemic delayed the project for nine months until March 2022. Social and dance events are now funded until the end of March 2023.
Project manager Michelle Hookham said it was "a great turnout" at the recent SoDa Elvis Spectacular at North Richmond Community Centre, an "incredible evening" complete with a BBQ provided by Kurrajong North Richmond Rotary.
"The evening saw a very multi-generational group of people from school students, to families, individuals and couples," Ms Hookham said.
"One of the first couples to arrive had attended previous SoDa events and talked about how much they had enjoyed the social and dance aspects of the events. They brought friends along with them this time.
"The theme of the evening became clear when one gentleman turned up in red Elvis attire, top and bottom, two Elvis LP covers and a guitar to display!"
For those wanting to dance, leaders are on-hand at each event to drive the fun. Additional supports are available at all events for people who need a bit more of a chat.
Ms Hookham said that dance leader Matthew "got us up dancing" at the North Richmond event and "what fun everyone had".
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"Everyone engaging with one another, exchanging smiles, laughing, talking and twirling. We danced the Waltz to start the evening off, following by the Swing," Ms Hookham said.
"Matthew's way of teaching really made everyone feel included and really addressed a lot of the fears associated with social dancing. Not only did he make us all laugh, he spoke to us about how our muscle memory works, tips and tricks to lead and follow and also addressed our dance frame space to make each partner dancing together to feel more comfortable.
"After the dance, I overheard a gentleman say 'It's such a cold night out there but I'm warmed up not only for the night, but for the weekend!'"
Find out more at https://sodacommunityevents.com.au