A Watertown resident for the past 9 years, she’s been dancing since not long after her first wobbly steps out of her playpen in Delaware. Her day job as a Certified Holistic Nutritionist and Herbalist pays the rent but dancing feeds her soul. One of her first thoughts after listening to a few bars of music is, “What kind of dance can I do to this?”
Twenty years ago, Ms. Huppe drove down to the Cajun and Bluegrass Festival (now called the Rhythm and Roots Festival) in Charlestown, RI. To her delight, much of the music was buoyant, infectiously happy, and sung in the Acadian brand of French spoken in southwestern Louisiana. She was hooked.
In time, she traveled to New Orleans and Lafayette, Louisiana, the heart of Cajun country, to absorb the culture, learn Cajun and Zydeco dance styles, and listen to music that just about everyone in southwest Louisiana knows how to dance to. When she returned, she was eager to keep on dancing. Believing that Cajun Two Step would find an audience in the snowy North, Huppe decided to make it happen by teaching it to others.
The world of dance began to unfold for her. While teaching her specialties of Cajun and Zydeco, she branched out to learn and teach ballroom, latin, and east and west coast swing at Adult Ed classes in Newton, Cambridge, and Boston and at Springstep in Medford. She taught several of these styles at Dancing Feats for 14 years.
“Each kind of dance has its own flavor and allows you to express yourself in different ways. The most important things are to have a feel for the music and feel the connection between you and your partner,” she said.
When Baton Rouge native and Needham resident Rebecca Wilson decided to create a fundraiser to help the post-Katrina rebuilding programs in New Orleans, she knew who to ask for support.
“I took my first zydeco lesson from Sue four years ago. We connected right away because of our shared appreciation of all things Louisiana,” Wilson said.
Wilson knew that Ms. Huppe was acquainted with the organizers of large events since Huppe had taught at the Williamstown Jazz Festival, Swingin’ New England, and Strawberry Park’s Blast From the Bayou. Ms. Huppe is now one of the core group planning an event to raise $10,000.
“The great contacts she’s made as a dance teacher helped us put this event together,” Wilson said. “She knew which venues would suit our purposes. Some of the organizers she knew offered tickets to their events for our raffle and linked our web site to theirs.”
The “Help ReBuild New Orleans” fund raiser will be held at Springstep in Medford on Sunday, October 5, from 5 - 9 pm. Proceeds will be donated to Common Ground Relief, a small volunteer based non-profit organization whose office is in the heart of the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans.
The non-profit group partnered with a licensed general contractor and is rebuilding homes destroyed in Katrina’s wake, and offers legal assistance to homeowners who do their own work to cut through red tape involved in applying for building permits and inspections.
Common Ground Relief has also begun a job training program, placing locals with professional carpenters, electricians, and plumbers who are volunteering their time. One of the members of Wilson’s planning group volunteered his plumbing and carpentry skills to the organization several times in the past two years.
The fundraiser will feature the same vibrant music that first attracted Ms Huppe. Two local bands, Slippery Sneakers and The Chili Brothers, will perform a mix of New Orleans style funk, blues, Cajun, and zydeco. The bands and vendors offered discount rates since they realize every penny will go toward building houses in the Lower 9th Ward. Tickets are $25.00 in advance and may be purchased through the Help ReBuild New Orleans web site www.rebuildneworleans.net.
“What is fun about teaching dance? Everything!” Sue Huppe said. “Remembering what it is like to be a beginner and seeing the joy it brings to people, in fact, seeing how it can change people's lives!”
The "Help ReBuild New Orleans" fundraiser is a testament to that.