Spinning Dances and Stories With Chris Kermiet
By Tom Korson
For the GPHN
Longtime South Park Hill resident Chris Kermiet is no square, but he is an expert square dance caller.
“I’ve been dancing since I could walk,” he says. “My father, Paul Kermiet, was a square dance caller. Some of my earliest memories are of dancing to his calling at the old Grange Hall on Lookout Mountain (outside of Golden), where we lived.
“During the years I was growing up,” he continues, “my father ran a summer dance camp there called the Lighted Lantern, where dancers from around the country would come to have a dance vacation. The Lighted Lantern always featured some of the best callers and teachers, all of whom I learned from — mostly by osmosis, since I never intended to become a square dance caller.”
Initially, Kermiet wanted to be a jazz musician – a drummer – and he was also interested in composition and arranging, so he attended the prestigious Berklee School of Music in Boston. He completed his education at the University of Colorado at Boulder in Composition.
His sister Paula had been helping organize community dances. One day, Paula called him in a panic, saying she couldn’t call the dance that evening. “Could I do it?” Ever the helpful big brother, Kermiet said, “sure!” He took out a piece of scratch paper, wrote down a few dances that he could remember, went out and called them. The community dance people, including his sister, kept asking him back.
That was the start of what’s become 35 years of calling. Kermiet also calls contras, Appalachian big circle dances, English country dances, and Celtic céilidhs. When it comes to calling traditional square dances, it’s usually with live music.
In 2009, Kermiet was designated a “Living Legend” by the Carson-Brierly Dance Library at the University of Denver, an honor given to individuals who have made an outstanding contribution to dance in Colorado. Most of the Living Legends are from the world of modern dance or ballet. When organizers decided to broaden the award to include dance leaders from the folk dance and community dance arenas, Kermiet was a natural choice Kermiet’s got a website, http://k-1.us, where he shares many stories about life as a caller, and weighs in on all sorts of other topics.
These days, one of the hottest dance spots in the area is in Lyons, north of Denver, at the Oskar Blues Brewery. Dances are also held all up and down the Front Range. But of course COVID-19 has slowed things down for now; as of press time it is unknown when public square dancing will start up again in Colorado.
Kermiet is married to Sharon Kermiet, a CPA who has worked for Goodwill Industries and the Denver Art Museum, where she was the deputy director for finance and operations.
Their daughter, Mallie, is a proud graduate of East High School and a May 2020 graduate of Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, where she majored in Russian Studies and Applied Mathematics and Statistics. Mallie hopes to go into the Peace Corps in Macedonia – but, again because of COVID-19, that is on hold, as are so many things these days.
Tom Korson and his wife, Mary Mullarkey, have lived in Park Hill since 1973. They are blockworkers who distribute the newspaper to their block every month. Tom has a blog for his political satire, apocryphalpress.com.