Edmonton Queer History Project

Celebrating the People, Places, and Events that built the Queer Community in Edmonton

Edmonton Womens Music Collective by Sheryl Ackerman

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Sheryl Ackerman provided an account of the Edmonton Women’s Music Collective — you have likely read about the Riverdale Women’s Dances. Click here to download the full article in PDF along with attached images and passport: Edmonton Women’s Music Collective submission Revised

These dances for women began in December 1988 and lasted until December 1997. They were unique in three ways:

  • they were smoke free
  • we played only women’s music
  • they were alcohol free (only because no one wanted to do all the work of getting the permit and alcohol!)

We held 4 dances per year, the dates of which were as close as possible to the spring equinox, summer solstice, fall equinox and winter solstice. We always checked with Womonspace to make sure our dates never overlapped. People gradually came to refer to our dances as the “Riverdale Women’s Dances” because they always took place at the Riverdale Community League Hall.

The collective changed through the years, but usually consisted of 6 to 8 women. Pauline Bélanger and I, Sheryl Ackerman, were the only ones who stayed with the collective the entire 9 years. Founding members included: Sheryl Ackerman, Pauline Bélanger, Leslie Stewart, Anna Pellat, Karen Caulkins, Reni and Cathy.

Some interesting features of our dances include:

  • for women only
  • all women’s music
  • no alcohol
  • no smoking – at the time quite a novel concept (though originally we permitted smoking in the small lounge, then later outside)
  • $7 entry fee – sliding scale
  • completely volunteer run
  • honour system for purchasing beverages
  • for music, at first we used cassette tapes (!), then CDs, then switched to a live DJ
  • sometimes included card games and board games set up in the small lounge
  • occasionally line dance lessons beforehand
  • occasionally a softball game and a picnic before the dance
  • food catered by the Bagel Tree in the early years
  • advertising of other women’s events

We called ourselves the Edmonton Women’s Music Collective because we promoted women’s music. This we did in a number of ways:

  • we played only women’s music at the dances
  • we publicized women’s music events such as the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival
  • we helped create, subsidize, sponsor or co-sponsor concerts featuring women singers and groups

We had amazing, fun-filled, spirited, empowering times. We worked like crazy as a collective, and had fabulous support from volunteers too. However, by 1996, the energy to mount these dances was flagging. We committed ourselves to one final year, with our last dance held December 13th, 1997. What was left in our account we later donated to the A.S.W.A.C. Defense Fund.

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