Cultivating Callers.

Learning how to call is as easy as 101, 102, 103...

For the last year, Dugan Murphy, contra dance caller, has been working with PICD to cultivate a pool of well trained, enthusiastic callers. More than 35 local folks have taken the Calling 101 class, and so far, the following emerging callers have taken the stage here in Portland:

Jeannine Ameduri
Gretchen Carroll
Sonja Birthisel
Dela Taylor
Krysten Raymond
Gawain Thomas
Annabel Dryden
Nancy Kierstead
Alison Stevens
Shari Shakti
Erin St. Peter
Joel Peck
Elsa Rowe
Nevin Brackett-Rozinsky
Jonathan Freedner

We're really proud of these people for their bravery, enthusiasm, and grit. Some of them are now calling full evenings in venues throughout New England! (Great job, everyone!)

If you're curious about what's been happening here in Portland, or what the class entails, the latest edition of the Country Dance & Song Society's quarterly News publication featured an article Dugan wrote describing Calling 101 in detail (full PDF). You can also check out his website for more resources.

Elsa Rowe practicing at a Calling 101 class.

Elsa Rowe practicing at a Calling 101 class.


What's next? As these folks develop, you'll see them booked for full nights in Portland and, we're sure, in other venues in Maine and beyond. To offer further support, this Fall Dugan is hosting a Calling 102 session for developing callers and he's designing a Calling 103 to be held next year.

The PICD community has been so welcoming and supportive as these individuals learn. Thanks for your rumbling applause and many warm pats on the back!

Happy Anniversary!

PICD is officially a 1-year old!

On June 9, 2017, we got together (many of us in fancy dress!) to celebrate this holy-mackerel of a community that has formed in the last year. So, what were we celebrating? The loving, generous people who make up this community. And, some of our major accomplishments from our first year as a series:


And who do we have to thank for so much of this goodness that's been growing?


Soooo many people contributed to creating PICD in the last year that we almost ran out of space to write names! If you've given your time, talent, energy, space, resources, joy, verve, or your everything to PICD, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

We have great memories from the evening of revelry. Here are a few highlights:


As for *next* year, PICD is looking forward to bringing to life some community desires, including beginning to plan a dance weekend (yes! you heard that right!), as well as offering more monthly opportunities to dance creatively by learning style tips, flourishes, and advanced choreography. We'll keep cultivating new and emerging callers, and we might even kick off opportunities to host open band nights.

If you have ideas about what would make our second year great, or if you want to volunteer, get in touch with Dela at

Party in the Park.

Free dances for regulars and walk-bys.

Maybe it's time to plan a dinner downtown with that friend you'd been bugging to try contra... on a third Wednesday some month this Summer... planning to walk past Congress Square Park... at a particular time...

(You're so sly!)

Thanks to a super collaboration with Friends of Congress Square Park, PICD will be offering free outdoor dances third Wednesdays June through September 2017! All dancing will be from 6 til 8 PM in Congress Square Park, located on the corners of Congress and High Streets downtown.



Our first show will be part of Make Music Portland, an annual celebration of sound that takes place on the first day of Summer every year in our city and cities around the world. Walk around from 10 AM til 8 PM this Wednesday and you'll encounter hundreds of free performances on the streets of the city, raising the music of tons of genres.



We have an awesome lineup of talented folks:

June 21: Make Music Portland! Dugan Murphy calling with Maivish

Dugan Murphy will teach each of this evening's dances; he's known for emanating joy and for teaching with the artful precision of clockwork. He's joined by Maivish, playing tunes from British Isles, Ireland and America with a mix of original compositions. With Jaige Trudel on fiddle, Adam Broome on guitar and Matthew Olwell on flutes, bodhrán, and percussive dance, their performances are infused with lush vocal harmonies, inspired interplay, and captivating spirit.

July 19: Maggie Robinson calling with Greg Boardman & Friends

Maggie Robinson will teach each of this evening's dances in her casual and warm style. She's joined by a trio comprised of Greg Boardman on fiddle, Neil Pearlman on piano and mandolin, and Hadith Bani-Adam on Somali Oud. Surprising influences result in a delightful musical mix of culture, tradition, and innovation.

August 16: Dela Taylor calling with Volution

Dela Taylor will teach each of this evening's dances, bringing her humor, and fresh, light calling style. She'll be joined by Volution, a dynamic band that deftly moves from tunes with energy and zest to those with room and gravitas. Adams Carney is on fiddle and sometimes accordion, Helen Newell is on another fiddle, and Nolan Rogers is on cello, playing both tunes that hold places of honor in the New England folk tradition and tunes inspired by European links.

September 20: Dugan Murphy calling with Glen, Bethany & Dave

Dugan Murphy is back for the final dance. He's joined by a trio comprised of Bethany Waickman on guitar, Dave Langford on fiddle, and Glen Loper on mandolin and tenor banjo. All three musicians are mainstays on the national contra dance circuit, combining in countless foot-stomping, electric collaborations inspired by traditional music from Ireland, England, the Balkans, and New England.


See you in the park!

And we have lift-off!

A sound system is in the works.

On Saturday, March 4, over a hundred dancers navigated the bitter cold to warm the hall of State Street Church. These giving, lively folks came to help raise the final $1,300 needed to fund a sound system for Portland Intown Contra Dance.


Alex Hennings started the evening with a waltz workshop, with music provided by Emily Troll of Anadama, and Jamie Oshima of Barefoot. Dancers both experienced and novice moved their feet to the beat and became familiar with the basics.

Barefoot, the duo of Ed Howe and Jamie Oshima, opened the contra dance with a few waltzes and then, collaborating with Dugan Murphy as caller, created an exceptional evening of dance - an evening that had the buzz of magic.


All of these performers generously volunteered their time and energy to help make this happen. They, with the dancers, were coming together to support a dream. 

And guess what?

They did it.

Right now, Sound of Perfection, Ed Howe's high quality sound business, is working on the system. And PICD's carpenter, Dan Brodhead, is working on housing for the system. We should have it within the next few weeks.

Why does it matter? It means our sound technicians, like Glen Loper, Jamie Oshima, and Ness Smith-Savedoff, won't have to lug equipment in every week. And it means that we won't have to invest in renting a system, which means that more money goes to performers every night.

A tremendous thank you to everyone who had a part in making this happen - by giving, volunteering, and spreading the word.



You're a buncha generous folks!

So, you've been around for the first 6 months of Portland Intown Contra Dance, right? So you know how joyous and excellent this series has become. Not to mention sustainable. And damn hoppin'. ;)

We hosted a fundraiser at the end of 2016 to raise $5,000 to fund a house sound system and fund upcoming 2017 costs. Meeting this goal would mean not only higher-quality, more reliable sound, but also mean that more of the admissions money raised each dance can go directly to the performers, who deserve it and whom we want to keep visiting us again and again.

What were the results?

Well, we learned that you're awfully wonderful, sharing, generous people. You helped us raise $3,040 of our $5,000 goal! Just over 60%. Wahooooo!

After accounting for the cost of fees, thank-you gifts, and other things, we're still short about $1,500 for a sound system. We're working on how we'll raise this money in the coming months, and this might look like special dances or something else. You'll find out soon!

If you're inclined to donate a bit extra to help us make up the gap, please do!


In the coming week, we'll be printing t-shirts, cards, and other thank-yous, Dugan will be writing thank-you dances, and we'll be sending letters so you can do your taxes. ;) If you're expecting a thank-you gift, you'll receive it by the end of January 2017.

We're sooo grateful for everybody who made something neat to offer, who shared the word, and who gave.

THANK YOU to our artists:

Toki Oshima

Pat Corrigan

Autumn Joy Jackson of Untitled Herbs

Dela Taylor


THANK YOU to our donors:

Thomas Nelson
Kristen Planeaux
Jonathan Erde
Matt Shipman
Putnam Smith
Katie McNally
Stephanie Brock
John Cote
Dusty Perin
Lisa Greenleaf
Anita Gale
Charles Radomsky
Jennifer Joaquin
Sonja Birthisel
SK Green
Bethany Waickman
Jennifer Dryden
Chena Immel
Greg Hall
David & Callie Chase
Ron Robillard
Larry Hayden
Marc Galipeau
Catherine Elliott
Pat Cannon
Thomas Prunier
Krysten Raymond
Dianne Chicoine
Beth Schwartz
Marc Kaplan
Stan & Gail Scott
Mako Bates & Thea Youngs
Matthew Smith
Gabrielle Lanza
Marc Kaplan
Emily Troll
Shari Shakti
Joshua Saklad
Ellen Hodgkin
Josh Plourde
Jenna Nelson
Steve Raymond
Abby Golash
Gretta Buckey
Cynthia Mead
Elsa Rowe
David Bauer
Eliza Nichols
Issac Wendland
Paul McKechnie
Jesse Vear
Naomi Marthai
Katie McNally
Katherine Collins

& a few anonymous folks.

We <3 you.



Portland Intown Contra Dance is really proud and happy to have been selected by the Maine Arts Commission for a project grant to help us expand the already awesome emerging caller and musician mentoring program we've been spear-heading for the past several months. Our buddies at the DownEast Friends of the Folk Arts are partnering with us to help this happen.

We’re feeling successful already and this infusion of funds will further support this important program. PICD is seeing an average of twenty new dancers every Thursday evening at our weekly dance, individuals who are quickly turning into regular dancers. Scores of experienced, yet latent, local dancers have re-entered the scene and feel enlivened by the local dance. Additionally, barrels of dancers from New Hampshire and Massachusetts are discovering the Maine scene, seeing Portland as a gateway to experiencing traditional dance in the state.

In this environment, ten student callers have already taken the stage and are currently under the tutelage of a Nationally-acclaimed caller, Dugan Murphy. Ongoing feedback from these individuals tells us that they’re feeling well-trained, confident, excited to be engaged in this art, and inspired to continue calling.

Another twenty-or-so callers have been trained in a classroom environment, gaining hands-on experience through peer-to-peer classroom teaching. 

Mentee Caller Jeannine Ameduri calls at PICD July 14, 2016. Photo by Dela Taylor.

Mentee Caller Jeannine Ameduri calls at PICD July 14, 2016. Photo by Dela Taylor.


Our next steps are to continue the work with caller mentees and expand the program to include emerging contra dance musicians, who will receive training in the last quarter of 2016 and take the stage as 2017 begins.

If you are not already familiar with the Maine Arts Commission, I encourage you to visit their website or contact the executive director of the agency, Julie Richard. They are a dynamic state agency supporting Maine arts and culture through their grants and services.

What difference does this program make? Traditional music and dance arts have been integral New England cultural practices since the late 17th century and we’re now glad to be passing on these practices to new, modern audiences. As our dancers know, contra dance is an intergenerational, cross-sectional social dance that enables just about anyone to connect to a loving, safe, enlivening community. People find confidence through dancing. They find friends who support them throughout their lives. They find safety, wellbeing and respect in a substance-free environment. And we pass a rich history on through the generations.

We couldn’t be happier. We extend a hearty thanks to everyone involved with PICD. You're a part of our mission to enrich lives and cultivate a vibrant community through dance. The traditions we love so much are spreading!

CDSS: Yes!

This series is supported in part by the Outreach Fund of the Country Dance & Song Society.

Saying that brings me warm memories of watching Mister Rogers and Sesame Street on PBS as a kid and hearing that the programming was made possible by a bunch of people... and (hey!) viewers like me. Me! Sitting on the carpet in front of the TV, chin on my palms and elbow perched on the floor, I was happy, and felt even then like I was part of something that people cared about.

We at PICD have been feeling just how much so many people are caring about Portland's community dance series. All of our volunteers, organizers, performers, idea-givers, car-pool opportunizers, and helpers of all other sorts have made this happen: our first dance on Thursday, June 16 was a mad success, bringing in about 125 dancers who beamed to the tunes of Audrey & Clayton and welcomed emerging callers Gretchen Carroll and Annabel Dryden to the stage.

Dancers swinging at the June 16, 2016 PICD dance. Dugan Murphy and Audrey & Clayton performing. Photo by Dela Taylor.

Dancers swinging at the June 16, 2016 PICD dance. Dugan Murphy and Audrey & Clayton performing. Photo by Dela Taylor.


And, yes, the wonderful thing is: it's not just us, our own community, who care about us - we're feeling the love from outside Portland, Maine, too. Just this month we were ecstatic to find out that the Country Dance & Song Society (CDSS) awarded PICD a start-up grant. They're a national organization invested in keeping dance, music, and song that is rooted in North American and English traditions vital and sustained in our culture. The grant they awarded us is about ensuring that PICD gets off to a strong start as one of the many hundreds of organizations bringing traditional art to life across the U.S.

PICD is a group affiliate of CDSS, which means that we are eligible for grant funding, we're able to get group discounts on insurance, we can hop-on to CDSS's non-profit status, and we have the chance to learn best practices in organizing alongside other dance groups from across the country.

But enough about us. Let's talk about *you* and CDSS. CDSS supports people like you who practice these traditions. They host events like skill-building camp weeks, provide resources, share information, give funds to organizations, give scholarships to individuals, and so much more. If you're interested in contra and and the wide, brilliant world beyond contra, CDSS can hook you into a glee-filled world where you're connected with leagues of others who care as deeply as you do. So check 'em out.

We'll be sharing resources from CDSS in the coming months. And, as PICD blooms, we're excited and proud to call CDSS our supporter. And we're proud that we're one of many, many linked groups bringing joy and connection to local communities.

Book 'em Doog-o.

Have you seen this schedule? It's your birthday every Thursday for the next year.

Folks, it's happening. I know, I know - it's soooooo exciting. (!!!) But, seriously - take a deep breath and peek at who PICD is putting on the roster through December. 

!!!, right?

Wait - what's that? You don't recognize some of the names? Well, that's cool. Let me tell you why:

Two important elements of our mission at PICD are to nurture emerging talent and contribute to the ongoing, vibrant, lived tradition of contra dance in Maine and New England. So, as we're booking talent, we have two ideas in mind:

1) We want to be a place where talent develops.

2) We want to be a place where exciting performances occur.

As we held our hand to our brow and took a wide view of the contra dance horizon in Maine, we realized more callers are needed for the coming decades. So, several months ago, Dugan Murphy and I hosted some Calling 101 classes in our home in Portland. Over twenty five interested folks from Maine and Massachusetts came to the really cozy bootcamps and walked away knowing the basics. Dugan is currently working with a handful of these new callers (including me!), providing the mentoring needed to blossom.

Now, in the Midwest, there's a really generous and lovely tradition of hosting open calling after dance weekends. This, I've learned from cutting my teeth at Jan Jam this past January, is the BEST environment in which to learn how to call. All of the dancers are experienced, they're all really comfortable with each other from dancing together all weekend, and they're tired as all get out. The pick-up band of experienced musicians is just as tired, and, hence, generous, too. New Midwestern callers can go to dance weekends every few weeks and practice, practice, practice.

In New England, we have no such opportunity.* The neatest thing New England has going is the Mad Robin Callers Collective in Vermont, which is a community of callers who host monthly dances and training opportunities for budding and experienced callers alike. You might have noticed that Vermont's more than a stone-throw away, so in Maine new callers have limited options. They can possibly be booked for small community dances, faraway dances, or house dances, but it means they're calling a whole evening without a mentor or a net, and with no appreciative feedback.

Image of Sassafras Stomp taken at PICD April 21.

Image of Sassafras Stomp taken at PICD April 21.


Enter PICD. We're going to be a space for these emerging Maine callers to perform and get the practice they need. We're really proud and happy to book them, and to give them the safe, loving environment that nourishes their growth. These callers will receive ongoing feedback and will have an experienced caller with them to help them learn in real-time. Our hope is that PICD's culture and willingness to be a resource will accelerate these performer's growth and they'll join the community of awesome, high quality callers we'll all appreciate for decades to come.

As for musicians, we're excited to be booking a cross-section of emerging bands (like Catastrophe and Chimney Swift), new collaborations (like Drive Train), and damn talented well-knowns (like Pete's Posse). This mix of talent will contribute to a lively, unexpected, and exciting series. And, as PICD grows, we hope to be able to provide mentoring opportunities for emerging musicians, as well. In fact, we've applied for a grant from the Maine Arts Commission to host a mentoring program and we've been walking around with crossed-toes and -fingers as we're waiting to hear. We'll keep you in the loop on that one.

So, resume your excitement, tape up your dance shoes, and get your ten-dollar-bills ready, folks. The enchantment - and the profound contribution you'll all make to the contra community here in Maine - starts June 16.


*For now: PICD plans to host a Midwestern-style dance weekend in the coming years, but that's another topic for another blog post... "Later," she said, rubbing her hands together and hoisting up her eyebrows absurdly in anticipation.