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.

Yes! 

 
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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.

 
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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.

 
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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.

Yahoo!

GIVE-A-GANZA!

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!

 
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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.

MAC Us.

THIS SERIES IS FUNDED IN PART BY A GRANT FROM THE MAINE ARTS COMMISSION.

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.

We PICD the Right One.

Submitted by Dela Taylor

The night of Thursday, April 21, 2016 hosted the best blind date in recorded history. 

One hundred and twenty three people filled the State Street Church in Portland to test the space for what we hoped would become a new weekly Portland Intown Contra Dance series.  The result?  Oh, man: love!

 
Image of April 21, 2016 Portland Intown Contra Dance by Naomi Marthai.

Image of April 21, 2016 Portland Intown Contra Dance by Naomi Marthai.

 

What happened that night?  Sassafras Stomp (including John Pranio) provided the music, Dugan Murphy called half of the evening and I called the other half, and one hundred and eighteen dancers made the space glow with happiness.  Our volunteers helped it all happen: Jonathan Freedner set up the hall and made it orderly; Jamie Oshima made the band sound great; Naomi Marthai took photos; Shea Murphy of Fat Sheamus Productions took video; and Jesse Vear, Lily Kapiloff, Nancy Kierstead, and Marie Duryea made everyone feel oh-so-welcome as they came in.  Many others contributed their thoughts and energy in anticipation of the dance, and we're grateful for how all of these contributions came together for an unforgettable evening.

 
Image of Dela Taylor and Sassafras Stomp (John Pranio, Johanna Davis & Adam Nordell) at the April 21, 2016 Portland Intown Contra Dance by Naomi Marthai.

Image of Dela Taylor and Sassafras Stomp (John Pranio, Johanna Davis & Adam Nordell) at the April 21, 2016 Portland Intown Contra Dance by Naomi Marthai.

 

The crowd was a mix of regular dancers from Maine, new dancers, folks who had danced in the past and were coming back to contra because they heard of the event on Facebook or from friends, and people who came to town from out-of-state just to support this developing adventure.  A few people reminisced with us about the contra dances that used to happen in the same space years ago and were really excited about the prospect of a weekly dance.

 

What about the future?!  This series is headed toward the altar with State Street Church!  We're currently negotiating rent and working out the issues with the space to improve sound and temperature.  Should all go well, within a few weeks, we'll be booking weekly dances that will start this Summer.  (I know!  This Summer!!)

To stay in the loop on the progress of this dance - and be invited to the next one:  Sign up for the mailing list on this website or join our Facebook group.  To find our group on Facebook, simply search for "Portland Intown Contra Dance" and request membership.  We'll add ya in a jiffy.

 
Image of dancers at April 21, 2016 Portland Intown Contra Dance by Naomi Marthai.

Image of dancers at April 21, 2016 Portland Intown Contra Dance by Naomi Marthai.

 

How can you get involved now?  David and Callie Chase, Cary and David Walker, Matteo Paris, Marie Duryea, Joyce Menges and Steve Raymond have all donated generously to help PICD establish itself.  Because of them, we have this awesome website for a year, a relationship with the Country Dance and Song Society (CDSS), insurance for the year, and non-profit status.  Gratitude is oozing from our pores for these lovely people and their gifts.  Please help us thank them with mountains of hugs and high fives.

We still have costs associated with the series, like fans, name-tags, and other supplies, and we have a wild pipe-dream for a sound system we can leave in the space.  We welcome your tax-deductible donations, which will earn you oozing gratitude, mountains of hugs and high-fives, and lots of other recognition.  :)

PICD is also welcoming volunteers and serendipitous somethings.  If you have a contribution you'd like to make, like donations of buttons from your cousin's button factory, serving as Keeper of the Mailing List, volunteering at a single dance, or planning funky contra flash-mobs to promote the dance, for instance, just let us know.

I'm available at dela@portlandintowncontradance.com and Dugan, my partner in bliss, is at dugan@portlandintowncontradance.com.  Send us a line!

Midnight musings on money.

Submitted by Dela Taylor

Making this dance happen means lots of elbow grease and dimes.

It takes only marginally less time to complete a grant application for $500 than it does to complete a grant application for $5,000.  ...Or so I found out this evening at 11:44 p.m.

It's also soooo worth it.

PICD currently has two grant requests out for financial support:

- One, with the Maine Arts Commission, would support an awesome year-long mentoring program for emerging contra dance callers and musicians who want to hone their craft through experimentation, coaching, and live practice at once per month 'teaching dances.'

- Another, with the County Dance & Song Society, is much simpler: it would cover the cost of liability insurance for our first year of dancing.  (Any twisted ankles will be hurriedly taken care of by Widget Insurance Co. & Co.) 

We've still got pipe dreams: a high-quality, permanent sound system for the venue, air circulators, paying our talent really well...  And, well, we'll be chipping away at those goals over the next year.  We want this series to be well funded, sustainable, and stand-out awesome - no matter how many Pulitzer Prize winning novels we could have written in the time it takes to finish off these grants...  ;)

Do you have ideas about funding (or the winning combination of an angel's heart and deep pockets)?  Send me a note with a quarter taped to it at dela@delataylor.com.