Oh, Won't You be Our Neighbor?

Submitted by Dela Taylor

So, how does one go about creating a contra dance series?

Well, if you're Dugan Murphy, you research the heck out of contra dance and organizing approaches, you survey tons of dancers and organizers and performers, and you meditate on the idea for several years until you're absolutely sure you can commit.

If you're me, you start with the questions "Why?" and "How do we want to feel?"

And, if you're friends with awesome people in the Maine community, you ask them lots of questions and bank on their wisdom being the divining rod to success.

 

Each of these approaches has contributed to robust conversations and some hardcore planning in an effort to grow support for a weekly Portland Intown Contra Dance series.  What have we learned?

- That our community in Maine is really strong, really respectful, really genuine, and really, well, GOOD.  We're lucky, folks.

- That a Portland series could bolster the state community by strengthening musicians and callers through education, by offering an anchor dance for talent traveling from out of state, by hosting standing weekend carpools from intown Portland to dances in other parts of Maine, and by sharing our success stories as models for other series (just as we've learned from so many others!).

- That there is a lot of enthusiasm for a weekly dance series that not only provides the opportunity to dance more frequently, but also feels church-like.  What does that mean?  It means that more than simply hosting dances, we're investing in fostering a loving, joyful, supportive community of friends who meet inside and outside of the dance hall.  It also means that our dance is about honoring traditions and cultivating ways of being with each other that nourish the larger community.

- That dancers are yearning for a space where they can have more playful or uncommon contra experiences, like dress up parties, electro-contras, dancing outside or in quirky places, more couples dancing, more training on dance technique, etc.

- That folks want more places to learn or practice calling and hone their musical abilities on a routine basis.

- That everybody wants to feel safe, respected, and included at dances.  Period.

- That there is a great deal of imagination and generosity in our Maine contra community and a lot of resources and support for getting a series off the ground.

 

As this community forms in Portland, we want to be clear about our values and take into account how we can best contribute to all the great stuff we already have in Maine.  Here's a go at articulating this:

We're happy you're here.

Our contra dance is welcoming to all people.  

We create a safe and respectful space together, encouraging healthy self-expression and high quality communication.  

We cherish our local dance community and act in ways that nourish it.  

As members of the broader Maine and national contra dance communities, we honor our roles in preserving and evolving contra traditions.

And we have fun.  Lots and lots of fun.

Let's dance.

 

These words will likely change, but our hope is they give everybody an idea about what's brewing.

We invite you to join us for our second 'test dance' on Thursday, April 21.  We'll try out the hall at State Street Church (159 State Street) and, if all goes well, we'll have a weekly dance in the space starting this June 2016!  Sassafras Stomp will be performing and Dugan and I will split the calling for the evening.  Beginner's lesson at 7 p.m. and contra dancing from 7:30 p.m. 'til 10 p.m.  As always, all people welcome, and new dancers encouraged!

After, join us from 10 p.m. 'til close for snacks and drinks just down the street at LFK (188A State Street in Longfellow Square) to let us know how it went.  All ages, all people welcome!

And, if you have an idea to share or you want to be a part of building this series, send me a note at dela@delataylor.com.  Let me know what you're excited about.

Dela Taylor

Dela Taylor, PO Box 784, Portland, Maine 04104, USA