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!