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.

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.