2021 Dances Cancelled

Dear North Berkshire Dance Community

It was our plan to announce that North Berkshire Community Dances would be resuming on the second Saturday in September. We had begun booking bands and callers. We had a survey prepared to send to all of you to gauge your level of interest and comfort in resuming live dancing with proof of vaccination.

So it is with huge disappointment that we have decided once again to put our plans on the shelf. The rise of the Delta variant and super-spreading events even among vaccinated has forced us to cancel plans for this fall. We hope that our pandemic fortunes change for the new year and we can resume dancing in early 2022. By that time, hopefully, children under 12 should be able to be vaccinated, and overall vaccination levels will get us close to the “herd immunity” level needed to bring community infection rates to a safe level for dancing.

We are also heartbroken at the passing of one of our founding Board members, Maarten Pelligrini. Music and dance were the joys of his too-short life, and he shared that joy with us unstintingly. When we resume dancing, we intend to commemorate Maarten in some way. We will always hold him in our hearts.

Meanwhile, part of our mission is to support dance bands and callers, and we will be paying the bands and callers that we have booked for this fall, whose performances we are having to cancel, 50% of their fee. Your donations to North Berkshire Community Dance will help ensure that we can continue this policy and return to dancing in the spring with a little money in our treasury. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation. Donate via PayPal, or send a check made out to North Berkshire Community Dance to:

      Eric Buddington
      23 Warren Street
      North Adams, MA 01247

Please stay tuned to our Facebook page and website for updates on our plans and announcements of events happening in our larger virtual community of dancers, and watch for future emails from us.

Your North Berkshire Community Dance organizers

  • Kate Abbott
  • Mac Bellner
  • Eric Buddington
  • Pat Dunlavey
  • Doone MacKay
  • John Seto

A Concert (virtual) in the Pandemic

Matthew Christian and Max Carmichael playing for our July 2019 dance in Williamstown.
Musicians and callers are almost literally the beating heart of our contra dance community. North Berkshire Community Dance has provided what support it can to them during the pandemic, when much of their livelihood has been taken away. We have continued to line up performers through the summer and fall, and as the pandemic has caused us to cancel those dances, we have compensated the musicians (at half a normal fee). It’s not much, and Lord knows, we don’t pay our performers enough in normal times, but it’s something.

This holiday concert is one small new way we hope to lend some support to our musicians, and it will be great to see all your faces again! Please come, and donate if you can, and enjoy! A night of (virtual) music in the pandemic You may remember fiddler and North Bennington native Matthew Christian, who came up from Brooklyn to perform for us in our first summer. He had planned to lead the band for our December 2020 dance also, but since we can’t have a dance, he’s giving us a concert instead.

“If contra, bluegrass, klezmer, and Woody Guthrie had a baby, it would be this evening of piping hot music,” Chistian says.

You can join the concert on zoom, and we hope you can come and smile with us! The same date and time as our once regularly scheduled dance:  second Saturday this month (Dec. 12) at 7:30 p.m., we will get together virtually for a concert. 

Tickets will be a $10 suggested donation to support the musicians, and you can contribute through Paypal to m.andrews.christian@gmail.com, or to Matthew-Christian-5 on Venmo or write to 716 Ocean Ave #17, Brooklyn, NY 11226.
“I know Ben from college at Bard, where we were half of the student contra dance band the Annandale Ramblers,” Christian says. “Since college, Ben has been a labor organizer, singer and instrumentalist on piano and guitar … and this year Ben and I have collaborated on the Meadowport Arch concert-jam series in Prospect Park.”

Sepcial guests may join them, including Tobi Erner, a Harlem-based social worker whose working-class bluegrass songs speak to her work at the intersections of violence, immigration and pandemic; David Kinder on DADGAD guitar and perhaps an Ella Fitzgerald cover; and Hannah Sloane-Barton, another quarter of the Annandale Ramblers. 

Dances Before, Dances Later, but No More Dances This Year

We are sorry, but not (now) surprised that we have to cancel our planned fall 2020 community contra dance series. We hope to meet you on the dance floor again in the future. Please be safe and stay well until then.

And enjoy this picture of our January 2020 dance, from the days when we were able to take hands and look in one another’s eyes, all casually.

Pausing the Dance

In the spirit of sober responsibility, we will hold no contra dances in the months of April through August, 2020. We hope to resume on our usual monthly second Saturday schedule in September.


We are hoping to reschedule the performers we had already lined up for this spring for our fall dance season fall.
Please check back here for details as the time gets closer.

CANCELLED: Larks and Robins; Excellent Music; Fun Dance 3.14.2020


UPDATE 3/11:  This dance is CANCELLED

WILLIAMSTOWN — North Berkshire Community Dance will hold its monthly contra dance on Saturday, March 14 — Karen Axelrod on piano and Dave Langford on fiddle will play traditional tunes with a swinging improvisational joy, and Liz Nelson will call, from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m. at the Williamstown Community Preschool, with a lesson for beginners at 7:15.

Liz Nelson is a new voice on the contra scene, calling dances primarily in Massachusetts thus far. Already, she is known for her clear instruction, thoughtful programming and friendly stage presence. She will call this dance with Larks and Robins role terms, friendly and welcoming  for new and experienced dancers alike.

Musicians Dave Langford and Karen Axelrod have been playing contras together for more than 30 years with energy and improvisational flair.

Karen plays Scottish and American folk events across the country and performs in the band Foxfire among others, and in Barley Moon with Dave Langford and Daron Douglas. Dave also performs in the Latterday Lizards with Kate Barnes and Bill Tomczak, blending New England folk music with  influences from Irish music, French Canadian, ragtime, rock, Appalachian and Jazz.

Contra dancing has friendliness built in — everyone dances with everyone else. You can bring a partner or come alone and join in. Beginners are warmly welcome, and experienced dancers will find the group lively, especially later in the evening.

NBCD will also hold a snack potluck halfway through the dance, and everyone is welcome. (The school is a no-nuts zone, but anything else is welcome.)

*** We strongly encourage attendees to wash their hands frequently,  to aid in slowing the seasonal spread of flu, and (eventually)  covid-19.  We have two bathrooms with sinks and soap in the entry hall. If you could stop in there as you arrive, that would be greatly appreciated! ***  Please observe normal precautions against socializing when ill, by staying home if you feel coughy or sneezy. We’ll miss you this one time, but hope to have many opportunities to dance with you in the future.

Thank you,

North Berkshire Community Dance

Inclusive, Happy Dance

Please come dance with us at North Berkshire Dance’s monthly contra dance on Saturday, February 8, at the Williamstown Community Preschool.  Caller Andy Davis will open with beginners’ instruction at 7:30,  leading right into our inclusive, happy dance from 7:45 to 10:30 p.m.  Fiddler Annika Amstutz and pianist Becky Hollingsworth will lead an all-comers band.   This month, the evening will start early with an optional potluck dinner at 6:30 PM. Bring a dish to share (no nuts, please).

AnnikaAndAndyWe are lucky to have the guidance of people who know the music in their bones and love passing it on. Andy Davis calls traditional New England dances, plays accordion and piano, and composes his own tunes. Andy’s specialty is calling for community events which are welcoming to dancers of all ages and abilities.
Annika Amstutz co-directs the Fiddle Orchestra of Western Massachusetts with David Kaynor and plays with bands throughout the valley with buoyant energy. Becky Hollingsworth has been the backbone of many open bands and encouraged many emerging musicians with her calm presence and warm sense of humor.  Musicians and aspiring musicians with some experience in the New England contra dance traditions are welcome to join. If you have a tune list, please bring it to share. (If you don’t have a tune list yet, all it takes is a pencil and a piece of paper.)  Annika and Becky will lead “by-request”, favoring common repertoire tunes suited to the dance of the moment.


NBCD will also hold a snack potluck halfway through the dance, and everyone is welcome. (The school is a no-nuts zone.) Monthly dances continue on second Saturdays. Admission is $12, or $5 for students and children, and $25 for families. For more info, visit us at northberkshiredance.org, or call 413-663-4479.

Becky and David

New dance, new dancers, new year.

New moves and new music …

From an Irish jig, you may hear the fiddle veer cheerfully into ragtime or Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue. On Saturday, January 11,  Paul Rosenberg will lead our first dance of the new year from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m. at the Williamstown Community Preschool.

If you love dancing and want to share the joy with friends and family, this one is a good place to start. Paul loves helping newcomers discover dancing. He is one of the founders of the Dance Flurry in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., and has called at festivals throughout the Northeast, but he says he was afraid of dancing until he found contra in his 30s. He will open the evening with simpler dances appropriate for novices and families, gradually building the dancers’ skill level and confidence while having fun.

Tony Pisano of North Adams carries the melody on accordion. Photo by Susan Geller

Tony Pisano of North Adams carries the melody on accordion. Photo by Susan Geller

Three North Adams musicians known across New England will perform  live — Eric Buddington on fiddle and Tony Pisano on accordion, both members of the band Coincidance, will be joined by Todd Reynolds, violinist for Steve Reich, Meredith Monk and Bang on a Can. They’ll perform traditional and original music, and spice the music of our New England heritage with other flavors, including popular tunes from the 1920s and 1930s.

Contra dancing has friendliness built in — everyone dances with everyone else. You can bring a partner or come alone and join in.

NBCD will also hold a snack potluck halfway through the dance, and everyone is welcome. (The school is a no-nuts zone, but dancers may bring cookies, cheese and crackers, apples, popcorn, etc.)

Dances are second Saturdays monthly. Admission is $12, or $5 for students and children, and $25 for families.

When the Legends Play


If you’ve ever spun into a singing square at NEFFA when the room spontaneously breaks out singing the chorus On the Trail of the Lonesome Pine, you know how it feels to dance to Tony Parkes’ calling. And if you’ve heard David Kaynor’s fiddle harmonies, or sat in with one of his all-comers bands, you know how much it means that he is coming back to play for us.

On Saturday, December 14, we’re looking forward to a night of high energy and laughter. Tony Parkes will come from Boston to call and David Kaynor will join George Wilson on fiddle and Selma Kaplan on keyboard at the new North Berkshire Community Dance, from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m. at the Williamstown Community Preschool.

Tony Parkes has taught contra and traditional dances and singing squares across New England for more than 50 years. He has taught and led workshops across the country.

David Kaynor runs dances in Greenfield and Montague and performs up and down the coast, and over the years he has encouraged hundreds of people to pick up a fiddle or a guitar and thousands to get up and dance.

George Wilson has performed throughout New York state and New England since the 1970s with a rhythmic energy influenced by Cape Breton and French Canadian music.

Beginners are warmly welcome, and experienced dancers will find the group lively, especially later in the evening. NBCD will also hold a snack potluck halfway through the dance, and everyone is welcome. (The school is a no-nuts zone, but dancers may bring cookies, cheese and crackers, apples, popcorn …)

NBCD will also hold its annual meeting briefly at the break to vote in the board for 2020. If YOU might like to be on the board, or if you’d like to know more, please email us (dance@northberkshiredance.org).

why “larks and ravens”? and why “gender role free”?

At our November 9th dance, with the renowned Will Mentor calling,  we will be using “larks and ravens” role terms.  For many, this is an opportunity to try something new.  We hope you’ll come, and let us know what you think.

why “larks and ravens”? and why “gender role free”?

What is “Larks and Ravens”?
New terminology for a long-lived dance form, replacing “Gents and Ladies”, with non-gendered, non-hierarchical words. You’ve probably heard callers explaining that “these are just role names”, and you’ve probably met dancers who switch roles regularly. In a way, changing to non-gendered role terms is just catching up with the evolution of the living tradition.

How do I know whether I’m a Lark or a Raven?
You get to pick! If you’ve danced contra before, you’ll know that it’s done in pairs, as part of a larger group. The starting and ending position within each pair has one person on the left and the other on the right. Here’s a handy mnemonic: Lark on the Left, Raven on the Right You can dance either “lark” or “raven”, and no one need be confused (or care) about your choice.

Who is it good for?
Hopefully, everybody, but especially:
– parents teaching children
– dancers who want a better understanding of their partners’ experience
– people uncomfortable conforming to gender roles in daily life (and everyone in their community)
– anyone who wants to dance with a friend or relative or co-worker or new-dance-floor-acquaintance of whatever gender, without having to explain a thing.

Why change?
Many contra dance communities across the country have either switched to, or are trying, the new role terms, and it’s good to know what’s going on in the larger world.  For now, we’re just trying it out. We’ve met dancers on the floor here who prefer the new terms, but we (the dance organizers) have little personal experience. We’d like to gain experience, and definitely want to hear your opinion. Please come to the dance, and let us know what you think! We’ll have a simple exit poll where you can give as brief or elaborate an opinion as you like.


David Kaynor and friends take the lead

Becky and David

Fiddler and caller David Kaynor is a leader in the world of New England traditional dance. You may know him and his longtime friend, pianist Becky Hollingsworth, from Greenfield dances or Ashokan harmony workshops or dances across New England … over the years he has encouraged dozens of people to learn to call, hundreds of people to pick up a fiddle or a guitar and thousands to get up and dance.

David and Becky are coming to the Berkshires on October 12 for the new North Berkshire Community Dance, 7:30 to 10:30 p.m. at the Williamstown preschool — and they will join two of our well-known North Adams musicians: Tony Pisano, a longtime member of the band Coincidance, and fiddler Doone MacKay. Sarah VanNorstrand joining us as caller; she calls regularly in Syracuse, N.Y., and across the country.

News this month — we have completely overhauled our sound. If you passed the hall earlier, you might have seen us setting gromets into a slew of blankets to make our beautiful hall clearer and livelier.

In October the dancers will also hold a snack potluck at the break, and everyone is welcome. (The school is a nut-free zone, but we may bring apples and cookies, local cheeses and crackers, bite-sized contributions from our gardens …) And we hope you’ll join us.