|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 email@example.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.
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.
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.
North Berkshire Community 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).
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.
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.
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.
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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.
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.
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.
The dance in Williamstown is back after August vacation: Saturday, September 14th, 7:30 pm. 777 Main Street (Williamstown Community Preschool, formerly the United Methodist Church – next to the bank).
Annika Amstutz is a phenomenal fiddler (phiddler?) – have a listen. We’re hoping to debut significant improvements to the acoustics in the hall too. Please join us for a joyful evening!