New dance, new dancers, new year.

New moves and new music …

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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

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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).

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.

 

Bennington meets Brooklyn: Matthew Christian and Max Carmichael

Contra dance is playful, Sue Burns told me, when she and Russell and I spent a long morning at Dottie’s Coffee Lounge talking about contra dancing for a story in Berkshire Magazine this month.

“You learn it as you go,” she said. “It’s a dance — just laugh. You don’t have to come with someone, and you don’t have to know what you’re doing. Just come.”

A musician with North Bennington roots is visiting in July, who has played dances and Irish music across New England.  Matthew Christian and Max Carmichael are coming up from Brooklyn to perform traditional, Irish and Quebeçois tunes on fiddle, foot percussion and guitar and more.

The North Berkshire dance returns to Williamstown on Saturday, July 13 from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m., with live music, and Steve Howland is calling. Come with or without a partner — beginners are warmly welcome, and experienced dancers will find us lively.

Cloud Ten flies high (June 2019)

On June 8, Cloud Ten comes to town to open the summer with us, and we hope you’ll walk in on a warm night. They have a following up and down the East Coast, and we’ve been looking forward to their buoyant energy all winter. If you want a taste, you can listen here.

Cedar Stanistreet is on fiddle, Jesse Ball on guitar, mandolin, and accordion, Ness Smith-Savedoff on drums, and Arthur Davis on piano, banjo and trumpet, making a generational leap from our opening on May, when his father, Andy Davis helped us lift off our first dance. Luke Donforth will call.

Because of Williams College reunion weekend, this dance moves to the Elks Lodge in North Adams (just for this month), from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m. at 100 Eagle St., just off Route 2. All dances are taught, and everyone is welcome — no need to bring a partner.

Dances are second Saturdays monthly. Admission is $12, or $5 for students and $25 for families. For more information, please visit us at northberkshiredance.org, or call 413-663-4479.

Who We Are

North Berkshire Community Dance began with a conversation. In the fall of 2018, Doone MacKay, a longtime local fidder in North Adams, met John Seto, a board member of the Country Dance and Song Society. He came to renovate an apartment in North Adams, and he found a longstanding dance community here.

The Northern Berkshires has had a dance community for generations — singing squares in the 1940s, dawn dances in Williamstown in the ’70s. College musicians formed a band 20 years ago and taught themselves to call and held informal dances in Goodrich Hall or played reels in the Berkshire quad. MCLA professors and students danced downtown.

Bennington and North Adams have both had dances until the last few years, and active dances thrive within an easy hour’s drive, in Lenox, Albany and Greenfield.

NBCD has formed to revive dance in North Adams and Williamstown. We are affiliated with Country Dance and Song Society, and with support from them and the Dance Flurry Organization just over the New york border, we are opening the doors this spring.

Swing Your Partner

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The music is live, and the dancing is as simple or as inventive as you want it to be. It’s as casual as dancing barefoot in the kitchen.

Have you ever held someone’s hands and spun — faster — faster — until you fell into the grass, laughing? Contra and square dance can feel like that. You don’t need a partner or experience, though you’re welcome to bring both. Come on out and join us.

We’ve had a local dance scene here for generations … square dancing at summer fairs, polka at the PNA, contra dances in college halls and students playing music in their dorms on warm nights. We’ve had local bands on the green and monthly contra dances in North Adams and Bennington, Vt. And we’re bringing them back.