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.

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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 …

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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).

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.

 

September 14th Dance

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!