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.
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.
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.
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.
A dancer dips with a flourish. Photo by Sam Whited, used here under Creative Commons license with thanks.
A circle of dancers relax together in a dance at the New England Folk Festival. Photo by Jeffrey Barry, used here under Creative Commons license with thanks.
A pair smile on the dance floor. Photo by Sam Whited, used here under Creative Commons license with thanks.
A fiddler plays live music at a contra dance. Photo by Sam Whited, used here under Creative Commons license with thanks.
A couple stands in waltz position on the dance floor. Photo by Sam Whited, used here under Creative Commons license with thanks.
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.