BFS Family History

For many of us, today’s Thanksgiving holiday is a kinship celebration. As we approach the BFS 15th Birthday Party, here’s some “family history” from our Flying Shoes forebears, whether close or distant kin.

Our participatory dance and music traditions have deep roots, both locally and further afield.  Below is a cornucopia of connections to savor! ~BFS

The Contra Dance Revival in Maine:

BFS dancer, Coral Breuer, has created a compelling documentary project featuring five pivotal figures in the contra dance revival that started in the 1970s: Greg Boardman, Ellen Gawler, Doug Protsik, Kaity Newell and Cindy Larock.

Stories: The Contra Dance Revival in Maine is archived on the DEFFA website.

(In 2018, BFS dancer and volunteer, Kelly Carey, began a different documentary project and wrote a Maine Humanities Grant, funded jointly by the Maine Arts Commission and the Maine Humanities Council. After Kelly and her collaborators put that project on hold, BFS partnered with Downeast Friends of the Folk Arts (DEFFA) to support Coral’s documentary project. Kudos to both Kelly and Coral for their visions for documenting contra dance culture in Maine.)

Recent Maine Dance History:

This Maine Public program, filmed at the Topsham Grange in 2016, is a visceral testament to the joy of our contra dance tradition.

(Note: When you see so many beautiful people from BFS and the statewide dance community, you may need a tissue handy!)

Bess Lomax Hawes & The National Heritage Fellowship:

While exploring the complex histories of some of her repertoire, Chrissy Fowler found four films made by Bess Lomax Hawes from 1964 to 1970, available on Kanopy. (Media Generation explains that the documentariesstrive to make a pleasing and engaging record of small moments from the vastness of American expressive traditional arts; neither exhaustive nor statistically representative, but survivals of a time now past.“)

After Bess Lomax Hawes died in 2011, this tribute noted her vast contributions. “Bess dedicated her life to preserving traditional American cultures and spreading the gospel of folk music and folk arts. […] Indeed, she became one of the most influential folklore teachers of the past half century – through her courses, workshops, films, books, academic papers, and her work at the Smithsonian and the NEA.”

At the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), Bess founded the prestigious National Heritage Fellowship program. Heritage Fellows from Maine include:

Simon St. Pierre, Maine fiddler

NHF recipients also include influential figures in the contra dance community, such as Dudley Laufman and Bob McQuillen.

BFS Connections:

Part of bolstering the spirited dance and music community in midcoast Maine is maintaining the “family archives” for the BFS generations to come.

BFS youth programs emphasize historical connections.

  • Prescott Memorial School in Washington (more info here, here, here, and here)
  • The Game Loft, Monhegan Island, and Waldo County Schools (here)
  • Maine School of Mathematics and Science (here)

BFS community members share their thoughts.

Resources at the Belfast Free Library are available for all.

We’re inspired by all of these connections, and by this reflection about Bess Lomax Hawes: “[She] never succumbed to cynicism or stopped believing that music could be a force for social change and human understanding.”

May we all keep believing.