Rays of Sunshine Sept 2023

After a steamy start to September, it’s feeling a bit more autumnal in Belfast. Time for some Rays of Sunshine!

Scandi Dance & Music:

Our recent Scandi programs with Bagaduce Music were a delight for all concerned. Folks dug in deep to the tunes at the musicians’ workshop, and the dancers learned new partner communication skills, some glorious slängpolska options, plus a really fun 4-person schottis. We’re already looking forward to Andrea’s 2024 visit!

Bagaduce director Bennett Konesni and Scandi dance leader Andrea Larson

Strung Together:

After a delightful collaboration at the Armenian picnic, we’re strengthening ties with the Makers Guild of Maine further. C’mon out to the Strung Together Old Time & Bluegrass Music Campout Sept 15-17! Contra tunes with Willy Clemetson & dancing with Chrissy Fowler, plus all the other good times on the shores of Penobscot Bay. Info:

Willy Clemetson, fiddling at the shore

Summer Newsletter:

Flying Shoes has much to be grateful for, including these tidbits we sent to our nonprofit contributors, below. We’re glad you’re in the Flying Shoes community. Enjoy the upcoming equilibrium of the Equinox!

~ Chrissy & the rest of the BFS leadership team (Alessandra, Alex, Ethan, Jennifer, Kay, Margo, Mike, & Morgan)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

August 20, 2023

Summer is at its zenith in Belfast, and our shoes have certainly been flying!  With all the good things happening, it’s an excellent time to pause and reflect on what BFS does in the community.  Here’s an update on three of our programs:

Dancers Joining Hands (from a student's thank you note)

BFS School Residencies:

In a new program, funded in part by a 2022 Expansion Arts Grant from the Maine Community Foundation, Flying Shoes teaching artists facilitated 112 class sessions of singing and dancing in pre-K through Grade 2 classrooms in RSU 71. With an additional three school residencies in the region, BFS connected with 380 students, 52 staff members, and 105 family members. Wow! The student artwork, above, gives a very clear picture — Smiling faces all!

Music Lessons at the Reentry Center:

In an ongoing program at the Maine Coastal Regional Reentry Center, a corrections facility here in Belfast, John Pranio has provided 27+ music lessons since January–plus an equal measure of informal mentorship and community connection. The Reentry Center residents are completing their sentences and preparing to return to their communities, and music-making is a powerful support in that process. John recently shared that a new student has been especially motivated to learn. Apparently, his mom always wanted him to play an instrument when he was a kid, but he never did… until now!

Dancing at the Rockport Opera House in 2022

Dances on First Fridays and Beyond:

The First Friday series is thriving, thanks to a committed crowd of volunteer helpers, newly streamlined processes, and a collaborative organizing team. Whenever we see BFS dancers and musicians around town, they’re excited about all of the opportunities for dancing and playing: workshops, waltzing, a Scandi dance party, dances at the Rockport Opera House, a square dance, collaborations with the YMCA, and (we hope) another dance on the Armistice Footbridge.

We’re grateful to have so many lovely venues to dance in, at at the same time we’re dreaming of a future Belfast dance hall that will accommodate our joyful throngs of dancers and musicians. Do let us know if you have ideas!

We always love hearing about how BFS inspires you ~ so, please be in touch if you have feedback or thoughts! May you and yours revel in the delights of the season.

Chrissy Fowler, BFS Executive Director

(on behalf of the BFS Board of Directors: Jennifer Armstrong, Margo Burnham, Alex Mann, Alessandra Martinelli, Ethan Tischler & Kay Zegel and the First Friday Committee: Morgan Cafferata, Mike Wright & Chrissy Fowler)

Rays of Sunshine in June 2023

The Summer Solstice brought some gorgeous sunshine, and even though it’s raining again, we’re still feeling the figurative warmth of the season!

Flying Shoes Community Dance & Contras Fri 7/7

Hope to see you at the July 7 dances ! The All Comers Band, Benjamin, Willy, Lisa & Chrissy are on tap for the Community Dance!  The contras will be glorious, thanks to Nils Fredland and Spintuition (Samuel Foucher, Willy Clemetson and Silas Hamilton), and sound by Lincoln Clapp.

We’d love your help!

To volunteer for 5:00 pm setup role or a greeter role during the contra dance, please email Morgan [email protected] or fill out this volunteer form. (In gratitude for your advance commitment, BFS will offer you free admission to both dances!)

The First Friday committee—Morgan, Mike & Chrissy—are grateful to all the folks who help us sustain the Belfast Flying Shoes Community Dance and Contra Dance. Let us know ([email protected]) if you have suggestions for ways we can make the monthly party even better for all concerned!

School Programs Brought Joy

With the end of the school year, we concluded several dance & music residencies in local schools. Flying Shoes teaching artists worked in a variety of settings this school year, including fourteen different preK-2 classrooms in 4 schools in RSU 71 (a project supported by a 2022 Maine Expansion Arts grant from the Maine Community Foundation), two 4th grade classrooms at Captain Albert Stevens School in Belfast, the Belfast Area Children’s Center in Waldo, and grades 5-8 at Ashwood Waldorf School in Rockport. We’ll share photos and a couple of sweet anecdotes in a future blog post. Family members, students, and teachers provided plenty of positive feedback, and we’re already planning residencies for the 2023-24 school year!

Rays of Sunshine in May 2023

With spring in full bloom, all sorts of enlivening things are waving in the air – including our hands and our spirits!

Flying Shoes Community Dance & Contras Fri 6/2

We’ve been having a great time on first Fridays, and the June 2 dances should be really sweet! (The All Comers Band, Benjamin, Willy, Lisa & Chrissy are on tap for the Community Dance and the contras feature Hannah Chamberlain, Alden Robinson, Benjamin Foss, Bennett Konesni, & Alex Hennings.)

We’d love your help!

To volunteer for setup, greeting at either dance, or cleanup, please email [email protected] or fill out this volunteer form. (In gratitude for your advance commitment, BFS will offer you free admission to the dances!)

The First Friday team is bringing their energy to sustaining and improving the Belfast Flying Shoes Community Dance and Contra Dance. Let us know ([email protected]) if you have suggestions for ways we can make the monthly party even better for all concerned!

Other community organizers in our area are also cultivating new and familiar opportunities to dance. Here are some more dance-themed rays of sunshine!  (We tried to send this last week, but something went awry, so we’re including some **past happenings among the rays of sunshine.)

Square Dance at Simonton Corner Sun. 6/11:

Once a hub of contra dancing in the region, the Simonton Corner Community Hall in Rockport will again be full of swinging & stomping and hooting & hollering on Sunday, June 11. Caller Will Mentor is coming to Maine for a Square Dance Party, with music by Emily Jeffries and Baron Collins-Hill. Dancing from 4:00-6:00 pm followed by a potluck and jam session for those who want to stick around a bit longer.  More on the DEFFA listing or contact Emily at 205-789-7907 or [email protected]

Dancing at the Library in Searsmont Sat. 6/10:

Come on out for a *free* Community Contra Dance on the lawn near the Searsmont Town Library at 37 Main St S in Searsmont. This program is part of the STL’s “Live at the Library” series, made possible with support of Belfast Flying Shoes and a grant from the Onion Foundation. Saturday, June 10, starting at 4:00pm. Music by the All Comers Band, led by John Pranio, Toki Oshima & Benjamin Foss, with calling by Chrissy Fowler. BYO picnic to enjoy afterward. More on the STL website, the BFS calendar or

Maine Dances Galore – Contras & More!

DownEast Friends of the Folk Arts (DEFFA) is our statewide music & dance organization. Their website has lots of cool stuff – oral histories from influential dance leaders in Maine, performer directory, and scores of listings at, including these regular dances:

  • English Country Dance at 317 Main in North Yarmouth- Every Thursday
  • English Country Dance in Brunswick – every other Wed in May, then Tuesdays for the summer
  • Belfast Flying Shoes Community Dance & Contras – 1st Fridays
  • Surry Community Dance & Contra Dance – 2nd Saturdays
  • Orono Contras – 2nd Saturdays
  • Brooks Contra Dance – 2nd Fridays (beginning 5/19, no dance in June)
  • Dover-Foxcroft Contra Dance – 2nd Fridays
  • Cherryfield Contras – now on 3rd Sat (beginning on 5/20)
  • Common Floor Contra Dance in Portland – mostly on 3rd Sundays
  • Otisfield Community Contra – 3rd Sundays
  • Kennebec Contras in Hallowell – 4th Saturdays

Well, that’s lots of sunshine to inspire you. Get out there and frolic like the lambs and kids, gamboling around to kick up your heels in joy!

**And below are the two offerings you may have missed but can catch the next time!

West African Dance & Drumming happened 5/22:

The Belfast Dance Studio & Center for Embodiment at 109 High St in Belfast is flourishing! Shana Bloomstein is now managing the studio with support from others, including studio founder, Lisa Newcomb (one of the BFS community dance callers!)  One exciting workshop happened on Monday, May 22. A full studio reveled in the community-building dance traditions of Guinea in West Africa, with beautiful teacher, singer, dancer extraordinaire, Nafi Domani Diabate and Portland-based drummer, Namory Keita, who was joined by local drummers Jeff Densmore & Jeff Wolovitz! Email Shana to find out about more opportunities at the studio!  [email protected]

New Contra Series in Brooks launched 5/19:

On Friday, May 19, another awesome Maine contra dance series kicked off, with dancing and music at the historic Union Hall (now known as the Marsh River Theater) in Brooks. John McIntire called with Alden Robinson & Benjamin Foss. Good times were had! Contact Benjamin for info about the series [email protected] or see the DEFFA listing.


Rays of Sunshine in 2023

The Midwinter* mark is behind us, and the love fest of St. Valentine’s Day is upon us—perfect timing for some Rays of Sunshine!

Dancing on the Oregon Trail

Chrissy Fowler has been working weekly with 4th graders at Captain Albert Stevens School, helping deepen the community connectedness in the classroom and supporting an interdisciplinary project designed by 2022 Waldo County Teacher of the Year, Nancy Nickerson. Local musicians, Benjamin Foss & John Pranio, joined the Oregon Trail celebration on January 27 with the fourth graders, their families, and others from the school community.

Jim Leonard, editor of the Republican Journal (Village Soup/Courier Publications), captured some of the experience in his front page article, including some gorgeous photos. Throughout the fall, the students brainstormed other aspects related to the dancing and singing (as pictured below.)

Music & Dance for Social Emotional Learning

We’re thrilled that Belfast Flying Shoes was awarded a $10,000 Maine Expansion Arts Grant from the Maine Community Foundation to support a social dance & music program offered to all PreK-Grade 2 classes in our local school district, RSU71. Five teaching artists and fourteen classroom teachers are participating in the program, which includes eight classroom visits and valuable time for collaboration.
Based on input from the classroom teachers, the teaching artists will share repertoire that enhances social and emotional development and cultivates positive social skills; they’ll also link the material to aspects of the academic curriculum. Bangor Daily News reporter, Kay Neufeld, wrote a compelling and well-researched article, including links to related news & research.)
Chrissy Fowler demonstrating with a kindergartner in 2014

Celebrating Cedar Callahan’s Contributions

At the 2022 Annual Meeting, the board bid a fond farewell to Cedar Callahan, whose service to Flying Shoes was marked by commitment and candor. After being introduced at a young age to contra dancing during a BFS residency at Appleton Village School, Cedar dove into the community, attending Maine Fiddle Camp and dances around the state.  They played often in the All Comers Band, joined the BFS Board in 2016, and assumed the role of Board President in 2022.

An accomplished musician and songster, community leader, organizer, college student, and activist, Cedar brought great passion to the BFS Board, including a forthright demeanor beyond their years. Their contributions included helping BFS move to gender neutral role terms at the contras, emphasizing the importance of a culture of community care and respect, and catalyzing important policy and procedure work (including drafting a case for support, to help us tell the story of BFS to our constituents and funders.) We are heartened to know that Cedar will continue to be active in the world, including our little Flying Shoes corner of it!  Thank you, Cedar, for your commitment and contributions!

Serving BFS from teen years…
…to young adulthood ~ thanks Cedar!

Feb 3 Recap

Wow, we had two HOT dances on an incredibly COLD night. Willy & Benjamin led the amazing All-Comers Band (featuring several first-timers, plus a record percentage of guitars!), enthusiastic dancers whirled and stomped across the floor, John Pranio ran excellent sound, Chris Ricciotti called a beautiful program, and SpringTide’s music elevated our spirits. Special thanks to those who wrote sweet notes in the frosty windows of the entrance doors (we wish we’d taken pics, but we were anxious to see if our cars would start!)

SpringTide (Willy Clemetson, Elsie Gawler, & Ethan Tischler)
Contra caller Chris Ricciotti (toward R, in cap & plaid shirt) and other dancers, doing “Flat Tire”, a dance composed in 1990 by Peter Amidon and fourth grade students in Quechee, VT

*Happy belated Feb 2 celebrations of Candlemas, Imbolc, St. Brigid’s Day, Setsubun, and Groundhog Day! Hope you’ve still got half your wood and half your hay!

Celebrating 17 Years of BFS!

And now we are 17!

The 17th BFS Birthday Party on December 2 was a grand celebration. Cloth banners honored the hundreds of people who have played in the All Comers Band since 2005, and we remembered dear ones who are no longer with us. We welcomed first-timers and familiar friends, continued to settle into the lovely First Church venue, and danced exuberantly. The All Comers Band, led by Benjamin Foss, played glorious music while Lisa Newcomb & Chrissy Fowler called the Community Dance; the contra dancers whooped and hollered for the magical musicianship of Julie Metcalf, Sam Bartlett & Max Newman; and Will Mentor’s leadership facilitated dancing that was both satisfying and safe. It was really, really fun!

Lisa Newcomb with Benjamin Foss & the All Comers Band during the Community Dance. 

To continue the festive spirit, we’ll bring out the beads and party hats again on January 6 when the Gawler Family takes the contra stage.

A grateful shout-out to volunteers who helped set up, greet people at the welcome table, sweep, and clean up: Ken K, Klove A, Ethan T, Elsie G, Dean A, David S, Theo F, Christina B, Bill F, Coral B, Julia Mc-P, Margo B, Morgan C, Tim C, Steve B, Alex M, Anne D, Kay Z, Lisa N and so many others who pitched in!

Speaking of pitching in, a dozen donors made Annual Appeal gifts at the dance. Thank you!

We’ll close with some words from a dancer:

       What a joy to be at my first public dance since the BFS dance in March 2020! 
       Thank you for your incredible work and perseverance to keep BFS strong throughout these pandemic years, responding so thoughtfully to health guidelines, continuing to share joy and dancing and music in all variety of ways with students, Tall Pines, outdoor events, and more until this moment, of dancing all together indoors again.  
       Oh, what homecoming and joyful delight I felt all evening. It felt so incredible to dance again; so special to see familiar faces I haven’t seen in far too long, the fun of seeing new faces, and the downright joy of seeing my students so thrilled to dance in community.
       Thank you for BFS and this dance community and everything it inspires and holds for me and so many people. Hope, joy, mischief, and such wonderful continuance of tunes and dances and community spirit. 
       What a birthday celebration! Abundant gratitude.

This is why BFS exists. We are abundantly grateful too.