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.


First Friday FAQ

Starting on November 4, 2022, the Flying Shoes First Friday Dance Series will be at the First Church in Belfast UCC, with the original format and schedule:

  • 6:00 pm ~ All Comers Band warms up
  • 6:30 pm ~ Community Dance with music by the All Comers Band and calling by Chrissy Fowler and Lisa Newcomb
  • 7:30 pm ~ Social Break
  • 8:00 pm ~ Contra Dance with various musicians and callers

Why the FAQ?

It’s been a very long time since First Fridays looked like this (32 months, in fact!) Some things have changed, and other things remain the same. We hope this FAQ will be useful to old-timers and new folks alike, as we joyfully tie on our flying shoes.

Why so much information?

Well… we know it’s kind of over the top, but we want to be transparent about communicating various aspects of First Fridays, from the comfortably familiar to the brand new. We welcome input from our community; send an email if you have questions or want to offer constructive feedback.

What is in the BFS Community Care Policy?

Available via links on the BFS website, the Community Care Policy articulates our nonprofit’s guiding principles and values, asks people to do three things (act with kindness, respect our chem free status, and be responsible), makes note of special considerations related to illness, and outlines what BFS will do with respect to the topics in the policy.

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What is the Community Dance?

Fun and simple dances for all ages, such as those presented at weddings or schools. Calling by Chrissy Fowler and Lisa Newcomb. Music by the All Comers Band, led by a core ensemble and open to all musicians. New dancers, experienced dancers, families, and musicians all collaborate to create the event.

What is the Social Break?

A sociable half-hour between the Community Dance and Contra Dance, with emphasis on strengthening community connections through shared conversation.

What is the Contra Dance?

Zesty dances and tunes in a program of contras and other dances presented by a variety of talented callers and musicians. All participants collaborate to create the event.

How can I help to make these Flying Shoes dances happen?

  • Volunteer Many hands make the shoes fly! To lend your hands for dances or other programs, and to learn about ways you can help, complete the BFS volunteer info form or send us an email.
  • Contribute Tax-deductible donations to the BFS Annual Appeal provide critical support to our small nonprofit and its many programs, including dances. Find out more at
  • Become a First Friday SponsorThese local businesses are First Friday Sponsors in 2022: The Green Store, Coyote Moon, First National Bank, First National Wealth Management, Thomas Fowler Professional Engineer, and (of course!) Colburn Shoe Store. Let us know if you want to be a sponsor in 2023!

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Where is the dance? 

The fellowship hall at the First Church in Belfast, UCC, located at 8 Court Street*, Belfast ME with entrance on Spring Street (to the left of the rainbow flag in photo).

    • A beautiful wood floor and lots of windows
    • The second floor fellowship hall is accessible by elevator
    • Multiple areas to change and/or clean your (flying) shoes

Why the new venue?

During the pandemic, the Legion leadership changed their policies for rentals, doubled the rent, and considered reconfiguring the hall for other purposes. As we researched other possibilities, the First Church emerged as a great fit.

Plus, it’s got some history!  As many know, Flying Shoes is just one thread in the longstanding fabric of participatory social dancing in Belfast. (For example, a map displayed at the Belfast Free Library shows local contra dance venues from the 19th century.) In more recent years (1980s-1990s) a bunch of folks played, called, and danced at First Church, including the Tugmutton Trailsiders, Bennett Verbeck, Gregory Moore, Small Craft Advisory, Shana Hansen, Oakum Bay String Band, Calliope, John McIntire, and Joanne & Morten Moesswilde, to name a few. We’re tickled to bring dancing back to the First Church!

Where’s parking?

Street parking (or Post Office lot & Camden National Bank plaza off Main St, and City parking lot off Church St)

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How much is admission?

  • Community Dance – $1 for kids, $2 for adults, and free for the All Comers Band musicians.
  • Contras – $15 requested. Everyone is welcome. Pay what you can.

Is the admission different than it was 32 months ago?

No and yes.

No, the community dance admission is the same. (In fact, it hasn’t changed since our very first dance, back in December 2005. Wow!)

Yes, admission to the contras is different. And the situation is a bit more complex. First off, the contra admission covers the community dance too – in other words, you can come early and dance the whole time, play in the All Comers Band, or visit with friends.

Over the last 17 years, the contra dance admission rates gradually changed. By March 2020, there were tiered admission rates for kids, teens, and adults, with discounts for people who played in the All Comers Band or who brought a fan. That structure worked in many ways, but it was a bit complicated, especially for our greeters at the door, so we’re moving to a single suggested admission for the contra dance:  $15 suggested admission (Everyone is welcome. Pay what you can.)  

What does “pay what you can” mean?

We have determined that we can cover our costs if most people pay $15 admission for the contra dance, so that’s what we’re asking. And, everyone is welcome!

BFS dancers come from all walks of life, and financial accessibility for dancers is as important to us as is fiscal responsibility for our nonprofit and equitable compensation for performers.

We’ve set a suggested rate for the contra dance, knowing that some folks might pay a little less, and other folks might pay a little more. We don’t need explanations or justifications for your admission choice. When you come to the contra dance, knowing that $15 is the suggested admission, we trust you to pay what you can.

Why is the admission different than it was in October 2022?

Short story:   The October 7 program was a different format.

Long story:   For the past two years, BFS has presented a variety of public programs, including concerts, music workshops, dance workshops, all sorts of dances all over town, a multimedia celebration of ragtime music, and even a movie about a beloved dance musician.

At most of those programs, including the recent October 7 dances, we used a sliding scale admission structure of $5-20. In an effort to balance our program budget, we also solicited outside funding from sponsors and program partners.

And, all but one of the 2022 public programs was a financial loss. (This is not necessarily surprising, given various factors including a commitment to equitable performer pay, low attendance at many events, rotating venues, varied start times, and the ambiguity of paying admission for outdoor programs in public parks.) Thanks to grant support and generous contributions to our annual fund, our director and board think we might cover these losses, but we also think it’s useful to be transparent about the admission rates that we’ve determined will help us break even.

In other words:   As the dances return to a consistent venue and a clearly-defined schedule, we’re returning to a clearly-defined admission structure for both dances.

How can I pay?

Cash or check is best.

However…  If you have a smartphone, you can use a QR code to pay with credit card, debit card, or PayPal. Please select “Admission” when the payment is for admission. We’ll ask for your name, email address, and the amount paid (in case something goes awry.) And we’ll contact you if the payment doesn’t go through.

Why is cash or check best?

Sometimes things don’t work smoothly with electronic payments, and our greeters aren’t necessarily savvy with this process (which can slow down things at the door.) Also, even as a nonprofit, we have to pay processing fees when we accept electronic payments, and we don’t like that. Finally, we need to know the total admission income in real time, so that we can pay the musicians, callers, and sound providers at the end of the dance. (Our performer compensation structure is based on overall income from the dance. We pay a minimum guarantee plus a share of whatever income is left after covering expenses for that dance.)

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What do Larks and Robins have to do with contra dancing?

At the contra dance (and occasionally the community dance), dance partners assume two different dance roles – one role for each person. At the BFS contra dance, callers will use  gender-neutral role terms: Larks and Robins. If you’re curious to learn more or are accustomed to other role terms, see “Role Terms at BFS Contras”.

What should I wear?

  • Clean-soled shoes that won’t mark the floor
  • Comfortable layers

What else might I bring?

  • Reusable water bottle (for hydrating)
  • Extra shirts to change into (in case you get sweaty)
  • Masks if you want to wear one (and a variety of masks will be available at the door)
  • Your favorite hand sanitizer (simple, low-scent ones will be available at the dance)
  • A warm layer, for when you are sitting down or playing in the All Comers Band (the windows will be open, with fans going)

Anything to not bring or wear?

  • Heavy perfumes or deodorants (some folks are sensitive to strong scents)
  • Alcohol or drugs (BFS events are chem free)
  • Pets

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Why are you collecting names and email addresses?

We’ll ask for contact information at the door because we want to be able to share any health updates with the participants for each program, as needed. (See Community Care Policy)

Will I get the Flying Shoes e-news?

If you check that box when you share your name and email on the contact list, we’ll sign you up for the e-news. Or you can sign yourself up at

What is the BFS Board considering with regard to reducing the spread of Illness?

We all know that the kind of dancing we do at the Community Dance and Contra Dance brings together people from all walks of life in really beautiful ways. It is high touch and high joy, and is incredible for building face-to-face community among the participants!

At the same time, we acknowledge that this close contact activity carries an increased possibility of transmitting illness. While this is a relatively low concern for some folks, for others it’s a significant issue, especially with Covid still circulating and flu and cold season commencing.

In our local community and in cultures worldwide, people wear masks to reduce transmission of illness. (See CDC for one study, which cites other research.) Since the onset of Covid, dance organizations around Maine and across North America have established a variety of policies, including universal masking (such as in Montpelier VT). The BFS Board has all of this in mind as we move our first Friday dances indoors.

The BFS Community Care Policy (on our website, and posted at dances) asks attendees to consider wearing a mask, especially indoors and when dancing. If you want to wear a mask, you can bring your favorite one or get one at the dance. (BFS is offering masks at the door, including N95, KN94, and FFP2 types.)

We also have fans. Ventilation and air exchange are good for keeping us all healthy. Plus, when shoes are flying and the music and dancing is hot, it’s nice to have fresh air!

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Is there anything else?

We look forward to seeing you on the dance floor! But if you aren’t feeling ready to join us on First Fridays, we understand. We hope that you’ll find other places to fill your cup of participatory music and dance–-whether at different BFS programs or at other dance and music offerings in Belfast & beyond. Keep in touch and keep your flying shoes ready!

Co-op Common Cents: Vote for Flying Shoes

Please Vote for Flying Shoes!

Before Oct 30 — Choose Flying Shoes as a recipient of the Co-op’s 2023 Common Cents register roundup program!

The Belfast Community Co-op has a program called “Common Cents”, which supports community organizations that contribute to local resilience. Each month, a different local nonprofit receives a substantial donation from customers who round up at the register.

We’re thrilled that Belfast Flying Shoes is one of the 2023 nominees! A Common Cents donation in 2023 could make possible one of these Flying Shoes programs:

  • The fourth season of “Sing Along & Tap Your Toes” outdoor concerts for older adults
  • Music lessons, instruments, and community dances at the Maine Coast Regional Reentry Center
  • A new school residency program in RSU71, using participatory music and dance to cultivate social-emotional learning in grades K-2

It would be amazing if Belfast Flying Shoes was chosen for Common Cents donations in 2023. But, we need your help!

If you are a member owner of the Co-op,  you should have received an email with a link to the online voting page:

Select the Common Cents voting

The Common Cents ballot page looks like this:

From here, you can vote for Belfast Flying Shoes and up to 11 other worthy organizations, ask questions, and learn a bit more about the nominees.

Please select Belfast Flying Shoes as one of your choices to be a 2023 Common Cents recipient!

Thanks for voting before October 30 and please spread the word!  (If you aren’t already a Co-op owner, it’s easy to join.)

Incidentally, several of the other Common Cents nominees have Flying Shoes connections! Some are BFS program partners, while others employ or are founded by BFS musicians and dancers. Yeah for community!

Check out the alphabetical list with links to each organization: