Belfast Flying Shoes recently donated ten contra dance DVDs to the Belfast Free Library’s video collection. Speaking for the Library, Erica Rubin-Irish said, “We are excited to make these materials available for youth and adult patrons. What a great way to connect our local history archives to contemporary Belfast culture! The Belfast Free Library is proud to be a strong partner for arts organizations, and to be among the city’s cultural and arts centers.”
Several of the donated films were shown last spring during the “Contra Connections” film series, a Belfast Flying Shoes outreach program that received additional support from the Belfast Free Library and a 2018 grant from the Maine Expansion Arts Fund of the Maine Community Foundation (mainecf.org). All of the DVDs help tell the story of New England contra dance, which is flourishing in Waldo County.
Together in Time: A Story of New England Contra Music and Dance, by professional filmmaker Steve Alves, uses rare archival footage, animation, and traditional fiddle tunes to relate the 250-year history of New England’s unique form of community music and dance. Also among the donated films are six DVDs produced by dance leader and amateur videographer, David Millstone. Three of his films highlight key individuals in traditional New England dancing: Paid To Eat Ice Cream: Bob McQuillen and New England Contra Dancing, The Other Way Back: Dancing with Dudley, and Sweet Talk: A Conversation with Ralph Sweet. Millstone’s other videos document the dance traditions of three different communities: Nelson, NH; Norwich, VT; and Westport Point, MA.
The remaining three films were produced by local videographer Ned Lightner, of Insight Productions. One captures a live theater performance of The Dancingmaster, a folk operetta by Lawrence Siegel about influential caller and musician Dudley Laufman. The performance featured six local dancers and choreography by Molly Gawler, of Monroe. Rounding out the collection are two focus group discussions—Dance as Social Life: Perspectives on Participation (with dancers in their teens) and Why We Dance: A Community Conversation about Belfast Flying Shoes. Together, they provide a compelling snapshot of Waldo County’s community and contra dance culture.
Belfast Flying Shoes board member Chrissy Fowler says, “Visiting callers, musicians, and dancers tell us over and over again that we have something special in Belfast, with our community dance—which features the volunteer All Comers Band—and our contra dance. We were delighted to hear what locals had to say about our thriving traditional, participatory, social dance scene, and we’re thrilled to share those insights with others via the Belfast Free Library’s video collection.” Any of the ten DVDs may be borrowed by library patrons. Visit belfastlibrary.org or belfastflyingshoes.org to learn more.