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 belfastflyingshoes.org/support.
  • 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 this year’s 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 www.belfastflyingshoes.org

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!