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A big year for the Grey-Bruce region’s contra dance community kicked off Saturday night in Owen Sound.  Fiddlefern Country Dancers are launching weekly Tuesday music sessions, monthly dance calling and musician workshops, a school traditional music program in Meaford, and a six-day, spring contra dance celebration April 28 through May 3.

It’s all in conjunction with the Country Dance and Song Society’s 100th anniversary year in 2015.

Fiddlefern is one of just seven dance communities across Canada and the United States awarded a CDSS community residency as part of the centennial tour this spring. The CDSS is a leading North American arts and education organization promoting participatory social dance, music and song with roots in North American culture.

The local contra dancers announced new programming Saturday during the first dance of the year at St. George’s church hall, and welcomed and said thanks to representatives of Community Foundation Grey-Bruce, including board chair Kim West. The foundation is supporting the non-profit social dance organization this year with $1,000 outreach grant meant to help with new programming and encourage broader participation, especially among youth.

West and others from the foundation joined the dancers, with music provided by Scatter the Cats, a local acoustic contra dance band long associated with Fiddlefern Country Dancers, and Fiddlefern members Lyn Allan and Frank Francalanza calling.

Despite the snow and freezing rain warnings Saturday, a good crowd of regular dancers was on hand for the announcements, which included launching the new www.fiddlefern.ca website. Sponsored in part by the foundation, it’s meant to better connect and expand the region’s social dance and dance music community.

In partnership also with the Georgian Bay Folk Society, new Fiddlefern initiatives this year will include weekly open music sessions Tuesday nights at The Harmony Centre, and monthly workshops and new school programming in Meaford, meant to raise awareness of traditional music and dance, as well as encouraging participation. Regular dances continue the first Saturday of the month at St. George’s and the group also plans outreach events in nearby communities.

The new weekly, open, participatory traditional tune sessions start Tuesday, January 13 at 7 p.m. at The Harmony Centre. The sessions are for people who enjoy playing dance music, and for those who want to learn the jigs, reels, waltzes, polkas and more, and eventually play the music for dancers. Fiddlefern organizers anticipate a teaching/learning component each week, followed by a social trad tune session to share music.

This should be of interest especially to people who play melody instruments such as fiddle/violin, flute, whistles, pipes, accordion, concertina, banjo, mandolin, etc. as well as people pursuing guitar and other instruments more suitable for rhythmic accompaniment.

Interested musicians are encouraged to attend. Contact session organizers Frank Francalanza (519-372-9151dancefranc@hotmail.com) or Will Henry (519-371-9413willihenry@gmail.com) for more information.

Watch soon for details about related half-day music and dance calling workshops. Meant to bring tunes to life for dancers, these workshops will coincide with monthly Fiddlefern dances in February, March, and April.

And finally, plan to join the Fiddlefern Country Dancers for six days of dances, dance and music workshops, and related school and community social events in Meaford, Durham and Owen Sound from April 28 through May 3. Many of these will be led by visiting musicians and dance callers, provided by CDSS through the residency program.

Events includes a special dance and celebration April 30 in Durham, where, through the inspiration of dance caller Bettle Liotta, the area contra dance community began 25 years ago.

All events are in conjunction with the Country Dance and Song Society (www.cdss.org) centennial celebrations, in partnership with Fiddlefern Country Dancers (www.fiddlefern.ca), supported by Community Foundation Grey-Bruce (www.communityfoundationgreybruce.com) and the Georgian Bay Folk Society (www.summerfolk.org).

A primary goal of both GBFS and FFCD, along with CDSS, is the encouragement of inclusive, participatory music making and social dancing among people of all ages, but especially younger musicians and dancers who might not otherwise be exposed to traditional music and dance culture.