Music Session: Wednesday May 1, 7:00-9:00 pm - Kitty O'Reilly's Irish Pub, Sturgeon Bay
Music Session: Wednesday May 15 7:00-9:00 pm - Kitty O'Reilly's Irish Pub, Sturgeon Bay
Barn Dance: Saturday May 25, 7:00-9:30 pm - Baileys Harbor Town Hall
The May 25 barn dance is part of the annual Festival of Nature sponsored by the Ridges Sanctuary and other conservation groups of Door County. For more information see http://doorcountyfestivalofnature.org
Folk Alliance dances are community based, alcohol free, and family friendly.
Come with or without a partner; singles are welcome.
All dances are taught by a caller, and no previous experience is necessary.
Our 2013 dance schedule is set through May. We will update our calendar as we go along.
In the mid 1970's while attending the San Diego Folk Festival, Cy Rosenthal, founding member of the Barn Dances in Door County, attended a Contra Dance. It was an eye opening experience. The music was great and the dancing was both easy and stimulating. Cy tucked this experience and the fun he had in the back of his mind. In 1986 Cy moved to Door County. He thought a lot about the activity of Contra Dancing as a way of bringing different generations of people together in a healthy, do-it-yourself activity. He also remembered the opportunities he had when he first started playing the tin whistle to play with other musicians and how that had helped him become a better player.
In 1995, Cy and a group of musicians, dance enthusiasts and folks began holding a series of Barn Dances. They called themselves The Sugar on the Floor Barn Dance Society, which in December 2007 became a division of the Door County Folk Alliance, Ltd., a 501 (c) (3) not for profit organization. The Sugar on the Floor Barn Dance Orchestra, made up entirely of volunteers, provides the music for all the barn dances. The orchestra is open to anyone willing to learn the music and practices monthly in various churches and community facilities. The orchestra was originally anchored by members of Door County's Celtic Band "Bubble & Squeak" and now has grown from five or six players to a dozen or more community members. Obviously, the band is of primary importance to the success of the dances but it is more than just music to dance to. It is a marvelous coming together of musicians of all ages, giving musicians an opportunity to learn, practice and participate in a joyful activity that also benefits the dancers and the community. Since the band is open to anyone, it is a unique opportunity for those who love music to continue to grow and learn, for experienced musicians to mentor beginners or young people.
The band plays traditional fiddle tunes that originated in the British Isles and were transported to New England and Quebec with early settlers. In colonial times itinerant dance masters taught dances from village to village, and the community folk gathered regularly to enjoy the music and dancing. In the 1960's the popularity of Contra Dances boomed, spreading throughout the country, so that "contra dances or barn dances" can now be found from Seattle, WA to Portsmouth, NH. Dance callers as we now call them still travel from community to community teaching, calling, sharing and preserving this tradition. The caller generally uses simple easy dances to teach the basic skills at each dance then moves into more complicated figures and dances. There is a dance code which encourages cooperation, acceptance, and inclusion. Dancers are encouraged to invite new friends, dance with everyone who comes to the dance from beginners to experienced dancers and to be patient, friendly and kind.
The dances are easy to learn and most are executed with a walking step, progressing from simple figures to complex formations. Several types of dances are generally offered at each dance and include large circle dances, mixers, long ways lines dances (often called contra dances), quadrilles or square dances, and even a few waltzes or polkas. Here again it is not just a group of people dancing in a circle, for every dancer is a potential friend, acceptance is high and people connect with each other. The barn dances are a revival of active participation as opposed to passive entertainment. Being a part of that energy and experience is thrilling.
Early on the group applied for and obtained a family preservation grant from which the family dances grew. A series of Sunday afternoon dances were held, aimed at introducing barn dances to families in the community. This included play party dances and singing dances for young children, circle dances, some simple ethnic dances, circle dances and easy contra dances. The Door County Folk Alliance, Ltd., tries to offer several family dances per year.
Businesses, individual patrons, dancers, and musicians have sponsored dances to celebrate birthdays, weddings, house warming, etc to which they invite the entire community. The dances have been held all over the county in barns, churches, schools, gymnasiums, town halls, YMCA's, parks and pavilions.
The Door County Folk Alliance, Ltd., is run entirely by volunteers, with the exception of the out of town callers to whom we pay a stipend. To the musicians, local callers, organizers and dancers the organizing, publicity, set-up, clean-up and promotion of the dances are worth it when they experience joy and magic of the dances.
Help us continue to provide and promote the community with healthy, intergenerational, traditional events.
It costs about $300.00 to hold a dance with the cost of the caller and the hall. We currently do not charge admission, but gratefully accept donations. The donations do not cover the full cost of the dance. We do receive sponsorships from businesses and individuals for some of the dances. We need your financial support to keep these dances going for another 15+ years. Donations to the Door County Folk Alliance Ltd. are tax deductible to the full extent of the law. We are also starting an endowment fund for the future. Please contact us below for more information.