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Farm-and-fiddle favorite Sassafras Stomp plays contra dance

Nov 22, 2019
Will Mentor

Belfast — Join the Belfast Flying Shoes for an evening of contra dancing at American Legion Post #43, 143 Church St., on Friday, Dec. 6. The festivities begin at 6:30 p.m. with a Community Dance called by Chrissy Fowler and with music by the All Comers Band. All musicians are welcome to sit in. Fun and simple dances will be taught, giving beginners the opportunity to learn new skills and offering experienced dancers a chance to brush up on their steps.

The Contra Dance begins at 8 p.m. This month’s caller is Will Mentor. Mentor is a contra and square dance caller from Northern Vermont known for his clear teaching, upbeat wit, and relaxed stage presence. He loves to choreograph evenings with a variety of dances and tempos that at times surprise and always delight, all the while following his guiding principle as a caller: "It's about the dancers!"

Sharing the Flying Shoes stage with Mentor is Sassafras Stomp. Sassafras Stomp is a high-energy contra dance band from central Maine. Fiddler Johanna Davis, guitarist Adam Nordell, and multi-instrumentalist John Pranio build a rich, dynamic roots sound, weaving together diverse fiddle traditions with a strong rhythmic sensibility.

Davis and Nordell's collaboration began with a month-long musical artists' residency in Basin, Montana, a stone’s throw from the Continental Divide. After a debut performance at Seattle’s Northwest Folklife Festival, the duo established themselves as a favorite band at contra dances across Montana. In 2010, they relocated to Davis’ home state of Maine to start an organic farm, and to participate in the New England contra dance community. They have since performed at a widening circle of concerts, dances, and festivals across the country. Belfast’s own John Pranio joined the team in 2016 and brings harmonic and rhythmic depth to the band’s sound. Pranio draws on decades of experience as a fiddler, banjo, and harmonica player at dances across Maine and around the country. Pranio, his wife, Toki, and their friend Ted Sannella co-founded the much-loved North Whitefield Contra Dance.

Davis plays fiddle and shruti box; Nordell plays guitar, banjo, foot percussion and service bell; and Pranio plays fiddle, banjo and harmonica. Sound is provided by Eric Weest Johnson.

Admission to the Community Dance is $2 for adults and $1 for children. Admission to the Contra Dance is $10 for adults, $8 for ages 13 to 20 and adult All Comers, and $5 for children. Bring along a window fan and get $1 off. For more information, call 338-0979, email, visit or find the group on Facebook.

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