North Bay Country Dance Society (NBCDS) began sponsoring contra dances in 1993, became a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, and joined the national Country Dance and Song Society (CDSS) as an affiliate organization. Read our bylaws here (link opens a PDF). Our mission is to promote, preserve, study, teach and enjoy American and English folk and ritual dance, music and song.
Over the years we have expanded our series offerings to include English country dance and Morris ritual dance. We have benefited from the talents and hard work of Board members, volunteers, programmers, managers, callers and musicians. We strive to keep admission costs low despite our increasing expenses, and we offer several payment options. We’re proud of our renowned special events including Epicenter and Faultline Frolic, both contra urban weekends, the English Mad Robin Ball, and Apple Tree Morris (ATM) Dance Up the Sun, and seasonal events Wassail and Ale. We invite you to explore our new website, get to know us, and come to any and all of our dances. You can also find us on Facebook and Meetup and in the online editions of Santa Rosa Press-Democrat and the Sonoma County Gazette. We are a vibrant, inclusive organization and invite you to join the fun!
The Sonoma 3rd Friday Contra Dance and the Santa Rosa Country Dance Society joined forces to become NBCDS with non-profit status, due to the efforts of founding Board members Jerry Allen, Don Bradley, Stephen Brown, Robin Cohen-Sankin, Emily Flouton, Moira Hill, Patricia Seaton and Sue Wendrow. The first issue of North Bay Dancer was published Fall 1993 and we launched our first membership drive. Regular contra dances were held in Sonoma at the Sonoma Valley Women’s Club and in Santa Rosa at various locations including Piner Elementary School, Schaefer Elementary School and Willowside School. A week-long country dance workshop was sponsored for Willowside school students with Barbara Richman (Coole) calling and Janette Duncan playing. The first Gala Benefit Dance was held at the Santa Rosa Dance in December with the Callers’ Jubilee and Jam Band.
The calendar included non-NBCDS contra dances at Fairfax Community Center, St. Helena (at various locations) and Ukiah Methodist Church. The Santa Rosa dance moved temporarily to Oak Grove School in July and finally settled at Monroe Hall in September. Monroe Hall is a community treasure and one of our favorite dance venues, featuring a beautiful maple floor.
The St. Helena contra moved to the Presbyterian Church in January. In October, Jerry Allen and Emily Flouton started Old Time Barn Dances at Hermann Sons Hall in Petaluma, with an earlier start time to include families. We promoted summer dance camps sponsored by our sister organizations CDSS and Bay Area Country Dance Society (BACDS). Many of us gleefully attended. We repeated our successful Gala Benefit Dance in December in Santa Rosa with the Callers’ Jubilee and Jam Band.
A Family Barn Dance was held at Sonoma County Folk Festival in March. A new contra series was started in April by Pat and Anson Young, held at Druid’s Hall in Novato, occasionally accompanied by their Hillside String Band. The Youngs also joined the Board and Pat became secretary. In August our first English Country Dance (ECD) series began on 3rd Sundays at the Sebastopol Community Center, started by Lydee Scudder, Mark Carroll and pianist extraordinaire Chuck Ward. Non-NBCDS English Country Dance classes for both children and adults began at Summerfield Waldorf School in Santa Rosa, taught by Lori Ingram. Some NBCDS members from those classes became the performing troupe Ha’penny Dancers, spreading frivolity at festivals and Renaissance Faires throughout the Bay Area.
North Bay Dancer became Hands Four for the spring issue with enhanced format and more articles. In April we had a great success bringing one of our first big name contra bands, Wild Asparagus, to the Petaluma Veterans Memorial Building. In September, a non-NBCDS contra was started in San Rafael at the Marin Fellowship of Unitarians. At one-year-old, the Sebastopol English Country Dance became an official NBCDS series and moved to Wischemann Hall in October. The Petaluma Barn Dance went on hiatus indefinitely. Don Bradley, long-time programmer for the Sonoma contra series and Board member, retired from both positions and will be missed. Three different old-time singing and music events happened in Novato, hosted by Pat and Anson Young. The Santa Rosa dance again hosted our annual Gala Benefit Holiday Party featuring an outrageous dessert pot-luck and special guest caller Erik Hoffman.
A special contra dance with master caller Fred Park from North Carolina was held at Hermann Sons Hall in May. An all-day contra fundraiser co-sponsored with Sonoma Country Folk Society and featuring five callers, three bands and potluck dinner, was held in August at the Petaluma Vets Memorial Building. In October we held our first 5th Saturday special dance at Monroe Hall. Veteran Berkeley Morris team members Kalia Kliban, Cora Stewart and Jon Berger co-founded Apple Tree Morris and joined NBCDS in the fall. ATM offered a fall workshop open to all and started the tradition of performing at the December contra Holiday Gala.
A Dance Line was installed with a listing of all current dances, our first Membership Directory was compiled by Deanne and Jerry Donnellan, and we launched our new website at www.nbcds.org. Apple Tree Morris held their first annual Dance Up the Sun on May 1st and performed at the Celtic Festival in September. Our ECD series in Sebastopol expanded to 1st and 3rd Sundays. The St. Helena contra dance moved to the Tucker Farm Center in Calistoga in April. New non-NBCDS dances started in Philo at the Grange Hall and in Point Arena above Holy Grounds. A special Sonoma dance, held at Vintage House in May with Big Hoedown, was a smashing success with 120 dancers. A special Dusk Dance was held at Petaluma Veterans Memorial Building in October, with Roger Diggle from Wisconsin.
Apple Tree Morris and Sword received a generous donation of a full set of long swords, allowing them to expand their repertoire and performance schedule. The Sebastopol ECD winter series included teaching dances on the program for the upcoming BACDS Playford Ball in March. The Novato contra dance, re-christened the Marin dance, temporarily moved to Nautilus of Marin in San Rafael and then settled at the Marin Masonic Hall with Pat and Anson Young as programmers and managers. A special contra was held there in April with band Reckless Abandon from New Hampshire. Master quilter and our own ATM Squire Cora Stewart donated a quilt to raffle for the benefit of our 5th Saturday contra in Santa Rosa. A Summer Contra Mini-Festival was held in July with dance, music, workshops, singing and picking sessions, Morris performances and more. A celebration of 30 years of English Country Dancing in the Bay Area was held at Wischemann Hall in October, organized by Lydee Scudder and Chuck Ward. Also in October, the Sonoma contra brought caller and clogger Woody Lane from Oregon joined by favorite musicians from Seattle. Some members attended a memorial service for former Board member and dedicated volunteer Kevin Slucker. Board member Christy Sloan created an email announce list for members to receive and post messages.
April brought us several special events. Erik Hoffman taught a Scandinavian couples workshop in San Rafael and later in the month Hotpoint String Band from Ohio delighted us for the contra at the same venue. The Sebastopol ECD series hosted a 5th Sunday afternoon of traditional UK and US square dancing. A trip to contra heaven featured caller Becky Hill from Ohio and band Swing Farm for a day-long 5th Saturday in Santa Rosa. Break out sessions were offered in sound setup, beginning Swing, challenge contras and gender benders. During the summer, four of our local callers traveled to dance camps to hone their skills with renowned teachers, in part subsidized by NBCDS.
Elizabeth Douglas started the Sebastopol Contra dance at Wischemann Hall in May. Wild Asparagus returned to play at Marin Masonic Hall in June. First Mad Robin Ball (MRB) was held in June at Hermann Sons Hall in Petaluma. To celebrate our 10-year anniversary, the Hotfoot Festival, featuring Hotpoint from Ohio, was held in August at the Sebastopol Veterans Memorial Building. The Contra Plus series, featuring the Groovemongers and Becky Hill, was held in October in San Rafael.
Reckless Ramblers from Ohio performed at the San Rafael contra dance in January. USA Scottish fiddle champion Jamie Laval played at the Sonoma contra dance in February. Second Annual MRB was held at Hermann Sons Hall in May. A waltz workshop preceded the July contra dance in Sebastopol. New Year’s Eve was celebrated at Marin Masonic Hall with Swing Farm and Driving With Fergus.
The Sonoma contra dance moved to Finnish American Home Association’s Heritage Hall in January. A new non-NBCDS dance started in Caspar in March. In May the Sebastopol contra dance second anniversary was celebrated with a waltz workshop, Beckett dances, and evening contra preceded by a potluck. The English MRB featured Philippe Callens from Belgium and was held at the Sebastopol Veteran’s Building in June. We said a fond farewell to long-time friends Pat and Anson Young who retired and moved away.
Summer Solstice Contra Mini-Fest weekend was held with band Notorious in Santa Rosa and San Rafael. New Year’s Eve Contra Gala included two nights of dancing: Hotpoint Stringband in San Rafael on the 30th and Santa Rosa on the 31st.
Faultline Frolic (FLF) dance weekend was held at Monroe Hall with band Notorious and Erik Weberg calling in June. With great sadness at the passing of our oldest dance, the last Sonoma dance was held in October. A new Petaluma contra dance series began at Hermann Sons Hall. Dances Without Borders, an afternoon of folk dance and evening of contra dance, was held at Marin Masonic Hall in September. Two of our founding organizers for Sebastopol ECD and former Board members Lydee Scudder and Mark Carroll moved away. A team of dedicated volunteers stepped up to continue the beloved series.
April brought hot band Moving Violations to San Rafael contra with a mix of Scandinavian, Balkan and KIezmer music added to Anglo-Celtic. Apple Tree Morris enlivened us to dance up the sun on May Day. Annual MRB brought caller Sharon Green and stellar musicians Chuck Ward, Jim Oakden and Marnon Laibow-Kaser for a weekend of English dance activities in Berkeley, Petaluma and Sebastopol. Our popular June urban dance weekend in Santa Rosa, FLF again featured band Notorious with caller Cis Hinkle. Summer brought contra specials with outstanding visiting musicians and callers including band Airdance with Rodney Miller on fiddle and Susan Petrick calling at Petaluma dance, and Lift Ticket with Bob Isaacs calling in San Rafael. Local caller Celia Ramsay journeyed with her daughter for a week-long contra holiday in Medieval England. Our NBCDS website was developed further by Board members Andy Westbom and Deborah Adams helped by web designer Kim Hughes. The online calendar was added for first time. A special Advanced ECD in Sebastopol featured guest caller Andrew Shaw from England. In September Randy Miller (Rodney’s bro) brought his band Celticladda to play at Petaluma and San Rafael contras. December brought more special contras with Groovemongers in San Rafael and New Year’s extravaganzas in Santa Rosa and San Rafael with Celticladda back by popular demand.
Beginning in January, the Sunday night Petaluma contra moved from Hermann Sons Hall to Petaluma Woman’s Club due to poor acoustics. Special contra in San Rafael in March featured Québeçois band Tidal Wave. FLF weekend brought hottest contra band in the land, Notorious, and caller Cis Hinkle from Atlanta. Delicious meals were catered by our own Michael Martin and Jeanne Bowman. The not-to-be-missed MRB featured Bay-area caller Sharon Green joined by a quartet of stellar musicians on keyboard and strings.
Our stalwart manager for San Rafael contra and refreshments maven for FLF, Jeanne Bowman, retired due to knee injury. We wish her well and hope she’ll soon join us on the dance floor again. January included an especially zesty 5th Saturday challenge contra in Santa Rosa with Warren Blier calling. April brought another special contra in San Rafael with band Figments. NBCDS participated in the Bay Area National Dance Week (BANDW) in April and May, offering free events in contra, Morris and English for beginners and free admission to experienced dancers to help. Also in April some Board members attended CDSS workshop on how to attract and retain younger dancers to contra, as well as etiquette guidelines. Apple Tree Morris again cheered us with bells and whoops to rise up the sun on May 1 in Sebastopol. Kalia Kliban and band Tricky Bits graced our eighth annual MRB in Petaluma. Back by popular demand, our FLF urban contra camp in Santa Rosa sizzled with band Notorious and caller Cis Hinkle. In July we featured a special contra in San Rafael with band Tidal Wave. Dovetailing with BACDS English week in Mendocino, a special English Country Dance was held in Sebastopol with renowned caller Phillipe Callens from Belgium. Halloween was celebrated at Monroe Hall with a special costume challenge contra and potluck followed by Day of the Dead contra in Petaluma welcoming beginners. Our annual gala Holiday contra and dessert potluck featured rowdy Irish Rock Band Driving With Fergus.
In January legendary fiddler Frank Ferrell played for the San Rafael contra followed next day by a fiddling workshop and house concert sponsored by CDSS. A team of new volunteers took turns managing the vacancy left by Jeanne Bowman last year. Reta Lockart retired after 11 years as programmer for San Rafael contra, replaced by Susan Amato who was concurrently our Board president. Craig Meltzner became programmer of the Petaluma contra. After 25 years organizing the Napa Valley contra, Celia Ramsay & Carlo Calabai sadly decided to end the series due to falling attendance. The January contra and ECD dances at Wischemann Hall were canceled for floor refinishing. Chuck Ward received the 2009 CDSS Lifetime Contribution Award in a ceremony held in Albany, CA on March 10. Chuck was a major contributor as a musician, teacher and organizer to the growth of English dance in the Bay area. In June the annual MRB in Petaluma brought caller Robert Moir from England followed by an open house and special ECD the following day in Sebastopol. The fifth annual Faultline Frolic urban contra dance weekend brought band Notorious and caller Susan Petrick to Santa Rosa. We were sad to announce that long-time dancer, musician, caller and friend, Elizabeth Douglas, founder of the Sebastopol contra, died on December 1 of cancer. We remembered her at our Gala Holiday contra in Santa Rosa on December 18.
To start the new year we held two special contras featuring band Syncopaths held in San Rafael and Petaluma. In March a monthly English country dance class was offered through the San Rafael Recreation Dept. Spearheaded by Gayle and George Mills and taught by Kalia Kliban, this non-NBCDS class soon grew in attendance. In April a special contra featured a new kind of synthesized music by Perpetual eMotion with caller Diane Silver from North Carolina. Our June FLF featured bands Dr. Groove and Driving with Fergus. The tenth annual MRB brought Andrew Shaw to call and Persons of Quality to give us a truly quality event. We added a new column “Miss Contra Manners” to our quarterly newsletter to rave reviews. The Marin monthly ECD continued due to popular request and the San Rafael contra held its first Volunteer Appreciation dance in July. Also in July, American Week dance camp sponsored by BACDS was eagerly attended by many contra dancers from NBCDS. August sizzled with a special contra in San Rafael with band Groovemongers and Steve Anderson from Massachusetts calling. The ECD class found a new home at Pickleweed Community Center in San Rafael and new time slot on 2nd Sunday afternoons. Our venue for both contra and English for many happy years, Wischemann Hall in Sebastopol, held a fundraiser to support renovations. An anonymous ECD member contributed $2,000 for matching funds. Apple Tree Morris began free weekly workshops at the Sebastopol Community Ctr. We experienced contra dance ecstasy with two special dances in October and November, both with Dr. Groove.
We continued our traditions of special contras for New Years Eve and Day, this year celebrating with Fiddlerats and Susan Petrick. The San Rafael ECD, after only a year of fostering beginners through the SR Parks & Rec as a non-NBCDS dance, officially joined us! In February we made the hard decision to raise admission fees to all our dances due to increased hall rents. The good news is that an anonymous donor offered a $1,000 challenge grant to support NBCDS! We exceeded our goal and the funds were used to support our existing series and expand outreach to new dancers. In April a new non-NBCDS Barn Dance was started on 3rd Saturdays in Sonoma Valley hoping to attract families and grow community. Our first ever NBCDS live techno contra was held in July in San Rafael, featuring Firecloud and favorite caller Lynn Ackerson.
We joined the on-line promotional group Meetup, attracting new dancers and encouraging connections between contra and English and between experienced and beginning dancers. We held a special St. Patrick’s Day contra in San Rafael with Susan Kevra calling to Syncopaths and a rare 5th Saturday challenge contra in Santa Rosa. The English Mad Robin Ball featured local favorite master caller Bruce Hamilton and the energetic Flying Romanos from New York. Our 8th annual Faultline Frolic urban contra weekend featured witty caller Lisa Greenleaf and Hotpoint Stringband. American Week dance camp sponsored by BACDS in July featured some of our favorite contra callers and musicians and our own Kalia Kliban teaching clogging. Our annual contra Halloween gala with prizes for best costume included a hambo lesson. We extend thanks and best wishes to three of our diligent Board members, Cathie Irwin, Emily Shaul, and Andy Westbom, upon their retirement. This New Year’s Eve contra in San Rafael featured Susan Petrick and Crabapples.
Headliner bands Stingrays, Sassafras Stomp and Contra Sutra helped us get over the winter blues while the Sebastopol 4th Saturday contra offered pre-dance workshops in waltz or hambo and even a sing-a-long! Our festive Epicenter urban contra weekend brought two great bands, Latter Day Lizards and Blue Ribbon Dance Band. The 13th annual MRB featured Brooke Friendly from Oregon, choreographer and teacher whose collection of English dances Impropriety is loved by many. We joyfully welcomed back caller Cis Hinkle with band Notorious for our annual FLF in San Rafael. We said a disappointed farewell to our ECD series in Marin due to managers moving away and not enough volunteers to sustain it. A special dance writers’ workshop and potluck was held before the San Rafael contra in September. An unanticipated treat, we hosted Pete’s Posse for a mid-week contra in Petaluma in October. Pete Sutherland is a nationally-known kick-ass fiddler from Vermont who was joined by fellow Vermonter Mary Wesley, caller and dance organizer. In November we provided a dance manager training prior to the San Rafael contra.
Country Dance and Song Society (CDSS), our national parent organization, celebrated its centennial. NBCDS offered some special events including a contra dance band workshop with National Endowment for the Arts Master Fiddler Rodney Miller and keyboard wizard from the Syncopaths, Jeff Spero. We continued our fabulous Epicenter contra camp in March with bands Notorious and Mean Lids. We danced up the sun on May Day with revelry provided by our Apple Tree Morris dancers and musicians. This popular community event included a spiral dance for all and pot-luck at Wischemann Hall in Sebastopol. The Board voted to raise prices at special contras for non-members to help us continue to bring stellar talent to the North Bay. But we also voted to lower admission for young adults between 19 and 30. Couldn’t get enough of contras featuring Stringrays and Rodney Miller and were happy that August included a 5th Saturday challenge contra with Larry Unger on guitar and banjo. We collaborated with sister Bay Area Country Dance Society (BACDS) by canceling our usual Petaluma contra and encouraged dancers to attend the fabulous No Snow Ball weekend held in Oakland in December.
We celebrated the New Year by welcoming all NBCDS members to a free contra at Monroe Hall in Santa Rosa. In April our Epicenter weekend in Mill Valley brought together four of the finest contra musicians in the country joining forces as JigJazz, and called by Lisa Greenleaf. Our ECD in Sebastopol group hosted the 15th annual MRB at Hermann Sons Hall in Petaluma in June, followed the next weekend by more powerhouse contra ecstasy at Faultline Frolic in San Rafael.