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your time Contra dance, Easthampton

  • From left, Heather Jefferies, Mariah Leavitt, Hannia Gonzalez, Britt Goodman, Will Loving, Downey Meyer.
  • Downey Meyer, Norma Jean Haynes
  • David Kaynor, left, Amy Rose, Sue Burkhart, Joe Blumenthal, Jim Armenti.
  • Band, from left, David Kaynor, Amy Rose, Sue Burkhart, Joe Blumenthal, Jim Armenti.
  • Mariah Leavitt of Florence with Rowan, left, 6, and Stella, 3, arrive early for a contra dance Sunday at Flywheel Arts Collective in Easthampton called by David Kaynor of Montague, seen in background warming up on fiddle. The dance was a benefit for the Northampton Community Music Center.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Hannia Gonzalez
  • Four circles of four dancers.
  • Heather Jefferies, Rich Rommer.
  • David Kaynor
  • Mariah Leavitt, top, with her children Rowan and Stella, right.
  • Dave Eisenstadter, Britt Goodman

A few minutes into a Sunday afternoon contra dance at Flywheel Arts Collective in Easthampton, caller David Kaynor urges the dozen or so participants — about half of whom are new to this centuries-old dance form — to get comfortable. “Yes! Shed unnecessary layers — it’s way warmer than it was. It’s hard for New Englanders to come in and immediately generate a lot of passion,” he says with a wink.

He introduces each jig and reel with a mix of clear instruction and gentle humor and it’s clear from the smiles and laughter that this benefit for the Northampton Community Music Center is a long way from the competitive dance shows of prime-time TV. Kaynor, of Montague, calls the Friday night contra dances in Greenfield, while Will Loving of Northampton, out on the floor for this afternoon’s event, leads Wednesday dances in Amherst. Loving notes that contra dances originated because they were a way for the local community to socialize. Now people come from all walks of life to dance, so he likens it to a shift from “community dance” to “dance community.”

To make an even 16 dancers for a last waltz before intermission, Kaynor puts down his fiddle and steps off stage to join the group, leaving the band to carry on. “So, let’s all pretend that we’re shy, repressed 19th-century Scandinavians. That’s what we need to get in the spirit. Here we go…”

To suggest a subject for Your Time, email Suzanne Wilson at swilson@gazettenet.com.

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