Fancy footwork There will be swirling skirts, lively music and nonstop dancing at the 20th annual DownEast Country Dance Festival in Topsham


TOPSHAM — Everything from fiddles and flutes to banjos and bones will rattle the rafters at Mt. Ararat Middle School and the Orion Performing Arts Center on Friday and Saturday, March 26-27, at the 20th annual DownEast Country Dance Festival.

While some of the music is just for listening, the vast majority will fuel the feet of the hundreds of people who gather each year for dancing offered nonstop from 7:30 p.m. to midnight on Friday, and 10 a.m. to midnight on Saturday.

“The mainstay of the festival is traditional New England country dancing, or contra dancing, as it is more popularly known, but attendees can choose from a whole spectrum of other dance styles as well as music activities,” said event coordinator Lynn Plumb.

Saturday is workshop day, offering an introduction to contra basics as well as classes in the art of waltzing, jitterbug, Canadian step dancing, Greek line dancing, Bollywood and belly dancing, Irish set dancing, and other international dance styles from France, Israel, Scandinavia and the Balkans.

Attendees can learn about guitar or pennywhistle techniques, Scottish fiddle styles or how to play a gas-can banjo. Also offered will be singalongs, workshops in Shape Note and Balkan singing, as well as “vocal skinny-dipping” with the a cappella improv group Improvox. An afternoon variety show will feature Middle Eastern belly dance, plus Scottish highland, Serbian folk and traditional English morris dancing. A number of mini-concerts are also on the roster, and there will be family activities, including arts and crafts, a barn dance and a whimsical festival parade featuring kid-crafted instruments.

The two-day festival will kick off on Friday with a full evening of contra dancing in the Mt. Ararat Middle School gym. Providing the music will be the bands Usual Suspects and Scrod Pudding.

Saturday evening, dancers can contra dancing to the bands Muisette and Crowfoot, do Cajun two-steps and waltzes to Jimmyjo & the Jumbol’ayuhs, or enjoy an international folk dance party featuring the Cambridge Folk Orchestra.

DownEast Country Dance Festival tickets range from $12 to $35, depending on the number of sessions one attends. Discounted tickets are available for full-time students ages 11 to 21. Admission is free for any child age 10 or younger, if accompanied by an adult.

Mt. Ararat Middle School and the adjacent Orion Performing Arts Center are on Route 201. For more information, call 563-8953 or visit