TOPSHAM – Everything from fiddles and flutes to banjos and bones will rattle the rafters at Mount Ararat Middle School and the Orion Performing Arts Center when the 2008 DownEast Country Dance Festival takes place there Saturday and Sunday, March 28-29.

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

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

Saturday is workshop day, offering an introduction to contra basics as well as classes in the art of waltzing, tango, Canadian step dancing, Middle Eastern belly-dancing, Scandinavian couple dancing and an array of other international dance styles from France, Israel, the British Isles, the Balkans and beyond.

Those looking to expand their musical horizons can learn about mandolin techniques, Scottish fiddle styles, or how to play Irish jigs on the oboe. Also offered will be sing-alongs; workshops in Shape Note, Balkan and round singing; and “vocal skinny-dipping” with the a cappella improv group Improvox. A number of miniconcerts are also on the roster, and there will be activities for children and families, including arts and crafts, a barn dance, singing and a whimsical festival parade.

The two-day festival will kick off at 7 p.m. Friday with contra dancing in the Mount Ararat Middle School gym. Providing the music will be the bands Scrod Pudding and Wild Asparagus.

On Saturday evening dancers will have a choice between tango dancing to the band Tango Mucho Labia; enjoying an international folk dance party featuring the Cambridge Folk Orchestra; or contra dancing to Wild Asparagus and fiddler Frank Ferrel & the Feral Cats.

Admission to the DownEast Country Dance Festival ranges from $12 to $35, depending on the number of sessions one attends, with discounted tickets for full-time students age 11 to 21, and free admission to any child age 10 or under if accompanied by an adult.

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

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