Contra dance was a familiar part of the Buffalo social scene in the mid-19th century, from the 1840s to the 1880s, when they fell from favor. Buffalo apparently did not have a regularly scheduled contra dance until 1991, when Doug Cochrane, who had been introduced to contra dance in Rochester, decided to found a dance in Buffalo, and Buffalo Country Dancers (BCD) was born. BCD had a few successful years but began to fail.In the fall of 1995, musician Mia Boynton approached Cynthia Van Ness and Vincent Kuntz and said, “Let’s start a dance series.” In the spring of 1996, Queen City Country Dancers launched a monthly dance at the Unitarian-Universalist Church, with Boynton and Van Ness at the helm and Kuntz assisting. Over seventy people turned out for our inaugural dance, and attendance has held steady from 30-70 per dance over the years. In 1996, Queen City absorbed BCD.
In 1997, Boynton relocated to Ithaca, and musician Anne Maroney stepped in as co-organizer. Queen City expanded to two nights per month at alternating locations. Paul Kochmanski served faithfully as Queen City’s first official treasurer until 1998, when Gene Maguin took over. In 2003, Paul again assumed treasurer duties, Gene took over half of the booking, and Dave Brown took over the other half.
Also in 2003, the Church of the Transfiguration permanently closed its doors and we bid a sad farewell to the hall that saw many happy hours of dancing. In the fall of 2003, we secured the UU Church hall for both Saturdays, giving Queen City one home rather than two for the first time in its history. And in November 2003, we changed our name from Queen City Country Dancers to Queen City Contra Dancers, in order to avoid confusion with country-western line dancing.
Since Queen City’s founding, we have hosted callers and bands from Buffalo, Fredonia, Rochester, Olean, Hamilton, Guelph, Toronto, Albany, Syracuse, Boston, and Madison, WI. We have introduced Buffalo to major performers, including Tony Parkes, David Kaynor, and Larry Unger. We have cosponsored dances with other area recreational groups, introducing new people to the pleasures of contra dance.
In February 1997, Boynton and Van Ness were invited to be panelists at the annual Dance Organizer’s Breakfast at the popular Dance Flurry Festival in Saratoga Springs, NY, where we shared our strategies for successful dance organizing.
As part of our commitment to develop regional talent, Queen City applied to a program offered by the Country Dance and Song Society and won a partial scholarship in August 1998 to send Buffalo caller Dave Brown to a week-long dance camp for caller training.
Though folk dance of any kind rarely gets media attention, Queen City was featured in an article in Buffalo’s Artvoice(November 12, 1997 p.22). In April, 1998, Van Ness was interviewed on WBFO, Buffalo’s public radio station, for Bill Raffel’s Celtic Connection program. In August 1998, Queen City Country Dancers opened the 3rd annual Elmwood Avenue World Beat Music Festival and were featured in the Buffalo News, August 9, 1998, p.C-4.
In 2006, QCCD incorporated as a 501(C)(3) and now has official nonprofit status.