PORTLAND, Maine – They appear in Congress Square three times a week, in all weather conditions. Freezing cold, torrential rain or scorching heat, it doesn’t matter.
Holding heart-shaped signs above their heads, they twist and turn, dancing to pounding rhythms from a boombox at the corner of High and Congress streets.
Calling itself The Love Factory, the Energetic Clog Grip is on a mission to spread love, peace and joy through movement and music.
Hundreds of cars passing the group on Friday at lunchtime honked their horns. Motorists hung their windows, waving, flashing peace signs and shouting encouragement. The tourists took pictures. A few pedestrians even joined in for a while.
The smiles were abundant.
“There is so much darkness and division and negativity. It constantly sucks our attention, ”said Love Factory founder Krista Donoghue,“ and ringing that bell for a love that’s truly for everyone – for everyone – is something I can give instead. “
The band is loose knitted. The Love Factory does not have meetings or membership fees, although it does have Facebook and Instagram pages. He is not affiliated with any particular spiritual practice or religion other than love itself.
It all started on Valentine’s Day 2012.
“I woke up in the middle of the night and this vision-inspiration came to me,” Donoghue said. “It was about using everything we have – the music, the dance, the art – to draw attention to love.”
Clockwise from left: Krista Donoghue, founder of The Love Factory, holds a heart-shaped sign above her head as she dances in Portland’s Congress Square on Friday, July 16, 2021 at noon; Jill Koufman holds the heart symbol in her eyes in The Love Factory heart above her head while dancing; Passing motorists greet the dancers of The Love Factory. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN
She sees herself as some kind of court jester, someone willing to look a little silly, dancing around the corner, if that gets the job done, brightening up someone’s day. It’s all about courage, daring to smile at strangers, while holding a giant cardboard heart.
The dancing started out as an occasional event, with a few friends. It has become a more regular thing, three times a week during the pandemic. Now, Love Factory dancers can be found in Congress Square for 60 minutes on Wednesdays at 5:30 p.m., Fridays at noon and again on Saturdays at 3:00 p.m.
Jill Koufman, who danced on Friday, started to join us during the winter.
“It made my sparkle – and maybe the whole world. The ripple effect is encouraging, ”she said. “It feels good and it definitely got me out of a COVID depression. “
Around the same time that she started dancing, Donoghue started leaving tiny works of art in the city. Most show the Love Factory logo, a vibrant heart, in one eye, in a larger heart. Giving art has the same purpose as dancing: to spread love and joy through the element of surprise.
Donoghue said she lost track of the exact number of artwork she left around Portland.
Left to Right: Love Factory dancers move to the beat of Portland’s Congress Square on Friday, July 16, 2021; Krista Donoghue, founder of The Love Factory, holds two heart-shaped signs while dancing. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN
“Thousands and thousands now,” she said. “I leave them everywhere: trees, windowsills, telephone poles, bathrooms. “
Soaked in sweat, the Love Factory dancers felt the oppressive heat and humidity on Friday, but held it on for a full hour. Then they gathered in the shade to talk and cool off.
Joy Taylor has been a regular Love Factory dancer since last year. Taylor said she knows what keeps her motivated, even on scorching hot days like Friday.
“Love,” she said, “seeing people’s faces light up, seeing people – even for a few moments – let go of their tension, have a moment of wonder.”