Category Archives: Centennial

Talking Square

SD panel (cropped)

Rima (3rd from right) representing CDSS at the 2015 National Square Dance Convention (photo by David Millstone)

We had the privilege of participating in a national organization panel at the National Square Dance Convention, late last month in Springfield, MA. Colleagues on the panel represented: CALLERLAB (http://www.callerlab.org), Contralab (http://www.contralab.net), Alliance of Round, Traditional and Square-Dance (http://www.arts-dance.org), United Square Dancers of America (http://www.usda.org/), Roundalab (http://www.roundalab.org), and the Canadian Square and Round Dance Society (http://www.csrds.ca). CDSS was invited to be on the panel and we were represented by Executive Director, Rima Dael.

Topics of discussion included:

  • What are the challenges facing folk dancing today?
  • What does your organization consider the greatest priorities to address?
  • Are there possibilities of sharing and coordinating projects to address these issues together?
  • What are your near term goals (next five years)?
  • What needs to happen so that we can expect active participation in the various forms of dance for the next 100 years?

Rima shared that we think the biggest challenge for our dance, music and song communities is time and money. With enough of both, all problems or challenges could be solved, but given that both time and money are scarce resources for all nonprofits and volunteer groups, we focus on three ways to help our communities be resilient:

  • building a pipeline of dancers, callers, musicians and organizers
  • problem identification/problem solving through sharing common issues and best practices
  • communication best practices online and offline

(These are three areas CDSS has identified through the Strategic Direction and specifically articulated in the “CDSS Theory of Change” section in our recent Education Report.

All the panelists shared concerns around time, money and cultivating volunteers needed to help keep our organizations going, and involving the younger folks in stewarding our art forms. Ironically, with many questions raised about how to involve youth, none were present in the conversation. Rima posed that we need to ask our younger constituents how to better engage them, and to consider defining what we mean when we say “youth”—in some instances, it could mean 40 or under, or students K–12, or young adults.

There was a lot of discussion around involving next generation and youth participants. CDSS was the only organization on the panel that promotes intergeneration programs and has weeklong summer camps that teach kids, youth and young adults dance, music and song skills.

It was an interesting discussion as the national organizations represented are all arts service organizations that serve their membership with programs and services from insurance to skill-building and best practice workshops. One thing we can learn from the Modern Western Square Dance groups are how connected many of them are with their local/regional Tourism Boards and the use of assisted hearing devices that are in sync with the caller’s microphone; these are two areas CDSS would like to investigate more. David Millstone, CDSS President, also in attendance at the panel discussion (and, in his teacher/caller’s role, leading several dance workshops at the Convention), shared with the panel and audience the new New Hampshire Art Council social dance map, based on West Virginia’s Mountain Trail Dance Map.

It was great to see so many folks in downtown Springfield, from all over the country, dressed in their formal square dance attire. This was the Convention’s first visit to New England; we look forward to seeing them again soon.

 

American Week, Pinewoods 2014

by Chuck Abell

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Photo by Garrett Fondoules

When I first heard about the Country Dancers of Rochester (CDR) scholarship program for CDSS camps, I developed an immediate interest. As a new caller—and as an experienced musician—I was looking for any opportunities to hone my skills in both areas, and just to collaborate with other callers and musicians.

Having never been to Pinewoods before, I was initially struck by the mellow, woodsy environment, along with the two beautiful lakes/ponds situated next to the camp. Pinewoods is truly a New England paradise. The next revelation was the outdoor dance pavilion, again tucked back in the woods. There really is nothing like dancing outdoors in a covered pavilion in mid-August. From the first night it was evident that magical things would happen in the pavilion over the course of the week—in many ways, it was really the center of the camp. The final thing that struck me right from the start was the diversity and the energy of the campers. I confess, I was bracing for something perhaps a little more on the stuffy side when I first registered, but that notion was well wide of the mark —teenagers, college students, young couples, middle-agers, and more “seasoned” dancers all converged at the camp for a week of creativity and true rejuvenation.

Some snapshots of the next six days:

  • Gathering at 10 am every morning for Phil Jamison’s Southern Squares class. What a great tradition, and a great teacher. Having no sense of what distinguished a Southern Square from a New England or Western square, I quickly came to understand that Southern Squares are about improvisation, about calling to the beat of the music, not to the phrasing. What a liberation! For the rest of the week, we took turns inventing—and calling—squares to the great old time music of Julie Metcalf and company, always under the skillful guidance of Phil, who really seems to me to be David Kaynor’s long-lost Southern brother! Well, brothers in spirit at least….
  • David Cantieni’s “tunes by ear” class which became a virtual playground of ideas and genres. Being one of the few instrumental “ensemble” classes, we were charged with preparing each evening’s “processional”—a joyous musical march through the darkening woods just before the evening dance. (“When the Saints Go Marching In” never sounded so good!)
  • The daily camp gathering that followed morning classes, but preceded swimming and lunch. A time for jokes, songs, stories, contests, and other spontaneous acts of generosity by staff and campers alike. It was the one time of the day when we really came together as a single camp, and it was an honor to see otherwise taciturn campers get up and perform in front of 150 audience members.
  • The Roadhouse after-dance party, midweek. Okay, I’m biased here—being one-third of the nominal “house band” charged with backing up a small parade of crooners, blues singers, and jazz soloists—with a room full of enthusiastic swing, blues, and bossa nova dancers—is right where it’s at for me. They pretty much had to drag us off the stage at 1:30 am.
  • Emily Troll’s music ensemble class—that is, band class for musicians. Okay, I confess, some of the “touchy/feely” interpersonal games at the start of each class reminded me a little too much of the upcoming school year (not an image I wanted to entertain), but once we got past those, the class was really useful and helped spawn several small instrumental ensembles that took the stage at Camper’s Night (see below).
  • Gaye Fifer’s “Dutch Crossing”—hard to really put this into words, but definitely a highlight of the week. Look it up on YouTube if you want. Basically, a dance that requires 16 couples, takes 55 (intense) minutes to teach, and five minutes to actually dance. A great teamwork activity.
  • Swimming Squares. Yes, real Southern square dances, performed while swimming in the lake. Not only hilarious but a great form of exercise. Just be careful when “ducking for the oyster.”
  • Camper’s Night—a true highlight. A chance for (very talented) campers to run the evening dance. Somehow, I ended up in five to six music ensembles, so I never got to dance until the second half, but it was well worth it. A memorable, and somewhat revolutionary, segment: David Cantieni’s entire ear training class joined by Ann Percival’s entire chorus class performing “Wimoweh” as a contra dance set. It actually works!

And the list of highlights goes on: the food, the lodges, the pre-dinner parties, the after-dance parties, the midnight swimming, the networking, the afternoon old time jam sessions led by Larry Unger, the not-so impromptu marshmallow fight at dinner one night, the full moon over the lake as I drifted to sleep in my bunkhouse…

Looking back, both my calling and my playing have improved as a result of being at American Week—not only do I have an expanded repertoire of dances and tunes, but my skills have sharpened considerably. Had it not been for the CDR grant, and matching CDSS scholarship, I most certainly would have missed out on an invaluable experience.

Chuck Abell is a contra dance caller and musician from Rochester, NY. His band, Tempest, featuring fiddler Tim Ball and several other great western NY musicians, just released its first full-length CD, Equilibrium, and will be touring extensively over the next year to promote the release. Keep an eye out for them, or visit www.chuckabell.com for more info on the band.

Come to American Dance and Music Week at Pinewoods, August 8-15, http://www.cdss.org/american.html. Or the equally fine Harmony of Song and Dance, July 25-August 1, http://www.cdss.org/harmony.html. Space is available, and so are scholarship funds until we run out. To read about all our programs at Pinewoods (MA), Ogontz (NH) and Timber Ridge (WV), see https://view.publitas.com/country-dance-and-song-society/country-dance-song-society-2015-camps/page/1. Questions? Call Country Dance and Song Society, 413-203-5467 x 2.

 

Spread The Joy—It’s a slogan, it’s a song!

by Jonathan Jensen

Musician, songwriter and longtime CDSS member Jonathan Jensen, of Baltimore, sent us this lovely gift of his song in honor of our Centennial in 2015. It debuted on March 24, during Celebration Week. Download a PDF of the sheet music or listen to Jonathan and friends sing the song here. Or hear the song and watch the video here.

MuseScore_ Spread The JoyIn the CDSS world, I’m most active playing piano for English country dance, contra dance and couple dancing, as well as writing tunes in all these genres. Lately, though, I’ve become increasingly busy writing songs ranging from goofy parodies like The Tea Chantey to rounds and serious ballads. So as the 100th anniversary of CDSS approached I had a mind to write some kind of tribute in words and music. It was hard to get a handle on this project until I noticed the slogan “Spread The Joy” on one of the organization’s mailings. Once I decided on those three words as the title and the theme, the song all but wrote itself. There are so many ways we all spread the joy of music, dance, story and song in our various communities that I probably could have come up with dozens of verses (although the requirements of rhyme and meter do impose certain limitations).

Once the song was written, I e-mailed a quick demo to CDSS headquarters, where it was well received. There was a thought of posting it on the website and Facebook page right away, but on reflection it was decided to make a professional recording with multiple voices that could be used as the basis of a video. There followed an e-mail and phone barrage to many likely participants and the inevitable poring over schedules to decide who the final cast would be and when we could all get together. I was very fortunate to have Charlie Pilzer offer his services and studio (Airshow Mastering) for free. Terry Leonino and Greg Artzner, who make up the celebrated duo Magpie are friends of the Pilzers, and kindly volunteered to take part. Veteran dance musicians Steve Hickman and John Devine signed on to sing and play. Multi-instrumentalist Paul Oorts offered to round out the texture on mandolin. And when I decided we should have a teenage singer to represent the next generation, Steve got his daughter Maren to come along—and his wife DeLaura Padovan joined in for good measure.

On the evening of February 15 we all met at Charlie’s studio in Takoma Park. After a few run-throughs we worked out an arrangement that suited all the voices and made a number of takes, with me handling string bass duties. None of our readings were perfect all the way through, but we got to see Charlie work his wizardry as he swiftly replaced a faulty note or phrase from one take with a better version from another. We look forward to sharing the song with our friends across the nation as we join in celebrating the first 100 years of the Country Dance and Song Society.

CDSS is delighted to have its own song for the Centennial—we look forward to singing it with friends and humming it as we work. Thank you, Jonathan, for writing it; thanks to Charlie, Terry, Greg, Steve, John, Paul, Maren and DeLaura for the audio recording; and thanks to Mary Wesley for the video.

Storytelling at Ralph Page Dance Legacy Weekend

The 2015 Ralph Page Dance Legacy Weekend was a special one for CDSS.  Each year the weekend hosts a “retrospective session;” several hours of the dance weekend dedicated to honoring and exploring some component of dance/music traditions and history.  This year the session was focused on our Centennial: “100 Years of CDSS: The Country Dance and Song Society.”

Thanks to the herculean efforts of Adina Gordon, the organizer and emcee of the session, speakers and performers from far and wide gathered to speak about the multi-faceted history of CDSS and how the organization has touched their lives.  We heard from our current Executive Director, Rima Dael, as well as current Board President David Millstone (of course David called a few dances as well.)  Fred Breunig called an English Country Dance and shared memories of dancing with May Gadd at Pinewoods.  We heard from Tom Kruskal about leading the first morris tour of the Pinewoods Morris Men in Harvard Yard and then he grabbed his concertina and jumped down to accompany Jacqueline and Dudley Laufman as they played Highland Mary for the Canterbury morris side (Dudley will tell you this is the largest morris team in the world whose entire membership lives in the same town!) Dudley Laufman also spoke about dancing Money Musk and bringing his ever rebellious spirit to CDSS camps.  Carol Ormand, one of the weekend’s staff callers, shared memories of learning to call squares from Ted Sannella at camp and then of course she called one.  The session closed with a big circle mixer with great tunes from Rodney Miller, David Surette and Gordon Peery.

The Weekend was a Passport to Joy event and Passport stickers were flying off their sheets; for many this was the first stamp they’d received.  CDSS had a small selection from our store set up as well as some historical materials shared from the timeline on the new Centennial website.  During the weekend Pat MacPherson and I were also collecting stories for the CDSS Story Project.  Dancers answered three questions:

      1. I started dancing in: ____(year)____.
      2. I was ____ years old.
      3. I went dancing because: _________.

You can view all the wonderful responses here on our Flickr photostream.  I also loved seeing people reading the stories, which we posted on the wall and talking with each other about their memories and experiences.  It was nice to see first hand the kind of sharing and bonding we hope will emerge by giving people the opportunity to share stories about the traditions we all love.  Visit the story project home page to learn about collecting stories in your own community.

CDSS thanks the Ralph Page Dance Legacy Weekend and all who attended for being part of our Centennial celebration!