Monthly Archives: February 2013

What Does the Exec Do?

by Jenny Beer, CDSS Vice President

Exec in Sacramento (l-r): Lynn Ackerson, David Millstone, Pat Petersen, David Chandler, Stephen Stiebel, Rima Dael (CDSS director), Jill Allen, Jenny Beer and visiting past president Bruce Hamilton

The CDSS Governing Board (23 people) meets every spring at the CDSS office for two-and-a-half days, and by teleconference or forum as needed, to make decisions that need substantive discussion. This leaves the more routine oversight, planning, and decisions to the nine member Exec, which meets six times a year, twice in person and the rest by teleconference.

Around the time the Exec was meeting in Sacramento recently, I got several queries from dancing friends in California asking, “What does the Exec actually do in their meetings?” Below is what happened at the February 1, 2013 meeting.

Reports are distributed and reviewed before the meeting starts, leaving us time to focus on larger issues. Topics during our Sacramento meeting included:

  • discussing preparations and financing for CDSS’s centennial in 2015
  • approving CDSS’s 2014 budget (a conservative one)
  • discussing CDSS’s strategic direction in becoming a bi-national arts organization, especially the balance between offering member services and promoting larger projects and presence, and then how these might change the role of the Board
  • administrative concerns about cash flow
  • consulting with the Awards committee
  • reviewing Nominating Committee procedures
  • checking on the progress of our various task groups
  • applauding the first of CDSS’s traveling banners, part of the “CDSS in a Box” road kits the office is putting together

Decisions are always better thanks to high quality chocolates that wind their way around the table during our meetings. Thanks to Patty and Paul Larsen for giving us full run of their house and providing lunch as well. We finished our agenda in time to head for the anniversary dinner and dance. What better way to conclude a meeting?

Articles about the Sacramento meeting and the one in Huntsville, AL in November will be in the spring issue of the CDSS News.

Gifts In Memory Of/In Honor Of

I’ve just finished the absorbing and humbling exercise of editing the list of 2012 Donors to CDSS.  You can see the full list here.   Its impressive amplitude is a testament both to the generosity of our supporters and to the depth of feeling that traditional dance, music, and song evoke in those who participate and in the communities they form.

I was particularly struck this year by the number of gifts made in memory of or in honor of someone special.  Interspersed in the full list, you’ll see the names of leading lights of traditional dance, music, and song – some long gone, some recently departed.  A gift in their memory speaks of a wish to honor their contributions, and in many cases reflects a cherished personal history between the donor and the honoree.

Others have shined a light on leaders and communities who matter to them now, today, with a gift in their honor.  And many of you made gifts to honor friends and family members who left us this past year.  Making such a gift is a way of doing something positive and forward-looking in a time of grief and loss.  It is also a public gesture of love to bereft families and friends that says, “I remember, and I will long remember.”


Flurry goers – let’s chat!

I mean it! (photo by Daniel Friedman)

Happy Friday everyone!  Are you headed to The Dance Flurry in Saratoga Springs, NY this weekend?  If you are, look out for our brand NEW CDSS banner!  You can also look out for me.  I will be around all weekend and I’d love to chat with you about CDSS.  I’m happy to talk any time if you have questions or ideas to share.  I would especially love to see you at 3:00 on Sunday afternoon when I’ll be leading an informal discussion session titled “100 Years of CDSS.”  We’ll talk a little bit about the history of CDSS and a lot about our future.  As you know our centennial is coming up in 2015.  One of the most important aspects of the celebration will be community participation: that’s you!  Please come chat with me about your ideas for celebrating and enriching our next 100 years.

CDSS Discussion @ The Flurry

Sunday, Feb. 17

Hilton in the Whitney Room

3:00 – 4:00 pm.

See you soon!

Rima’s Travels–Meeting and Dancing in Sacramento

by Rima Dael, Executive Director

Rima and the Exec in Sacramento (l-r): Lynn Ackerson (CA), David Millstone (NH), Pat Petersen (NC), Stephen Stiebel (NC), David Chandler (NJ), Rima, Jill Allen (KS), Jenny Beer (PA), Linda Lieberman (IA)

So here’s a funny story—I got a cold coming back from a dance weekend! Sound familiar?! (Smile.)

Twice a year, the Executive Committee from the CDSS Board travels to different communities around the US and Canada to meet new people, get to know their communities, have our meeting, and, of course, dance! We do this to be sure we hear from our members and communities about the good things they are doing, what works well for them locally, and what issues they are currently facing.

We had the pleasure of dancing in Sacramento, CA last Friday-Sunday, February 1-3, hosted by the Sacramento Country Dance Society who have been CDSS members since the early 1990s. We were welcomed to the weekend with a Friday night contra, attended by a large, wonderful and energetic group of new and experienced dancers, to the calling of CDSS president David Millstone, with music from Crab Apples, from Monterey, CA. Since this was not their usual contra dance night, active members used Facebook and MeetUp to connect with others in the community to get the word out. And yes, good old-fashioned word-of-mouth helped too.

Friday contra dance; photo by Linda Lieberman

Mike Silver at the 10th anniversary English dance on Saturday; photo by Linda Lieberman

While the CDSS Exec met during the day on Saturday, the English country dancers of Sacramento CDS kicked off their 10th Anniversary Celebration with afternoon workshops by Brooke Friendly. The evening party and dance was led by Sharon Green, Mistress of Ceremonies, with music by Quite Carried Away. Callers of the evening included Lise Dyckman, Alan Winston, Brooke Friendly, Mary Luckhardt, Sharon Green, Linda Lieberman, Pat Petersen, Bob Farley and Bruce Hamilton.

Sunday morning members of the Bay Area CDS and Sacramento CDS had brunch with the CDSS Exec, and we listened to them share the joys and challenges their communities face.

Despite my cold, I retain a warm and welcoming memory of Sacramento, our marvelous hosts, and the vibrant dance community.

Sacramento Country Dance Society (SactoCDS) sponsors contra and English country dances; see their webpage for details.




Ralph Page Dance Legacy Weekend, part 4—The Future is NOW!

by Mary Wesley, CDSS Education Associate


Once and a half around! (Photo by Sharon Schenkel)

This year was the third time I have attended the Ralph Page Dance Legacy Weekend—for me it seems to be turning into something of a pilgrimage. It is difficult to put into words what it feels like to be at this unique event and why I plan to keep coming back. I was two years old when Ralph Page, the “dean of contra dance callers,” died in 1985. I never met him or danced to his calls. So what does this weekend that bears his name hold for me?

The tagline for Ralph Page is “The Essence of the Past Driving the Spirit of the Future.” Parts of the weekend are about glancing backward in time: you will dance more “chestnuts” than you might be used to, see a greater variety of dance forms than appear at most regular contra dances these days and every year there is a “Retrospective Session” explicitly dedicated to honoring past callers, musicians and traditions. But this weekend is not about preservation. Nothing here is under glass. It’s not about how we used to dance, it’s about dancing together now!

Mixed in with chestnuts, triplets, triple-minors and squares are plenty of zesty, modern dances. This year Nils Fredland ran a session called “New New England Dances” featuring all recent dance compositions from New England choreographers set to tunes by Old New England. At this weekend we remember that for every new dance and tune that comes along, there’s one that came before it. People connect the dots between past and present by telling stories, watching old video footage, sharing memories, and folks old and young talking about “how it was” and “how it is now” and what they think of it all. As a result, the dance floor at Ralph Page is full of people who know themselves to be part of a living tradition. I think it makes for some of the richest dancing you’ll find anywhere.

Perhaps one of the nicest illustrations of the “past driving the spirit of the future” this year was the spontaneous Money Musk “moment” that broke out in the cafeteria just after Sunday lunch. Like most dance weekends, jamming abounds at Ralph Page. That afternoon as people were finishing their sandwiches and resting their feet a familiar tune floated through the air. The musicians had hardly played it one time through when a group of five or six excited people (mostly callers) came running over, pushed tables and chairs aside, took hands-six and started dancing Money Musk. More and more furniture was shoved out of the way as the set extended far past the salad bar. We must have danced for at least twenty minutes—maybe longer. It was extraordinary.

And forward six! (Photo by Mary Wesley)

My favorite part of the experience was chatting with the (indefatigable!) musicians afterward. Many of them were under twenty years old and said they were quite surprised to see so many people stand up to dance Money Musk. In recent years there has been quite a push to bring back this centuries-old dance, “this most famous of all New England dances” as Ralph Page called it, and in some ways it’s becoming a bit of a cult classic. In the “old days” the dance would most often be done without a walkthrough and even without calls, probably in someone’s small, farmhouse kitchen. Substitute the UNH cafeteria and call it a “flash mob” and it’s almost the same thing—certainly the same tune. Now those young fiddlers and all those who danced or watched the dance have a memory of something that they created and were part of. They carry on the legacy, from the past into the future.

Everyone who is part of any community dance, contra or square dance event is carrying on the legacy and I think there are so many ways to do it and they are all important. I keep coming back to the Ralph Page Dance Legacy Weekend because it feels so good to gather with so many people who care about this mission. It is a place where I always feel like I have something to learn as well as something to contribute. Twenty years from now I have no doubt I will be dancing at a retrospective session that will look back at something that is happening right now—something that is being created from pieces of the past and present. I’ll be there. Will you?

Some CDSS staff and  board members were at the weekend; for earlier posts, see Part 1, by David Smukler; Part 2, by Pat MacPherson; Part 3, by Rima Dael. Thanks to all for sharing their experiences at this marvelous event.