Category Archives: Arts Advocacy

100 Years Ago Today —Sharp & Karpeles Start Collecting Songs

from Donald Hughes, Project Coordinator

CecilandMaudToday, July 25, 2016, marks the centennial of the beginning of the Appalachian song collecting fieldwork of Cecil J. Sharp and Maud Karpeles. The NC Folklife Institute and the Country Dance and Song Society are sponsoring the celebration and recognition of this important work. The Madison County Arts Council, Mars Hill University, the English Folk Dance and Song Society, and others join us in the effort.

One hundred years ago, in the wake of a massive flood of the French Broad River, with stifling heat and disruption, Cecil and Maud set out, with the assistance of John C. and Olive Dame Campbell and Helen Storrow of MA, to travel the Appalachian region, first in Madison County, NC, then in subsequent months and years to other counties and other states, including VA, TN, KY, and WV.

1916 newspapersThe result was a strong appreciation of the influence of traditional English music within Appalachian culture, a regard that continues to this day. As with all things American, this influence blended with many other traditions in forming the very vibrant state of music throughout the region.

Please take a look at our website (cecilsharpinappalachia.org). There will be frequent postings that will reflect the progress of Sharp and Karpeles travels in 1916 during this year.

A centennial is a good marker of durability and meaning. We are pleased to be a part of this recognition. And we hope you enjoy the reprise of this journey.

 

Making the World a More Beautiful Place

by Chris Ricciotti

ChrisRicciottiExcept for the first paragraph, which is from recent correspondence, this essay was posted on Facebook; it’s reprinted here with the author’s kind permission.

“I think it’s important to see that dancing and music, song, community, the intentional connections we all make as a part of this tradition, is incredibly spiritual, and healing, on so many levels. In a time when there are so many distractions in our fast paced technology driven society that can pull us away from being connected face to face with others, here is one thriving tradition that continues to break the rules of our modern day society and gives us a fun and playful excuse to come together to share in something much greater than we are individually.”

FACEBOOK POST

In 1985 at 25 years of age, when I came out as a gay man, the world was a very different place than what it is now. At 55 years of age now, those of you who are much younger than I may not have the perspective that we who are a bit more mature have. Back then, there were few social groups, and most of the community was based around bars and other associated events.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but I can speak for myself when I say that this was just not what I was looking for in my coming out process. I really wanted something very different that was not the mainstream part of what it was to be gay back then. I wanted to be a real human being, not just a gay human being, and I wanted to share good times with good folks, sharing healthy social time in a warm and inclusive environment. Never in all that time did I ever imagine that I could intertwine two very different worlds, my love of music and dance and my exploration of being a gay man. In fact early on, before I came out, I distinctly remember the moment when I had this amazing epiphany, and in that moment, it was the most exciting thing that had ever come to mind. And just as quickly I dismissed it.

It wasn’t until I joined a men’s choral group in Providence, RI in 1986 where all that was to change. I overheard a conversation one evening, a friend of mine at the time, Bill Wilson, mentioned he has gone to see a Gay Rodeo out in Denver, CO. I couldn’t even imagine of such an event back then, but then he went on to say that afterwards he went to a square dance. My ears immediately perked up, and I turned around and asked, “You mean, a GAY square dance??” He replied, “Yes, they have been doing it out there for years.” As soon as I heard that, I knew I had to find a way to merge these two worlds together, and now 30 years later, we have a documentary of the power of what the vision of one person, shared with an entire community, can do.

To all those who have shared this vision, and who continue to help in its course and in its future, to all those lovely individuals who have at one time or another graced our dance halls and dance camps with your presence, and to all those who have shared that this amazing community has helped them through their rough times in their lives, and have helped connect them to a warm and accepting group of like-minded individuals and lifelong friendships, I say a heartfelt thank you.

It is because of all of you, who like myself, needed something a bit out of the ordinary, who desired a community of warm and accepting individuals, who understand that we can all make a difference, who understand the social power of dance, music, song, hugs, and the social interactions, that some 30 years later, we have this amazing community that continues to welcome lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender, asexuals, intersex, queer, questioning, and straight friends. What an amazing diversity in a social time where there is so much extremism pulling at us from all sides. I take great comfort in sharing myself within this community. I know my life would be very different had it not been for LCFD.

Please take a moment to watch this video. Please share this with your friends and families. Invite people to come and join us, and share this love with others. Each of us has the power to make this world a more beautiful place!

Lavender Country and Folk Dancers (LCFD) has been working with filmmaker Nate Daniel on a full-length documentary about their dance community which is expected to be released in 2017. This short video is a preview of the longer documentary.

LCFD sponsors, supports and promotes a nationwide network of local gender-free community dances and dance camps. Their groups are mostly contra and English country dances, but they also encompass several other dance traditions. While their focus is LGBTQ communities, they welcome everyone to their dances and camps.

Chris Ricciotti is a dance caller and organizer and a member of LCFD’s Board of Directors; he lives in Massachusetts.

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.

 

Trad Dance & Music Exhibit Opens in New Hampshire

by Lisa Sieverts

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Image: mid-1850s Dance Prompter’s Notebook

Interested in the history of contra and square dance? Come to Peterborough, New Hampshire, to view an exhibit opening on January 24, 2015:  “Gents Bow, Ladies Know How: Traditional Dance and Music in the Monadnock Region 1750-2015.”

“Gents Bow, Ladies Know How” traces the long history of traditional dance and music in southwestern New Hampshire from Colonial times to the present, with an emphasis on the 18th and 19th centuries. The Monadnock region of New Hampshire is one of the few places in the country where these dances have been done continuously since the mid-1700s.

The exhibit features artifacts, documents, instruments, photographs and audio recordings.  In addition to the on-going exhibit, there will be a series of presentations scheduled monthly beginning in February.

“Gents Bow, Ladies Know How” will be open to the public through May 23, 2015. The Monadnock Center’s regular hours are Wednesday through Saturday, 10 AM to 4 PM, and admission is $3.00 (free for Monadnock Center and Country Dance and Song Society members). The exhibit takes place in the historic Monadnock Center building in Peterborough, New Hampshire at 19 Grove Street.

Two local organizations, the Monadnock Center for History and Culture and the Monadnock Folklore Society, have partnered to develop this exhibit. Generous grant funding was received from the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts. In addition, the Animal Care Clinic-Monadnock has sponsored the exhibit—the owner is the grandson of the caller Duke Miller.

The Country Dance and Song Society was the inspiration for this exhibit—the idea arose as the Monadnock Folklore Society brainstormed how to participate in the celebration of the CDSS Centennial.

For more information call 603-924-3235 or visit http://www.MonadnockCenter.org.

The Monadnock Center for History and Culture is a community museum that has been dedicated to preserving and celebrating local history and culture since its founding in 1902. The Monadnock Folklore Society was founded in 1980 to increase the visibility of folk dance and music events in southern New Hampshire and provide educational services in the folk arts to the community.

Lisa Sieverts is an experienced project manager and facilitator, and owner of Facilitated Change. She is a longtime contra dancer and caller, and a regular caller at Nelson, NH’s Monday night dances. Lisa is a CDSS member and a member of the Monadnock Folklore Society’s board.

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Monadnock region of New Hampshire, named after Mount Monadnock

 

 

To dance, to sing, perhaps to play music

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photo by Jeff Bary

Can you make difficult class choices? Say, from an enticing menu of contras, squares and waltz? Are you up for a strong program of Appalachian, American Southern and Irish traditions? Can you take contras morning, noon and night? If your answer is “Just try me!” then CDSS’s American Dance and Music Week, August 9-16, 2014, at Pinewoods Camp is for you, whether you do it ALL or take a more leisurely approach.

We’ll have two daily stretching sessions to keep you loose and limber, morning contras and waltz to wake you up, and afternoon squares and more challenging contras to spice up the mix. And more dancing in the evening too. Can’t dance all day? Not a problem. Bring your instruments and your voices because this week promises a full program of music classes and more, and you’ll be able to play and sing with your heart and soul. Want even more choices? How about getting messy and creative with paper, paint, glue and who-knows-what else in the daily community art class? Or sit on the porch or swim, jam or nap. Hmmm.

There will be a wealth of talent to inspire and encourage you, and there will be friends, old and new, all under the pine trees in a beautiful wooded setting near Plymouth, MA. Join Program Director Sue Rosen, and experience American Dance and Music Week.

See the class schedule, class descriptions or staff list, learn about Pinewoods Camp or about our other summer weeks. And here’s info about fees and scholarships.

This is an amazing week—vibrant and relaxing, both. Not a bad choice, huh? See you there!

Sue Rosen has been dancing all of her life and attended her first callers workshop at Campers’ Week at Pinewoods in 1989. Since then she’s become one of New England’s favorite callers and has written contras that have become part of the standard repertoire of dance callers across the country and overseas.

Pinewoods Camp, near Plymouth, MA, and home to the Country Dance and Song Society’s programs since 1933, is a beautiful setting, creating a retreat where you can immerse yourself in nature, music and dance; see a slideshow of the facility.

The Country Dance and Song Society is a traditional dance and music organization, celebrating its Centennial in 2015.

 

Lifetime Contribution Award for 2014 goes to…

LCA_jim morrison

Jim Morrison

 

Jim Morrison of Charlottesville, VA, will be this year’s recipient of the CDSS Lifetime Contribution Award.

Jim brought youthful enthusiasm and strong connections to emerging contra, morris and sword dance movements when he started work for CDSS in late 1970. Serving as National Director from 1975 to 1977, he then continued as part time Artistic Director after moving to Virginia. Jim & Marney MorrisonIf you have danced Jack’s Health, Young Widow, late night Kerry sets, or played Puncheon Floor or Buck Mountain, his influence was there. Jim wrote 24 Early American Country Dances (CDSS, 1976,) founded the Greenwich and Albemarle Morris Men, and has recorded five albums of traditional dance music. An early family week advocate, creator of American Week at Pinewoods, and multi-genre dance fiddler, Jim has continued throughout his half century career to teach and play for contra, square, English, morris, sword, flatfoot, and Irish set dancing all over North America. We are delighted to honor him this year. Details about the award presentation will be announced later this year.

Are You Committed to Dance Organizing?

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Gaye Fifer, dance organizer extraordinaire

Then our special Dance Organizers Course is for you. Led by Gaye Fifer and held during CDSS’s English & American Dance Week at Pinewoods (EAP), August 23-30, 2014, the course is designed for people involved in organizing their home dance community—contra, square, English, adult or family. Two one-hour sessions will be held each afternoon to discuss and strategize about issues that affect local dances. Sharing, questioning, collaborating and connecting will be our watchwords as we interview guest speakers from the EAP staff, create solutions to problems, brainstorm, practice and give feedback. We’ll create a network of support and a toolkit of ideas that each participant can take home. You’ll have fun, learn a lot and your local community will benefit. And for the rest of the day and evening, the wonderful resources of English & American Dance Week are yours.

English dance at E&A Week, Pinewoods Camp, MA

English and American Dance Week, home this summer to Dance Organizers Course (Doug Plummer)

If you know people in your community who are “up and coming” leaders, send them this message and link; the course is also useful to people wanting to start a dance. Scholarship help is still available.

MORE INFO
daily schedule
class descriptions
staff list
fees
scholarships
more info about the course
our other weeks

Ready to join in the organizing? Register here.

Course leader Gaye Fifer has been calling at dance weekends for many years. Her pleasant style and graceful teaching put dancers at ease and set the stage for a great dance experience. She has also taught numerous waltz workshops at virtually every dance weekend in the East and travels whenever she gets the opportunity. Gaye has a passionate interest in organizing to support dance community leaders and organizers.

Pinewoods Camp, near Plymouth, MA, and home to the Country Dance and Song Society’s programs since 1933, is a beautiful setting, creating a retreat where you can immerse yourself in nature, music and dance; see a slideshow of the facility.

The Country Dance and Song Society is a traditional dance and music organization, celebrating its Centennial in 2015.

“Nobody remotely like him…”—Pete Seeger (1919-2014)

Text and photos by Stewart Dean

576A3583 (Medium)Nobody remotely like him, and a towering example to us all of a life well led, decently, indomitably, with heart, conviction and a burning sense of fairness and compassion.

Attached are some pictures I took of him last summer at the Summer Hoot at Ashokan.  He was then so frail, but his spirit was still fierce.

When he wasn’t at the mic or talking to someone, he would look out into space as if gazing into eternity…with utter calm.  It seemed to me he could have, at any time, stepped into the void….utterly surrendered and unafraid

He has now turned and turned….which he wrote: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GbPl91kTFro

His voice has been faltering but him never.

“…in our direst need, the smallest gifts: the nail of the horseshoe, the pin of the axle, the feather at the pivot point, the pebble at the mountain’s peak, the kiss in despair, the one right word.

In darkness, understanding.”

(“Dy Cabon’s Prayer to the Bastard,” by Lois McMaster Bujold, Paladin of Souls)

576A3651 (Medium)_2576A3638 (Medium)576A3631 (Medium)

 

Youth Traditional Song: The New Kid’s Tale

by Zoë Madonna

10201_10201832828280265_1026612310_n_zoe madonna at 2014 yts_by Suzanne Mrozak

I was the Doctor in the mummer’s play. My role was a) to use the tiny flask and revive the Soldier and the Sailor after they had fought and killed each other, and b) make a glaringly obvious Doctor Who joke. (Photo by Suzanne Mrozak)

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “youth” as “the time of life when someone is young” or “the early period of existence, growth, or development.” Something or someone is “youthful” when it “[has] or [shows] the freshness or energy of someone who is young,” or is “in an early stage of development.” With that in mind, was Youth Trad Song, which took place during the first weekend of January, a “youth” event? To encourage young people to attend Youth Trad Song, admission was balanced 80% “young” (under 50) and 20%  “young at heart” (over 50). Still, 40 or 45 years old is not considered a “youth” under most definitions; what, then, makes Youth Trad Song a youth event?

The answer to that question is involvement and openness. Before the weekend, a schedule of staff-led workshops was posted on the website, but the directing committee also actively sought submissions for camper-led workshops, with the reminder that anyone could schedule one at the last minute at the weekend; all that a would-be workshop leader had to do was write the location and the theme of the workshop on the giant schedule on the dining room wall. The result was a delightful, spontaneous hodgepodge of song (“Around the World in 80 Songs,” “the anti-pub sing,” “Georgian and Ukrainian harmony singing,” “camp songs with Jillian and Eevy!”) filling up every corner of the handful of buildings YTS occupied. There was room to create, and share creations and ideas; the only thing that everyone was asked to do for the weekend was learn “West Indies Blues” to sing together at the first dinner. The crowd didn’t even make it ten feet before breaking into “Bringing in the Sheaves,” kicking off a song circle that lasted till three AM.

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Sam Kleinman leads a song from the new shapenote tune book, The Shenandoah Harmony. (Photo by Zoë Madonna)

A perfect example of the kind of organic creativity YTS’s environment cultivates:  I participated in a mummer’s play during the open mic on Saturday night, in honor of Twelfth Night. The idea of doing the play had been brought up just that morning at breakfast by Marvin Warren, who had seen a good number of Twelfth Night plays but had yet to take part. After a bit of tossing ideas around at lunch (St. George? Sarcastic dragon?), we gathered enough people (Soldier, Sailor, Doctor, Chimney Sweep) to perform the stock play in the song “Rise Up, Jock.” We picked parts, added parts where they were needed (Old Father Christmas made an appearance in the guise of Brad from the Foggy Bottom Morris Men), we gathered and made props (most out of paper bags and duct tape, in keeping with the Paper Bag Mummers of Waltham’s tradition), learned the chorus to the song, found stock lines and insults thanks to Lynn Noel’s iPad, and found a willing stooge whose open mic performance Marvin (playing the fool) could interrupt by shouting “Room! Room!” and banging on a pan, announcing the arrival of the mummers. Five minutes before we went on, a woman named Rose volunteered to be Beelzebub and pass the hat at the end of the play, and we ended up raising some money for next year’s Youth Trad Song scholarship fund.

What does it take to be young at heart, or youthful? Some of the attendees, like myself, were at very early stages of our lives as folk singers. But then there were people at the event who have been singing for 50+ years, who have well established identities as performers and singers and leaders in folk and traditional music communities.  I wouldn’t have been too surprised if the veterans had cliqued up and did their thing while us kids did our thing, as I sometimes see at contra dance events. Instead, everyone sang like they were new and youthful and open to everything they heard, celebrating each contribution alike.

A singer, dancer, musician—and Oberlin junior―Zoë Madonna is interning with CDSS this month.

Small to Large Gifts—It All Helps!

by Rima Dael and Caroline Batson

Help us Help Teachers! CDSS + Valley Gives, Thursday 12/12/13, until midnight

CDSS VGIt’s Valley Gives Day, 12/12/13, the 24-hour e-philantrophy event! This year CDSS is raising funds to create online toolkits to help teachers and parents bring the rich heritage of North American and English traditional dance, music and song to more classrooms and communities. See recent blogs on CDSS’s website about why we think this is important.

Here’s what a gift, small or large, can do for us:

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Photo by Daniel Friedman

$12—Why give $12? Because today is 12/12! $12 is meaningful because it is about what one can spend on coffee easily in a week, if you’re getting regular coffee. If you’re getting lattes, $12 doesn’t get you through the whole week, but $12 is a meaningful commitment to help CDSS help teachers bring dance, music and song into classrooms.

$20—Dance, music and song are important in the lives of children. See Nils Fredland’s blog about teacher support. And this just in, we’ve got more requests from other schools to replicate the teacher training he just did with CDSS member David Wiley!

Erin Nolan_Karana and JuliaFWP2012$53—A tank of gas. We travel to speak to teachers and artists. CDSS Education Director, Pat MacPherson, used a tank of gas to go learn about the Common Core State Standards at a creativity conference where she met a professor from Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in North Adams, MA. At this conference there was learning and networking with teachers on how to use the Arts with the Common Core State Standards now adopted by most States.

$100—Online resources for teachers. We’ve talked to teachers who have asked us to provide them with online resources. Why online? It saves them time! Online resources will showcase teaching notes and how other teachers have used dance, music and song in their classrooms. Let’s make this happen for them!

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Photo by Paul Bestock

$250—We want to get with it, electronically! We have some great resources for teachers that exist in binder and booklet format, but need to embrace the 21st century to digitize and update these resources for use online.

$500—Tablets have become a great resource in the classroom. Not as heavy as a laptop, and a good way to read book, articles, research on the go and show videos. The e-book format is exciting for us as we envision a resource that will connect theory to practice and right on the same page a “how-to” video or audio! We’re excited to make this happen.

Donate before midnight! CDSS + Valley Gives