Category Archives: Camps & Programs

Bravo Brad—part two with video highlights!

by Rima Dael, Executive Director

As promised, I said I’d follow up with another blog on the Bravo Brad event from the end of August with a video montage and thoughts from others. Here is the link to the video!

Thoughts from others…

David Millstone, CDSS Board President
“Bravo Brad!” brought a series of CDSS luminaries and other “Friends Of Brad” from such diverse locations as Ontario, California, Seattle, and Florida to pay a well-deserved homage to the man who led CDSS for more than two decades. Not shown on this edited video are the many other parts of the evening–two musical tributes by Laurie Andres on accordion and Jacqueline Schwab on piano, brief comments by Rima and myself, a terrific demonstration of rapper dance put on by members of the Pinewoods camp crew, and a series of hilarious skits organized by Karen Axelrod. The evening dance program included dances written for Brad, including two commissioned by the CDSS Board–an English country dance (by Gary Roodman, tune by Jonathan Jensen) and a contra (Steve Zakon-Anderson)–and a waltz (by Jonathan) written for Brad and his wife, Barbara. It was a lovely event.

Sharon Green, Bravo Brad Committee
What a wonderful gathering of the clans at English Week to celebrate Brad’s 28 years leading CDSS. It was a joy to see folks from as far away as Tom Siess (London, Ontario) and Ellen Judson (Seattle), there to pay tribute to Brad and to thank him for all he’s done for CDSS and for us all.

Jackie Algon, Past CDSS Board Member, Bravo Brad Committee
When someone as giving and impactful as Brad Foster gives 28 years of his life-energy to an organization, it is very satisfying to thank him in a way that he’ll recognize is from our individual and our collective hearts. The event was truly joyful and gratifying as evidenced by the smiles on everyone I saw and the happy feedback I heard later, and the special guests who made their ways to Pinewoods to toast Brad added wonderful warmth to the evening’s festivities. My thanks to all of those who worked to make Bravo Brad! so special for Brad and his family, and for the community as a whole. And, to Brad: Bravo!

Steve Howe, Director of Programs, Bravo Brad Committee
We turned 4 hours of English Dance Week on its head, shifting dinner, moving dessert, adding a few guests and toasting Brad for his 28 years of leadership of CDSS. It is clear that Brad is still a very active part of this community, directing English Week, traveling to call, and supporting the ongoing work and mission of the Society. Bravo Brad!

Yes, Bravo Brad indeed!

Cheers, Rima

Video by David Millstone

Rima at Camp—part 7: Adult & Family Week at Timber Ridge

A series of summer blogs by CDSS Executive Director Rima Dael:

Hello from Timber Ridge! Our first full day at camp greeted us with cool weather. I had a lovely morning chatting and dancing with caller Ralph Sweet. I dropped into Gaye Fifer’s “Young Leader Course” session this morning and I helped Abby Ladin teach “tinikling,” a Filipino folk dance, to the 8-9 year old group.

Many campers are sharing their ideas for our Centennial Celebration—lots of good stuff to bring back to the office and the centennial planning task groups!

I leave tomorrow morning bright and early before breakfast to drive to the Baltimore airport to fly home. Then off to Pinewoods at the end of the week!

Cheers, Rima

Young Leaders Course, led by Gaye Fifer

Advanced English country dance class, led by Joseph Pimentel


20 tables of 8 Celebration at Pinewoods

CDSS camp

Scene from camp (photo by Sarah Pilzer)

It will come as no surprise to anyone who has been to a CDSS session at Pinewoods in the last 20 years, that the camp is a special place for me and my family. Meg, Ruth, Sam and I were all at the recent celebration of the rebuilt kitchen: “Twenty Tables of Eight.” It was a very nice event with representation from the four user groups, pond neighbors and former crew. We were entertained by an Early Music wind ensemble, a morris team and a longsword team, each boasting at least one Pinewoods board member. After the very nice dinner and a fun and successful auction, we went to C# for a mix of Scottish, English, American and International dances. Most of us were bumbling beginners at some part of the evening, but we all jumped in and had a great time. This was a wonderful coming together of the various communities that all use and love Pinewoods Camp.
With the reworked kitchen and dining area, there will be some earth-shifting changes for us to get used to:

  • There is a large serving window between the kitchen and the serving area of the dining hall so only the crew and the dishwashers will enter the kitchen at all; the rest of us don’t need to know about IN and OUT doors.
  • The bell is in a cupola with a bell pull ending in a wooden handle that I just brush my head on; harder for kids to ring unassisted (aw shucks), not deafening to those already in line, audible from further away, and useless in shushing a chatty dining hall to cue announcements and/or dessert time. Time for a new cue: Bosun’s whistle? Hand bell? I guess I will stick with: “Good Evening Ladies and Gentlemen and Welcome to …” and look for Dining Hall managers with a good set of lungs!
  • The line of people delivering dishes and leftovers to the dish window will not block the exit; we will have to find other places and excuses to stop and chat with each other.

Beyond those jolts to our habits, I think we will all recognize the place, the great food, the refreshing swims, the starlit nights, and, above all else, the friends, new and old, gathered for the dancing, singing, and music making.

If you are not already registered to a CDSS week at camp and scheduled to experience these delights, there is still space at 5 of the Pinewoods weeks as well as at Timber Ridge. Come join us for English and/or American dance, singing and music making from across the centuries.

~ Steve Howe

Take great dance photos

You’re probably familiar with Doug Plummer’s stunning photos of dancers — he documents dance events across the country, showcasing some of his favorite images in his Contra Dance Photo Project Facebook page. He’s now offering a workshop on how to photograph a dance, as part of this awesome camp lineup from our affiliate group BACDS in the Bay Area.

How to take dance photos that don’t suck
at BACDS American Week, July 1-6, 2012, Jones Gulch, CA
A workshop by Doug Plummer

contra dance

(photo by Doug Plummer)

Over the course of a week, we will work on how to improve your photos and video of dancing. This is specifically geared to the non-professional, with whatever image-capture device you bring to the camp. If you’ve got a fancy DSLR but don’t know how to use it, fine. If you’ve got an iPhone, great! The gear isn’t the point. The way to deploy it is.

We will cover approaches to find the compelling photograph, and not just hope that it finds its way to your camera by accident. The great advantage we have as documentarians is that we are dancers. We know what it feels like to dance, and we are sensitive to the compelling moment. We need to bring that awareness of the dance to the craft of photography.

For example—watch the walk-through. Notice where the most interesting moment in the dance is. Now, when the dance starts, watch for that moment. Don’t worry about the rest of the sequence. Find out where you need to stand to make that moment interesting. You’ve got lots of chances to whack away at it. You’ll get a little better each time.

If you’ve got a laptop, bring it. We will cover how to edit and process your image files, and how to share them. We will have group critiques, and I will help you improve your shooting.

Help bring and end to boring dance coverage. Come to camp.

Want to see more of Doug’s dance pics? Check out these three albums and this video, all from our English & American Week at Pinewoods last summer.

We still have a few of his gorgeous 2012 Contradance Calendar left in our store (now only $10!), if you have somehow been limping along without a copy of your own.

Lomax lesson plans

Andy Davis teaching at OgontzThe Association for Cultural Equity provides a useful array Teaching Resources for the classroom. “This music and the cultures that created them are a valuable resource to courses in history, geography, language arts, social studies, visual arts, music and dance.”

via Pat MacPherson,

While roaming around the website for the Association for Cultural Equity (founded by Alan Lomax) I found lesson plans based on collected songs from their archive. Like this one, based on “Fly Around My Blue-Eyed Gal” sung by Hobart Smith.

What other online resources do you recommend for classroom teachers of folk music and dance?

For offline resources, check out our Teacher Training Course this summer, offered during Family Week at Ogontz by the inimitable Jane Miller. There is still space available in this fabulous course if you act soon!

Summer’s coming! Which week is yours?

The days are getting longer and summer is just around the corner! Our 2012 CDSS summer camp details are now available — you’ll find descriptions and staff lists for each session, info about Registration and Scholarships, and more. With 16 programs in 9 weeks at 3 facilities, we have something for YOU. Take your singing, your dancing, your music making to a new level. Discover a tune, a dance, a song and take it home to share. At camp, people make and maintain life-long friendships; which week is YOURS? It may be one you haven’t tried yet!

A new generation at English & American Dance Week at Pinewoods

Owen Morrison playing at Pinewoods with Housetop (photo by Adam Brown)

Owen Morrison playing at Pinewoods with Housetop (photo by Adam Brown)

There is a new generation in charge of our oldest week. In 1976, Jim Morrison led his generation as he took the reins of English & American Dance Week. Look who is in charge this year! Jim’s son, Owen, by my count, has been to 47 of our camp weeks and has only missed 3 of his 29 summers. He went from staff family to staff at age 19 in 2002 and, with his mother, Marney, was Program Director of Family Week in 2008 and 2009. And that is just the CDSS weeks; he is a regular at CCDS in Berea, KY, and a sought after staff member everywhere! He brings a wealth of experience and skills to the position of Program Director. This year’s E&A Week includes a focus on percussive dance, offering six classes on traditions from the US, England and Canada. Kimberley Fraser will teach Cape Breton Step Dance, Leela Grace will teach beginning and advanced levels of Appalachian Clog, Yaëlle Azoulay will teach Advanced and Intermediate Quebecois Step Dance, and Gillian Stewart will teach Rapper. There is still the full complement of English Country, contras and squares, morris dancing, singing and instrument work.

Second year of Harmony of Song & Dance

Nils leads a song at Harmony week 2011 (photo by Claire Morrison)

Nils leads a song at Harmony week 2011 (photo by Claire Morrison)

We will expand on all that we enjoyed last year, our debut of Harmony of Song & Dance. The All Camp Chorale features the full camp in C# Minor, with songbooks in hand, following the lead of one staff member after another (but with more time than last year). By the end of the week, we sing the full variety of presented songs with the conviction of a group who knows the song and knows why we know it. This is truly making music together, and a strong expression of community. This year Brad Foster is using this week to teach a Course for English Dance Leaders. What better training ground could we find? Here English dance leaders learn the importance of song to their job and can observe the teaching styles of so many leaders.

New happenings at our Timber Ridge week

Adina Gordon among young leaders (photo by Roger Katz)

Adina Gordon among young leaders (photo by Roger Katz)

This year our Timber Ridge program has many exciting additions. Beyond the family program that has been so popular, and the adult program in English & American dance that is so much fuller than any we can offer at the smaller Family Weeks at Pinewoods and Ogontz, we have three exciting mini Courses! Eden MacAdam-Somer and Larry Unger will lead their American Dance Musicians Course which was such a success at Pinewoods last summer – Eden and Larry more than made up for the days lost to Tropical Storm Irene with the many extra hours and focused attention they gave the students. Sixteen pre-registered musicians will benefit from their wisdom this year! Nils Fredland and Ralph Sweet are bringing the Singing Squares Callers Course to Timber Ridge as well. Singing Squares are returning with a vengeance and these two know what they are talking about! Their collaboration on the book On the Beat with Ralph Sweet helped get this program off the ground. Gaye Fifer and Adina Gordon will lead Leadership in Dance & Music for Young Adults, taking 20 future leaders on a journey to enhance their leadership in the community from the stage, the dance floor, and the planning of dance and song events.

Each of these special Courses requires specific registration. It is important to clearly state if you want to attend the host week if you do not get into the Course. The Courses do have prerequisites, so any lottery will be among the qualifying applicants. I have tried to explain the details on our Course pages, but feel free to contact me with any questions.

I hope you will join us

See you there!

YES! There are still scholarships; space at Harmony of Song & Dance; and other camp updates.

Missouri native, and Harmony Week staff member, Leela Grace

The CDSS weeks at Pinewoods, Timber Ridge, and Ogontz are all starting soon. Read on to find out more about remaining spaces, scholarships, and especially about our new week, Harmony of Song & Dance.

If you have registered, we can’t wait and know you can’t either. If you haven’t registered you, there is still space at several weeks. You’ll find that info at the bottom of this post.


Yes, there are some scholarships still available. If you’re interested in coming to camp but need help doing so, just get in touch with Linda Henry — or 413-268-7426 x105.

Harmony of Song & Dance, July 23-30

Singers and dancers, don’t miss out on the opportunity to be a part of our new week. The staff is incredible and varied and there’s still space. You’ll find:

  • Revels’ music director George Emlen sharing sea shanties and pub songs
  • consummate musicians and storytellers Kim and Reggie Harris teaching songs of the underground railroad
  • the imimicable Keith Murphy guiding a workshop on accompanying songs and ballads
  • wonderful concerts and dancing
  • and, yes, much more!

Matt and Shannon Heaton will also be on staff.

Read more about the week here. Seriously, don’t miss out on this incredible week. As mentioned, there are scholarships available for those that need them.

If you have any questions about Harmony of Song & Dance, scholarships, you can contact Steve at or call Linda at / 413-268-7426 x105.

Here’s a video of staff members Kim and Reggie performing:

Full availability list

Visit for the most up-to-date availability.

– Max

Harmony of Song & Dance: A new week at Pinewoods

A message from Peter Amidon, co-director of Harmony of Song & Dance week at Pinewoods.

Peter and Mary Alice Amidon

I studied, and loved, instrumental classical music through and after college, playing piano, guitar, cello and viola da gamba. Then, when I was 25, and living in Cambridge, Massachusetts, I was introduced to traditional song and dance. It was an epiphany; I loved the physicality of the singing and dancing, and the fact that it was participatory. I loved that it came from and was for the common people. I sold my viola da gamba and bought a fiddle and a banjo.

I met my wife Mary Alice at a contra dance and in 1976 we went to CDSS’s Folk Music Week at Pinewoods. I went into Pinewoods to learn more fiddle tunes, and I came out a singer who also played fiddle. It was a life-changing experience. Over the last 35 years many CDSS Pinewoods weeks — Folk Music, Family, English & American Dance — have helped define who Mary Alice and I are and what we do.

Now we are honored to be chairing The Harmony of Song & Dancethe new CDSS week for singers who love to dance and for dancers who love to sing — with a dynamic and diverse staff of dance and song leaders.

Kim and Reggie Harris

We are bringing together some of our favorite music and dance activities…

  • group harmony singing by ear and from written arrangements
  • English folk songs
  • Appalachian ballads
  • shape note
  • secular and sacred gospel singing
  • contra, English, and ritual dance
  • work songs and sea songs
  • tune sessions and playing in a dance band

…with some of our favorite people…

  • dynamic and gifted singing leaders Kim & Reggie Harris
  • Cambridge Revels music master George Emlen
  • master singer/instrumentalist Keith Murphy

    Becky Tracy and Keith Murphy

  • profound bass and dance caller Nils Fredland
  • delicious English pianist and humorist Karen Axelrod
  • elegant and graceful fiddler/singer Naomi Morse
  • master English dance caller and choral singer Brad Foster
  • sublime yet powerful dance fiddler Becky Tracy
  • steeped-in-traditional-music-since-birth singer/banjo player/clog dancer Leela Grace
  • Master of All Ceremonies and leader of songs from across the pond (Scotland & England) and ritual dance Alistair Brown
  • brilliant Irish flute/whistle player/singer Shannon Heaton
  • innovative guitarist and singer Matt Heaton
  • inspired leader of joyful song Mary Alice Amidon
  • and pretty good singing leader Peter Amidon (me).

This would be our dream staff, except they are all really coming!

I believe that the act of singing and dancing together creates a powerful and joyful synchronicity. It is a foundation of Mary Alice’s and my lives and the foundation of the Harmony of Song & Dance.

We hope you will come join us for what we are expecting will be an extraordinary week.

— Peter Amidon, June, 2011

Harmony of Song & Dance at Pinewoods will take place July 23 – 30, 2011. There is still space available! To find out more visit

There are also still scholarships available at this writing. To inquire, please e-mail

Help us share the week by telling your friends and visiting the Facebook page and event or by clicking the Facebook button below.

2011 Camps Update

It’s been a little quiet on the blog front recently. We even passed up April Fools! Rest assured, we’re getting back up to steam and there are some interesting posts in the works that will be coming soon.

The first round of camp applications have been processed, so I can give you an update on what’s full and what still has space. Steve has been stuffing envelopes and getting them to the Post Office. If you have registered, you should hear from him by the end of this week. If you have not registered you, there is still space at several weeks. Visit for the most up-to-date availability. Here’s what it looks like at the time of writing:

Week Location Adult? Family? Start Date Wait list?
Adult & Family Week at Timber Ridge Timber Ridge adult family 08/14/11
American Dance & Music Week Pinewoods adult 07/30/11
American Dance Musicians Course Pinewoods adult 08/27/11
Campers’ Week Pinewoods adult family 08/20/11 moderate
Early Music Week Pinewoods adult 08/13/11
English & American Dance Week Pinewoods adult 08/27/11
English Dance Musicians Course Pinewoods adult 08/13/11
English Dance Week Pinewoods adult 08/06/11 moderate
Family Week at Ogontz Ogontz family 07/30/11
Family Week at Pinewoods Pinewoods family 07/16/11 short
Harmony of Song & Dance Pinewoods adult 07/23/11
Singing Squares Callers Course Pinewoods adult 07/30/11 long
Teachers Training Course Ogontz adult 07/30/11
Viol Intensive Course Pinewoods adult 08/13/11

Waiting List If you’re interested in a week with a waiting list, consider applying. With a short or moderate wait list, you might still get in. With a long waiting list, you’re welcome to apply, but your odds aren’t spectacular

Scholarships If you’re interested in a scholarship, read this and/or contact Linda Henry.

– Max

Camp registrations getting thick as maple syrup.

It’s time to get your early registrations for CDSS camps and special weeks in the mail. Steve Howe, our Director of Programs, has a few things to share.

Making maple syrup with the Howes

I know that it is almost spring! On Saturdays, my son Sam and I have been boiling maple sap (we are now at 2.5 gallons of syrup) and at work, camp registrations are coming in. Registrations are ahead of this time last year. Many people have used the new on-line registration system; it is quite simple, asking only name(s), week(s) and deposit(s). The other details (housing requests, etc.) will follow — for returning campers, we have old data.

Remember that CDSS does not use a first come/first serve system, but will have a lottery for programs that are oversubscribed by the processing date — and that date approaches for the mini courses.

There is still another week for the Weeks, but you had better get those registrations in!

Steve Howe