Category Archives: Governing Board

Passport to Joy!

At last week’s Annual Governing Board meeting, the Board affirmed the staff’s first-tier Centennial projects, saying, “Go for it!”  As if that weren’t exciting enough — by the time the meeting concluded, individual Board members had demonstrated their support by committing $42,000 in gifts and pledges for the Centennial.

Both Board and staff spoke passionately of our determination that the multi-year celebration be meaningful, useful, and compelling to individuals and communities across North America.  How can the Centennial Tour build connections and strengthen communities?  How can the Centennial website bring your voices, your history, your photos, your video, audio, and art IN; and how can we joyfully, widely, and effectively broadcast your news OUT?

My favorite moment was when Mary Wesley suddenly said, “Centennial Passports!”  Everyone started talking at once:  “You get your passport stamped at every Centennial event you attend!”  “The person with the most stamps gets a PRIZE!”  “Different stamps for different kinds of events!”  “Morris stamps!”  “Conference stamps!”  “Moneymusk Moment stamps!”  “It’s like a passport to joy!”

Several Board members shared with me that the “Where do you see yourself?” sign I had posted on the wall really helped them in their decision to pledge.  So I’m sharing a version of it here with you.  Soon, we’ll be coming to you asking you to support the campaign for the Next 100 Years.  So be thinking:  where do you see yourself?

2012 Board meeting: field report


Last Thursday and Friday, April 19th and 20th, the CDSS board and staff gathered in Easthampton, MA for the annual board meeting. When I arrived early on Thursday morning, helpful signs and arrows guided me through the sometimes maze-like hallways of the Eastworks building to a sunny room with seats for 36 and a piano in the corner. Board members from across the U.S. and Canada were enjoying a light breakfast, chatting with staff and unpacking laptops, folders and bars of chocolate. Those who had arrived the day before were discussing the Wednesday night contra dance in Amherst, where some people had gone to dance together before settling in for the meeting. New CDSS Executive Director Rima Dael said she had tucked her 6-year old daughter into bed “dreaming of contra dancing.” The general atmosphere was one of excitement and anticipation. As a staff member who mostly works remotely, I was looking forward to spending two whole days with my co-workers and meeting the board who devote so much energy to our organization.

Part of the air of anticipation was certainly due to the fact that the board was welcoming both a new board president and a new Executive Director. New board president David Millstone expressed his joy in welcoming Rima as our new ED by winding up and setting off a toy puppy that did back-flips: “this is how we all feel about having you on board!” There were two new board members at the table as well: Rob Harper, an active dance organizer from the Atlanta area, and Lorraine Lee Hammond of Brookline, MA, who led us all in a song before we began. The song’s refrain, “Swing and turn, jubilee, live and learn, jubilee,” set the perfect tone for the hard work this passionate group was about to tackle.

Board President David Millstone leads the group

The meeting agenda included some routine business such as budget reviews and approving new policies. There was also some discussion of our upcoming Centennial in 2015, which will bring a host of celebrations, new publications and public outreach. Several rounds of applause were given for the staff, board members and volunteers who have been working for the past several years to facilitate the change in CDSS leadership. Along with an unimaginable variety of chocolates, many cards circled the table throughout the meeting for the board to express its gratitude to those who have helped with this transition. At the end of the first day, interim ED Marie Dalton-Meyer appeared for a thank you party (and endured a rousing chorus of “Marie’s a jolly good fellow.”) Through all this there seemed to be a feeling of empowerment from both the board and the staff.  People are ready and excited to look toward the future of CDSS, beyond the transition.

At the heart of the meeting were our discussions about major directions for CDSS in the next few years, and I do mean heart. Board members and staff alike come to the table because they are ready to work for something they love. One activity was centered around the question “What do you hope to see in place for CDSS in the next three to five years?” This was where I learned the most about the talents and passions of the board. People listed ideas on half-sheets of paper and transformed one wall of our meeting room into a bulletin board bursting with ideas.

Applause after a group dance

Some were practical, some were visionary; I think all are important. Nikki Herbst of Iowa City (former chair of the Nominating Committee) crystallized the overall vision for the work of CDSS when she pictured a future where “We reached the mainstream of isolated people who are overworked, out of shape, and unfulfilled. They were able to easily find a local event, where they were welcomed. They came back with their friends. They were not embarrassed about engaging in such simple pleasures as singing and dancing. They made it part of their lives.”

It was an honor to spend two days with people who believe the traditions we love can have such a big impact on the world. I can’t wait to live that future!

Executive Director Named

An exciting announcement from CDSS Board President Bruce Hamilton.

Rima Dael, CDSS's new Executive Director

Rima Dael, CDSS's new Executive Director

The CDSS Governing Board is pleased to announce the appointment of Rima Dael as Executive Director of the Country Dance and Song Society. She will begin working with the staff and Interim Director Marie Dalton-Meyer on March 5, becoming full-time on March 26.

Rima brings a strong arts background and more than 18 years of nonprofit professional and voluntary experience. A graduate of Mount Holyoke College (B.A., Theatre Arts and Anthropology) and the New School (M.S., Nonprofit Management), she currently teaches at Bay Path College in Longmeadow, MA, and is a founding faculty member of the Nonprofit Management and Philanthropy program at the school. She has worked as a consultant to organizations as diverse as the Shelter for the Homeless in Stamford, CT; Figure Skating in Harlem in NYC; Library for American Landscape History; MotherWoman; and the Springfield (MA) Symphony Orchestra. She has led workshops on fundraising, volunteerism, nonprofit governance and online teaching. Rima is passionate about the arts and arts-in-education and their power to inspire, connect and include people.

Originally from the Philippines, Rima spent her childhood in several Southeast Asian countries (she learned English country dancing in Hong Kong), and now lives in Amherst, MA, with her husband, Brandon, and daughter, Karana.

“I am thrilled to join the staff of the Country Dance and Song Society, and eager to connect with our members across North America and beyond, continue the legacy of CDSS, and celebrate our upcoming centennial. I brought my six-year old daughter to her first contra dance this past Saturday and when asked what her favorite dances were, she replied most enthusiastically, “All of them!” I echo her joy and enthusiasm! I look forward to getting started and the work ahead….and of course, the dancing and singing.”

The Board and staff are delighted to have Rima join us and we look forward to a long and invigorating association with her.

–Bruce Hamilton, CDSS President

CDSS Is Listening

survey responses: dance

What areas of DANCE do you regularly participate in? (survey responses)

Thanks to all of you who took the time to provide feedback on our recent community survey. We heard from over 900 individuals representing 45 states, five Canadian provinces, and seven other countries. We also heard from a variety of local communities across North America who hosted meetings to talk about their hopes and dreams for CDSS. What an amazing response!

Eleven members of the CDSS Board, Staff, and Transition Task Group spent October 31 reviewing the data findings and suggestions from everyone. Despite a record snow storm, significant storm damage and power outages on the eve of the meeting, we were able to meet at the home of Steve Howe and Meg Ryan. Nancy Jackson, the transition consultant, facilitated our meeting.

What we learned from the data: Many people are not aware of the breadth of services and supports that CDSS is already providing.  Clearly, we need to communicate better! We also found overwhelming interest for CDSS to develop more ways for members and groups to connect with each other.

Following are some of the highlights of what we learned; stay tuned for a fuller report of survey findings.

This is a small sampling of the hundreds of ideas received from across the continent:

  • “Why can’t CDSS deliver workshops online or via skype technology?”
  • “Send callers/musicians to places that cannot afford the talent.”
  • “Partner with the National Dance Education Organization, made up of teachers of dance in schools.”
  • “Develop more technology communications (iPhone app, Google apps, dance locator and more) so we can use CDSS as a portal to link and connect with others.”
  • “Find a way to use members as volunteers to move the organization forward. Use the diverse talents of our members.”
  • “Expect more from member groups–provide us with tools (kits/posters/incentives/CDSS logo for our own website) so we can help talk about CDSS and all it has to offer.”
  • “Find ways to take resources, services and do more outreach outside of New England.”
survey responses: what should our broad goal be?

What should our BROAD goal be? (survey responses)

People also suggested the following six be our broad goal areas for the future:

  • Build wider awareness of, and participation in, our kinds of dance and music. (47%)
  • Become a central reference hub, online and offline. (36%)
  • Support local and regional initiatives to increase participation. (33%)
  • Produce great summer camps. (32%)
  • Encourage interaction among a wide network of dance and music communities. (28%)
  • Become a conversation hub for conversations and information sharing online and off. (20%)

We outlined the areas that we need to address first and began work on identifying priorities for the next three years. The day ended with an exciting discussion about desired skills, experience and style requirements for a new CDSS executive director; the job listing is now posted.

The Transition Task Group is grateful to all of you who took the time to share your thoughts. It was important to hear and respond to your ideas. We are optimistic about the future for CDSS that you are helping to shape.

Update 1/19/12: Detailed data

Download the PDF report (30pp).

Photos from the 2011 Board Meeting

The CDSS Governing Board had its general meeting last Thursday and Friday in Easthampton, MA. By my count, there were 23 board members coming in from 19 states and provinces. I’ll share more information about the Board meeting in a later post, but for now here are a few photos I took.

Outgoing Executive Director Brad Foster speaks to the group on Thursday morning:

The Executive Committee of the Board has traveling meetings every November and February, respectively. This February the Exec meeting was in Houston, Texas. Next November — as we discovered at the meeting — they’ll convene in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Here, Linda Lieberman (IA) and Jenny Beer (PA) examine a map showing the locations of past CDSS Exec Board meetings:

Here’s the full list of Exec Board meeting locations since 1996, FYI:

Year Jan / Feb Oct / Nov
1996 Washington, DC Portland, OR
1997 Toronto, ON Berea, KY
1998 Philadelphia, PA London, ON
1999 New York, NY Lutherville, MD
2000 Houston, TX Ann Arbor, MI
2001 Seattle, WA Atlanta, GA
2002 Tucson, AZ Ottawa, ON
2003 Minneapolis, MN Vancouver, BC
2004 Durham, NC Oberlin, OH
2005 Tacoma Park, MD St. Louis, MO
2006 Printeton, NJ Los Angeles, CA
2007 Gainesville, FL Mt. Nebo, AR
2008 Ashland, OR Asheville, NC
2009 Lawrenceville, KS Upper Valley, VT, NH
2010 Buena Vista, CO Ann Arbor, MI
2011 Houston, TX Winnipeg, Manitoba

Of course, during the breaks there was singing and dancing. A dance in the hallway, called by Pat Peterson (NC):

At the end of Thursday’s meeting, the board celebrated Brad’s 28 years as Director of CDSS:

Among the components of the ceremony was the presentation of this director’s chair:

Those are the photos I’ve got for now.

There was, of course, a seemingly endless supply of chocolate continuously circumnavigating the table. Some of you may remember this fact from my ‘live’-blogging last year’s meeting on Facebook, which you can still read here: Part 1 and Part 2. I regrettably report that Wendy Graham’s (CO) accidental band name “Habits of Creature” has not, to my knowledge, yet been adopted by anyone. Morris teams?

— Max