Category Archives: Youth

All In Good Time

guest blog by Chloe Levine

At precisely 4:07 p.m., the clouds seemed as dark as a B flat piano key, the wind seemed as fierce as a grasslands predator mid-pounce, and my prospects seemed as dim as a fluorescent light bulb just turned on. But I got brighter, carried in the arms of the vigorous American folk dance, prevalent on the Eastern seaboard, known as “contra dance.” (Look it up.) The exhilarating yet familiar throb of each move hitting my body–swing with your neighbor on the side, pull by through the blisters, dosido while spinning like a tornado, arms twisting wildly–was neon against the dull premise of the day. Faces swirled across my vision in a swarm, up and down the set and back, towards the cathartic band blasting from the top of the hall, and slowly they blurred into one huge smiling presence, there to catch me after the craziest of flourishes.

This coming from me, the girl who’s never seen an elliptical and cowers under her blankets at the thought of a Sunday morning jog. This coming from me, the girl who can’t stand the erosive noise of a rowing machine and gets her feet tangled in the endless straps. Regardless, today’s movement sucked the pain out of my neck like a reversed vampire and sucked the darkness out of my mood like a vacuum. It magnified the profound belief in humanity held my so many ex-hippie heirs, the flower grandchildren. Most of all, it inspired the weight on my chest to get in shape, so it got up and ran away without so much as a “time me.”

The author and her parents have attended CDSS’s family program at Timber Ridge Camp in High View, WV for the last 8 years (since Chloe was 6); they are members of Country Dance New York and live in Brooklyn. The above is from Chloe’s blog,  “Improbability in the City,”, posted 9/21/13.


by Nathaniel Smith

maplemorris1_t_by sarah pilzer

Maple Morris; photo by Sarah Pilzer

Maple Morris & Morris Offspring present Rootbound:
Celebrating the life of English folk dance in North America

with music by Ian Robb, Amelia Mason, Eric McDonald and Emily Troll
original lyrics by Susan Cooper

July 15, The Armory Performance Hall, 191 Highland Ave, Somerville, MA
July 19, The Berkeley Church, 315 Queen St E., Toronto, Canada




Rootbound_thumbMaple Morris (North America) and Morris Offspring (United Kingdom) are thrilled to invite you to their collaborative theatrical Morris dance production, Rootbound. A blend of vigorous dancing, musical exploration, vibrant costumes, and creative storytelling, Rootbound will tell the story of a dancer’s journey in the North American Morris dance community.

Morris is a surviving English traditional folk dance that has been performed since the 1400s and has been associated with seasonal and harvest rituals. The dance is vigorous and athletic and the high leaps are accented by the use of white handkerchiefs and bells. Laurel Swift of Morris Offspring describes Morris dancing as “a complex and energetic art form demanding athleticism, coordination, and musicality from its performers, expected to display both discipline and individuality at any moment. It is rich in material, forms and movement, rarely tapped by the wider arts world yet offering a unique source of artistic possibilities.”

Maple Morris is a community of young dancers from across North America who are dedicated to promoting creativity, leadership, and continued excellence in future generations of the North American Morris Revival. In 2011, Maple traveled to the UK to collaborate with England’s foremost innovators, Morris Offspring. The result was the production Must Come Down, a stage performance showcasing Morris dancing at its most inventive.

offspring_photo1_t_by alan cole

Morris Offspring; photo by Alan Cole

The return leg of this collaboration this summer will see Maple Morris joined by Morris Offspring in a brand new stage production in Boston and Toronto. Rootbound will feature music by the powerful singer Ian Robb (of the folk trio Finest Kind:, Amelia Mason, Eric McDonald, and Emily Troll, words from acclaimed author Susan Cooper, and new Morris dance creations by Maple Morris and Morris Offspring.

Beer and wine will be available at both performances. Premium ($40) and general admission ($25) tickets are available at

For more information, visit our website:

Rootbound is supported in part by the Country Dance and Song Society’s Outreach Funds.

Addendum: See the Boston Globe 7/11/13 online article about the event,


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.



“It’s Fun To Hunt”

by David Millstone

photo by Nikki Herbst

Ralph Page gave this title to a regular column in his Northern Junket magazine, in which he shared information he had gleaned from looking through old newspapers in New Hampshire and Vermont. For those of us interested in dance history, he’s absolutely right.

Late last month, CDSS member Karen Mueller-Harder heard a wonderful story on Vermont Public Radio. In it, VPR reporter Steve Zind tells about John Stone, who in 1956 recorded a dance in Newfane, Vermont. Stone recently donated his tape to the Vermont Folklife Center, which digitized the recording. (Dance caller and CDSS youth intern Mary Wesley has worked at the VFC—small world!) Zind’s story describes how listening to the tape brought back a flood of memories for Stone.

Karen sent a link to the story to Steve Howe, at the CDSS office, who shared it with fellow staff members. Pat MacPherson in turn passed on the link to me and to Bob Dalsemer, one of my colleagues on the Square Dance History Project (SDHP). It was, indeed, a lovely and evocative story.

The VPR story included only a few snippets from the actual dance recording—the focus is Stone’s reactions to hearing the music once again—but I was interested in hearing more of the source material. I went to the website of the Vermont Folklife Center and spent a frustrating time trying to locate the original, without success. I turned to Google and easily located VFC’s posted file of the recording, a beautifully preserved digital file. A few minutes later I added a reference to this audio clip of three singing squares (the Dick Perry Orchestra and caller Ira Huntley) to our SDHP website.

But wait! There’s more! I wasn’t familiar with all three dances, and Bob quickly identified one as “Belle of the Ball,” which he knew from the calling of Otto Wood. Otto (fiddle) and his wife Marguerite (piano) hailed from Michigan, but were regulars on staff at Pinewoods and at the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, NC, as they made their way to and from Florida each winter. Bob’s e-mail included a typescript of Otto’s calls for that dance and an appreciation of the Woods on a website celebrating Michigan fiddlers.

It turned out that Belle of the Ball was just one page from a larger collection of Otto’s dances that had been prepared by storyteller and occasional dance caller Donald Davis, working closely with Marguerite sometime after Otto’s death. (Donald Davis has been a frequent staff member at our CDSS family camp at Ogontz, and he will be on staff again this summer; “Otto and Marguerite” is among his vast repertoire of stories.) After a few more e-mail exchanges we had his permission to post the complete set, so we’ve added Otto’s calls for 17 singing squares and Marguerite’s music to the SDHP website.

All in all, a very enjoyable and productive few days. It’s fun to hunt!

Editor’s note: See more about the Square Dance History Project in earlier blogs: SDHP Update (1/10/13) and SDHP Launches New Website (10/2/12)..




Kicking Off Plans for SW Conference

by Linda Henry, CDSS Outreach Manager

Plans are afoot for creating a leadership conference for the Southwest United States! An email recently went out to all CDSS group affiliates in the SW and others we know are interested. The message invited 80 people to participate in a phone meeting about preliminary plans. If you didn’t receive this initial email and would like to be included, please read on.

The call will happen on 1/19/13 (see below for call-in information). We’ll focus on…

  • describing the exciting potential for this event — building connections and bringing resources to dance groups throughout the Southwest (including contra, square and English country dance);
  • explaining how the planning process will work — a collaborative effort involving a core group of organizers from the SW with ongoing support from CDSS;
  • making connections and gathering input to help the conference happen (event date and location TBD).

As CDSS Outreach Manager, I’ll have the very fulfilling role of supporting the SW planning team to create the conference. Possible supports include grant funding, publicity and logistics — sharing materials generated by organizers of previous conferences. (See Puttin’ On the Dance as one example.)

For starters, I’ll send the planners a template survey along with contact information for SW groups currently in the CDSS database.This poll will make it possible to assess which resources are needed throughout the region in order to help dance communities grow and thrive. Based on these needs, the planners will design the content of the conference. This can include workshops and other resources for callers, musicians, dance organizers, sound engineers and more… plus there will be time for dancing, networking and having fun together!

This first phone meeting will be facilitated by Cora McCold of Durango, CO. With assistance from CDSS and several dance groups in her area, Cora attended the Midwest Leadership Conference in Cincinnati, OH last August. She returned home with enthusiasm for launching plans for an event in the SW.

If you’d like to join this call — or know anyone who else who might — here’s how to participate: On JANUARY 19, 2013, at 2 p.m. Pacific, 3 p.m. Mountain, 4 p.m. Central, and 5 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, CALL 605-475-4000. You’ll be prompted to enter your participant access code: 204920#.

If you’re interested but can’t join us on 1/19, it’s not too late to be part of this effort. We’d love to hear from you, so please send a message to Feel free to let us know your thoughts and interests, and we’ll share them with the planning group. Also we’ll be arranging follow-up calls and would be happy to include you.

Many thanks!

Linda (and Cora)

CDSS Sings!

by Caroline Batson, Promotion & Periodicals Director

CDSS staff singing, 12.5.12

As you may know, CDSS is joining in a regional e-philanthropy event next week on 12.12.12. We invite you to support our work with a special gift that day (or you can schedule a donation anytime between now and then). Since not everyone who’ll be giving that day knows what we do here at CDSS, we’re showing them. We’ll have a blog up tomorrow about an event last night, and on Monday we’ll be videotaping us doing the Abbots Bromley Horn dance for folks in our building. Check back again tomorrow and early next week to watch.

In the meanwhile, SING ALONG WITH US NOW! The words are — “You are welcome, you are welcome, you are welcome in this place.”

Video: Steve Howe. Singers, L to R: Mary Wesley, Robin Hayden, Linda Henry, Pat MacPherson, Nils Fredland, and Caroline Batson. Kathy Bullock led the song last summer at our Harmony of Music and Dance Week.

Okay, everyone ready? Sing!

Square Dance History Project Launches New Website

by David Millstone

A group of square dance enthusiasts has launched a digital library and website that takes a broad look at square dancing now as well as the historical antecedents of today’s squares. Please share this news and the link with others who might be interested!

The project’s primary focus is to collect good examples of moving images—more than 400 videos so far—that document square dancing in its many forms. This includes New England dosido and western docey-do, barn dances and hoedowns, stately quadrilles and rip-roarin’ squares of the 1950s, as well as modern square dance programs from Mainstream to Challenge. The site also includes interviews, text, photographs, audio files, and much more.

Among the many treats awaiting you:

• Rare footage of the Lloyd Shaw’s Cheyenne Mountain Dancers, plus a black and white silent film (1955) showing square dances in Central City, Colorado
• A set of 100 high-definition videos filmed in 2011 at the Dare To Be Square weekend at the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, NC, with six nationally-known square dance callers, and a set of 25 additional videotaped interviews.
• More than 150 items related to MWSD, including an article by Jim Mayo looking at the early years, illustrated with live recordings from the 1940s and 1950s
• Elizabeth Burchenal’s silent footage of southern Appalachian mountain squares from the early 1930s
• A curated assortment of more than 400 videos showing dancing from Newfoundland and Quebec to the American Southwest
• Exhibits showcasing items in the collection, on such diverse topics as the pioneering work of Lloyd Shaw in Colorado to an in-depth look at dances from Maryland Line, Maryland

The site is a work in progress, and additional material will be added regularly to the collection. The home page offers a way to contribute additional items; the organizers are especially interested in locating home movie footage from decades past.

As part of its financial contribution, CDSS co-sponsored the Dare To Be Square weekend and provided funding for the weekend’s documentation. This includes the videotaped dances plus the CD-ROM disk (syllabus and complete audio files) that is in the CDSS store. CDSS also administers the fund that supports the project; the other fiscal supporters include the Lloyd Shaw Foundation, CALLERLAB, and The ARTS (Alliance of Round, Traditional, and Square-Dance).

Folk music in the news

Yesterday brought a veritable flurry of exciting new developments in the world of folk song and music:

Alan Lomax (right) with musician Ward Wade (photo Shirley Collins / Alan Lomax Archive)

Alan Lomax (right) with musician Ward Wade (photo Shirley Collins / Alan Lomax Archive)

contra dance calendar, March page

contra dance calendar, March page

Also, for those of you who have been enjoying Doug Plummer‘s gorgeously photographed 2012 contra dance calendar (still available in our Store!):

The story of the March calendar page
Doug has posted this blog article about the March page of his contra dance calendar, which features the historic dance in Nelson NH.

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!

Goin’ to Minnesota!

This week I head to Minneapolis with former youth intern Ethan Hazzard-Watkins. Our destination: Tapestry Folkdance Center. Our mission: youth outreach!

Tapestry logoTapestry is a non-profit organization which has been teaching and supporting folk dance and music since 1983. In 1999 the organization purchased a building in South Minneapolis where contra, English country, international folk, Cajun and nordic dances, as well as other folk music events, are regularly hosted. It is rare for such a diverse dance community to have a physical center.  I am eager to meet the people who have realized this dream and even more excited to dance with them.

Ethan and I are visiting the Tapestry Folkdance Center as part of their youth outreach campaign — a comprehensive project designed to help preserve and perpetuate folk dance and music in Minnesota by engaging young people in the traditions taught and practiced at Tapestry. A grant has been secured from Minnesota’s Metropolitan Regional Arts Council to support this effort. The folks at Tapestry have crafted an inspiring and deliberate plan to boost youth involvement, which includes:

  • creating a local, volunteer task force;
  • working with local musicians and teachers to develop young musicians who can play for dances;
  • developing new marketing strategies which incorporate social media;
  • collaborating with colleges, churches, and home-schooling organizations;
  • hosting dances on several local college campuses over the next year.

Tapestry asked Ethan to come visit the Center as a consultant in this project and Ethan in turn asked me, the current Youth Intern, to join him to represent CDSS. So many communities in the CDSS neighborhood are asking the question “How can we involve more young people in our traditions?” I believe Tapestry’s intentional and focused campaign to integrate youth into their constituency will be a valuable case study, both as an example to other communities facing similar questions and also as an opportunity for CDSS to become better acquainted with another vibrant dance community and learn the best ways for us to offer our support.

Watch my Facebook page for live updates from the Midwest this weekend, and read a follow-up report here on the blog following my return!