Many dance, music, and song communities are actively working to maintain connections among their participants throughout the pandemic. They are doing this work for a variety of reasons including fostering friendship, providing a support network during this time, and to be ready to gather again in person when we can.
Check out the ideas below for ways in which your community can remain connected during the pandemic. There were also many great ideas shared by community members as part of the CDSS Web Chat from April 29th, entitled Yes We CAN Keep in Touch: Connecting Our Communities During the Pandemic.
The Mermaid's Tavern Online Folk Club
Online sessions and "houseconcerts" for an international Zoom studio audience, livestreamed to Facebook. Sunday sessions 2-5: Ballad Sing (2x), Chantey Sing, Tavern Sing. Special guests 1-2 Thursdays a month 7-9pm, special events cosponsored with local/regional folk societies. DIY Digital coaching for musicians pivoting to online performance.
Zoom Tune-learning Sessions
During monthly sessions, our tune leader is unmuted and others are muted. This allows participants to hear the leader and themselves playing along, so they can tell if they’re missing a note, rhythm, etc. Leader pauses often to field questions, and everyone unmutes themselves for discussion.
Note: I’ve heard that Jamkazam software allows for “real-time” jamming but haven’t tried it.
Tapestry Home Alone English Country Dance
Join the English Country Dance community of Tapestry Folkdance Center EVERY Sunday night (this may change, check back!) for a social time and an hour of dance. Enjoy familiar and new dances adapted for one or two persons, called by Midge Olsen and guests. To receive the weekly Zoom link, email your first and last name, email address, and home dance community to email@example.com.
Adapting English Country Dances
I started adapting dances to give our ECD dancers the comfort of dancing familiar figures to well-loved music, and I've currently adapted about two dozen dances. Some early Playford dances need little if any modification to work for one or two dancers. For example the first couple’s track in Chestnut can be danced by one or two individuals with no changes at all. USA dances like Maiden Lane and Chestnut are great, because dancers start facing the camera [up, or North] and can orient themselves.
Zoom ECD Events
So far I have run a 2-hour online ECD session (shared with Kalia Kliban) and two one-hour solo sessions. I've used a MacBook Pro and played the music on iTunes on my iPad. Lengthy music tracks can prove challenging, because most solo ECD adaptations don't include any time to stand out. Since dancing the full 7x through can be tiring, the Scissortail Traditional Dance Society ECD group in Oklahoma addressed this issue by having local musicians record dances only 5x through.
Virtual Jane Austen Ball
Since we had to cancel our 3rd annual Jane Austen Ball in Wooster, I used the evening to make and post a 1-minute video. I was using Acapella for the first time, and my dress still had pins in it.
I've compiled some helpful resources about zoom, audio tech, caller advice, etc. I've organized workshops about getting started on Zoom, Zoom audio, audio for contra dances, calling contra online and the video links and handout links are listed in this doc.
This guide is a walkthrough of best practices and settings to ensure a safe and successful dance in Zoom. It includes pointers on link security and publicity, security settings when creating your event, and best practices while running your event.
Drew Delaware, Toronto, Ontario
New Contra Callers Collective
To support our online events, BACDS has purchased Zoom Pro for 5 hosts. The collective started with a 3-hour workshop with a local musician talking about "working with the band." We ended up having 2-hour meetings and alternating between a lecture/discussion and calling practice with feedback. I was able to arrange online workshops with Lisa Greenleaf, Seth Tepfer, Gaye Fifer, Luke Donforth, and Kalia Kliban.
Band Workshops for Contra Musicians
Our band workshops were initially created and publicized by the musicians (fiddler leading a workshop for melody musicians and pianist doing a rhythm workshop). BACDS now sponsors these workshops by offering their Zoom Pro account. They also offer scholarships for students, a discount for BACDS members (and pay the discount back to the lead musicians), and other financial support. I help to publicize the workshops, moderate the Zoom meetings, and send workshop recordings to the musicians.
Our recent online contra session included a slow-motion video walk-through with calls written out, followed by a full-speed review of the dance (also including written calls). Then using a video taken by Dave Pokorney of the same simple dance from Catalina weekend (with music by Nova), everyone watched and danced along. They could also Pin a friend and try dancing with them. It's a fun way to connect on Zoom when we can't dance together.
Zoom Contra and Community Connection
The Mt Airy/Philadelphia Contra is meeting bimonthly for a community check-in and 1+ hour contra dance with live music (from the same household) and caller. We use Zoom and Source-Connect Now for technology. Email for more details.
Contra Dancing at Home
Using Zoom, 30–45 members of our community meet once a week from 9-10 pm (on our usual dance night) to dance in our living spaces. Calling and music is provided by a caller and one musician from family groups or households in the same location. We include contras (modified for one to two people) and some waltzes. We dance, listen, and/or play along (with muted mics) and enjoy the camaraderie, including an umuted go-around to give each person a minute to greet everyone each week.
During the COVID stay-at-home period, I received 3 phone calls for wedding dances, one in August and two in October. So, life goes on in many ways. It will be interesting to see how we negotiate distances then. I will let you know what happens!
Dance Parties for Kids (& Others)
I lead weekly online dances for all ages. My programs include 30-45 minutes of simple community dances and international folk dances that can be danced solo, sometimes with props. I also include some singing. For tech I use Streamyard to stream to Facebook Live, MacBook Air, iPhone, Bose speaker, headset, and mixer.
We have weekly practices using Free Zoom for 40 minutes, then add a second 40 minutes. We start at 1 pm on Saturdays to accommodate team members in CA and New Zealand. Our practices include songs, dance warm-ups, dancing, and a virtual pub/team meeting. Everyone mutes and unmutes themselves as needed, and our lead musician directs one musician at a time to be unmuted.
Suzanne Frank, Mountain View, CA
Kitchen Sink Molly of Silicon Valley · Facebook
Virtual May Day
Our team will be joined by Deer Creek Morris. Using Zoom, both teams will start (in kit) at 6 pm (instead of 5:30 am!). We’ll dance Abbott's Bromley and 4 other dances with musicians unmuted in rotation (others can play along while muted). In the middle we'll sing Hal and Tow, with lead singer on verses and all joining on chorus unmuted. We'll end with Sellenger’s Round for All and a Pub Stop.
Suzanne Frank, Mountain View, CA
Kitchen Sink Molly of Silicon Valley · Facebook
Web series for ECD-related discussions
Now that we have time to think about and discuss historical and English Country Dance, our guest speakers talk about 5 things they feel are important to our shared passion for ECD and why. This rare opportunity to ask questions we have always wanted to ask and share our responses has been a wonderful way to stay in touch and continue to learn and grow as a community.
Tea Time Gathering
We gather every Thursday at 5pm for a steady regular moment to check in with friends to chat, smile, and connect. There is no particular agenda, however we talk about dancing, costuming, and life in general.
Monthly Online Tea Dance Celebration
Our community was so sad to not have our monthly tea dances we found a way to do a mini-version online event. This (approx.) one-hour version of our Tea Social experience includes: meet and greet, tea time, “break out” rooms with surprises to enhance the theme, favorite dances in “shelter-at-home” solo dance format, and a closing sing-along.
Saturday Evening Waltz Parties
I started this series of waltz parties via Zoom, so our wonderful community can continue to experience being together. We dance to live music for about 45 minutes (everyone muted but cameras on) and include a 15 minute break to unmute and chat. I’ve invited solo musicians like Owen Morrison who play two different instruments, as well as groups who are sheltering in place together (Oshima Brothers with Maya French). We’ve had up to 150 dancers from across the country to dance and listen in -- great for the tip jar!
Using our group's Zoom account, we’re doing weekly check-ins to see each other’s faces and have general conversation. They're held on Wednesday at 8 pm, when we would usually have our dances. Everyone who wants to can talk, and we use different facilitators each week to keep anyone from speaking for too long.
Since BACDS sponsors so many dances and special events, for years we've sent out a weekly calendar mailing. I've transitioned those to listing online events relevant to our interests. We send the link with password and ask people not to share it on social media. Recently we started including Zoom meetups for individual dance series.