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Southwest Organizers Conference—important deadlines!

by Linda Henry, CDSS Outreach Manager, on behalf of the SWROC Steering Committee

Dear Dance Organizers,

copy-ann-large-extendedIn case you haven’t heard the news, CDSS is co-sponsoring the Southwest Regional Organizers Conference (SWROC) that’s coming right up on Sept 19-21, 2014 in Albuquerque, NM. Don’t miss this exciting opportunity to gather with dance organizers from across the SW and bring lots of new resources, connections and energy back to your home community!

Here are some IMPORTANT deadlines…

August 5 is the last day to register for the early bird rate. Please visit this link and register soon! After this date, the fee will go up to $100. Scholarships are still available, and here are other ideas to help pay your way.

August 19 is the date the $68 hotel discount rate will increase to market price. Only a limited number of rooms are available for the conference, and hotel rooms are beginning to fill. We have no guarantee of room availability after this date, so please finalize your plans and make a reservation soon! (See Lodging info included in registration info.)

The SWROC Program Committee has lined up a skilled and enthusiastic team of session leaders. They’ll be providing many resources and tools to help strengthen our dance organizations, increase attendance, encourage youth participation and much more. Visit the Program info on the website for a list of session topics and leaders.

This weekend will also offer plenty of chances for talking shop, sharing stories, dancing and having fun with fellow organizers. It’s the first of its kind in the Southwest corner of the U.S and is SURE to impact dance communities throughout the region for years to come!

Got questions? Please contact the SWROC Steering Committee at swrocinfo@gmail.com or call 480-893-3328.

Know any dance organizers in the Southwest? Please refer them to the SWROC website and invite them to come. For glimpses of other conferences co-sponsored by CDSS, visit this link.

We hope to see you in Albuquerque in September!

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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.

 

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Categories: American Dance, Arts Advocacy, Ballads, Beginning Dancers, Camps & Programs, Chorus Songs, Contra Dance, Dance Callers, Features & Fun, Folk Dance, Old Time Dance, Round Dance, Rounds, Song, Square Dance, Traditional Dance, Traditional Music, Traditional Song | + Leave a comment »

Lifetime Contribution Award for 2014 goes to…

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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.

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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.

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“Come be part of the magic!”—English & American Dance Week, August 23-30, 2014

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photo: Doug Plummer

There’s lots of sublime English country dancing and exhilarating contra dancing at CDSS’s English & American Dance Week at Pinewoods, near Plymouth, MA. This year a Dance Organizers Course will run concurrently (separate registration).

E&A Week is our classic core program, mixing together two much-loved traditions for a fine dose of exhilaration, against a background of amazing music. This year there also will be ritual dance from England (NW morris and longsword), percussive stepping from Quebec, waltzing, Irish sets, and square dances from north and south. You can give your feet an occasional rest and do harmony singing, play in a dance band, hone your calling skills, hang out, swim or take a nap. And that’s just the daytime activities. An incredible staff will guide and inspire you through it all. 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.

Ready to join in the fun? Register here. We look forward to seeing you at camp this summer!

brenneman-shawnShawn Brenneman, program director for the week, began dancing at a young age with her family at a 4-H dance weekend in WV and the Berea Christmas dance school, and never stopped. She calls all over the country and plays piano in contra dance bands House Red and Tickle Scratch & Groove. She’s had an organizational role in many dance and music events, from the Blacksburg (VA) Contra Dance, in her own community, to the CDSS Governing Board.

Here’s what she says about E&A week:

“Some of the best times of my life have happened at English & American Week, and I’d love to share great times with you this summer. Music, dancing, singing, delicious food, swimming and community—come be part of the magic!”

Learn more about the Country Dance and Song Society (CDSS).

English & American Dance Week is funded in part by the Massachusetts Cultural Council. We thank them for their support.

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photo: Cynthia Armour

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Techno, Gender-free, and Bluesy Contras: Evolving Tradition?

by Abigail Hobart

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Abigail at the Downtown Amherst Contradance last fall­­ (photo courtesy the author)

What is tradition? This question is relevant to all contra dancers, whether we realize it or not. The past several decades have witnessed somewhat of a contra revival, especially among youth and students. College dances have sprung up across the US, typically at smaller liberal arts schools, such as Oberlin (Oberlin, OH) and Hampshire (Amherst, MA) colleges. The increase in college-aged dancers has brought about a shift towards more progressive leanings, newer trends in musical tastes, and sexier dancing. At the forefront of these changes are the use of gender-neutral terms in calling, the increasing number of techno contra dances, and the incorporation of “blues moves” into contra dancing, especially in the swing. The emergence of trends like these within a folk tradition like contra dance, reflect the constantly evolving demographic of participants, and changes in popular culture and political/social culture.

Gender-free contra dances have been happening since the 1970s. The push for non-gendered dances came out of the LGTBQ movement, and has grown steadily. These dances promote experimentation with using non-gendered terms, such as lead and follow, or bare arms and arm bands, in place of the more traditional terms, such as ladies and gents. This change reflects the evolution of the understanding of gender and gender roles, and is a response to the traditionally binary gendered-nature of contra dance; an attempt to break away from the gender roles that society assigns us.

In the past decade or so techno contra, or crossover contra dances, have really taken off. In 2001, Lisa Greenleaf, a Boston-area caller, first experimented with calling contra dances to prerecorded electronic music, in place of traditional, live bands. Since then, “techno” music has been increasingly incorporated into the standard dance circuit in the US. At the downtown Amherst, MA dance series, hosted most Wednesdays, there were ten techno contra dances alone in the past year! This reflects the increasing emergence of electronic, dub step, and techno music in popular musical production and consumption.

For years, swing dance accents have found their way into the stylistic choices of contra dancers. For example, during a partner swing, it’s common to see a variety of underarm turns and flourishes that come from the swing dance canon, and even the more complicated swing moves, such as sidecars (a difficult acrobatic lift move) or the pretzel (a complicated under arm flourish), can be seen occasionally on the dance floor. The boundary between the contra and swing dance communities has always been porous, so it follows that blues dancing (from the same era as Lindy Hop, but slower and smoother) moves also have slowly been incorporated into contra dance style. The blues posture is used frequently in partner swings, with typically a closer partner hold, and distinctly more intimate. The Asheville, NC contra dance scene is regarded as a hotspot of dancers emulating a sexier, blues-fusion dance style, though blues moves can be seen in contra dances all over the country.

Tradition, an odd word, seems to refer to a thing of the past; tradition is all around us though, and continues because we continue creating it. Gender-free, techno, and blues-infused contra exists because contra dance is a living, breathing tradition; these new styles and expressions are in response to the evolving needs and interests of the dance community. The way we approach these changes will reflect the community norms of contra dancers as a whole, and of smaller micro-communities throughout the contra dance network. As a community we decide what makes contra dancing itself. We decide how far we can push the tradition before it stops being contra dance. Our own needs and innovations create the tradition, and it creates us.

Abigail Hobart studies ethnomusicology, sustainability, and food systems at Hampshire College, where she also organizes a monthly contra dance series. She is an avid contra dancer and lover of the tradition, and is from the Pacific Northwest.

Guest bloggers on the CDSS page are welcome. Write to news@cdss.org for guidelines.

 

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“Notes from the May Day Train,” Cambridge, MA

by Jane Winans, from Notes from the Train
(used by permission)

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Leaping in the air: Nathaniel Diamond-Jones (by Jane Winans)

I was photographing Newtowne Morris this morning. (Muddy River and Red Herring were also there but I didn’t see them dance.) It was pouring rain and in this one dance by the Charles River you can see the Maypole falling, it actually started to tip over but was caught before it hit the ground.  The men never missed a step and kept on dancing. :)

I am a writer who is writing a book called Notes from The Train;  this is what I wrote about this morning:

Notes from the May Day Train: Oh the Merry merry month of May. “I was up, long before the day-o, to welcome in the summer, to welcome in the May-o….” As per tradition, I stood along the banks of the Charles River at the foot bridge in Cambridge to watch the Morris Dancers dance and sing in the May. The Maypole was listing as buckets of rain fell steadily creating bigger and bigger puddles. But this did not stop the dance, nor the singing, nor the merriment. Morris Dancers are made of strong stuff and know they have a job to do.

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Tilting Maypole (by Jane Winans)

At one point in the dance, the Maypole started to slide and was caught in the nick of time before it touched the ground. It made me wonder, what would happen if it DID touch the ground? Would that mean we’d never have good weather again? Without blinking the men continued their dance as someone held the pole in place. Then we all paraded across Memorial Drive to the center of Harvard Square and started the Maypole dance. I noticed a tour gathering off to my side where tourists were getting instructions on where to meet up. Turned out they were all from China. I met the eyes of one couple and exclaimed, “Aren’t you lucky that you get to see Morris Dancers on the 1st of May. If you see them dance, you will have a Year and a Day of good luck. It’s a tradition out of England.” They smiled and nodded at me as they took out their camera… the next thing I know we were a few people short on dancing the Maypole. I went over and asked them to join in. The wife jumped in and grabbed a ribbon and as we bobbed and weaved, up down, up down, I ran into three more Chinese women who had also joined in our dance… all giggling and laughing as they turned, up and over, up and over…. to the music.

Only one couple on that entire bus knew English and it was the one I had originally talked to. She was an English teacher so I got her to translate to others what luck they had stumbled upon. Many pictures were taken, hands shook and even hugs given out as people greeted each other with “Merry May!” Then the traditional songs were sung all before 8 a.m.

I grabbed a large hot coffee, and juggling my rainbow umbrella, my phone and my gloves (yes, it was a very cold morning)… I had stuck a $20 bill in my pocket with my car keys, so I was trying to get them out and the $20 must have gone flying. I realized once I got to work that it was gone. Perhaps someone needed it more than me. When I got to work, I remembered that one of my young coworkers walked that same route to the T station. When he showed up, I asked, “You didn’t happen to find a soggy $20 bill on the sidewalk in Harvard Square this morning did you?” He looked at me curiously. “No.” So I explained my morning, showed him the pictures and sighed. “Perhaps the Faeries wanted it” and he said “Or it was payment for service to the Green Man.” I grinned: “Green Man payment for services?” and he turned red and exclaimed “Oh, Dear!!! Oh dear!” Poor guy got flustered very easy and I could tell that really wasn’t what he meant. As I walked down the hall, I could still hear him saying, “Oh dear!” I just smiled and went back to my desk.
If my $20 assures us of a good spring and summer, it will be well worth it!

Sing with me now: “Unite and Unite, oh let us Unite, for Summer is a coming today…. and wither we are going, let us unite, in the merry merry month of May….” Blessings to all.

© 2014 Jane Winans; please do not copy without permission of the author, sing2trees@yahoo.com.

 

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Advice for beginning young callers, by a beginning young caller

by Zoë Madonna

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I0j_LAWp8uU&list=UUTjRQGME9buLgs2P-OioG9w

(Above link: the author calling in Oberlin this past February.)

CDSS recently published the results of their contra dance caller’s survey, which they solicited submissions for in May 2013. I remember submitting my entry on one of the final days; I had seen the survey link earlier in the month but surmised that I should wait until I called my first dance in public before I could call myself a “caller.” I called the dance (The Baby Rose by David Kaynor) at the Glenside, PA open mic without any disasters, so I figured then I was qualified to submit. Earlier this year, I looked at the survey and found myself categorized in the 8% of callers under thirty. The contra scene is full of musicians under thirty, but callers under thirty seem pretty hard to come by on the national scale. At most dances I’ve attended recently, callers have been over forty and well established in either local or regional scenes.

If I had done most of my dancing anywhere but my college, where young callers are the norm, I don’t know if I would have had the confidence to start calling or even thought of learning, but now that I’ve called more guest dances than I have fingers on my hands, I don’t regret the decision to learn at all. For me, there’s a very real surge of energy that I feel every time I’m behind the mic; a symbiotic relationship with the band, the dancers, the sound of the feet on the floor. I’m calling my first half evening in two weeks at the Oberlin dance, and I’m looking forward to calling for and playing with familiar faces again.

But enough about me; what about you? Do you want to learn to call but aren’t sure where to start? Is your dance community either in need of a new caller? Have you thought “maybe when I’m older, I’ll learn to call?” If you want to learn to call, there’s no need to wait for a magic age. Here I’ll offer you some of the resources I used when I was learning to call, and I’m sure that with some Google magic you’ll find some others.

Seth Tepfer’s website, Dance Rhapsody, was probably the most helpful site I found before I started calling. Not only does he have useful notes on programming, running a beginners workshop, and effective walkthroughs: he has posted a handful of dances useful for novice callers. Check out the “great dances for novice contra callers” handout for a straightforward graphic explanation of calling on the beat of the music.

Cary Ravitz’s website can be a little bit dense, but it’s an incredible resource; head to the “For Beginning Callers” section. He’s written many dances too, and they’re all organized by difficulty. Take a look at the “contra dances by” section on his calling home page if you’re not easily overwhelmed.

YouTube may seem obvious, but it’s an invaluable resource in two senses; if you pick a common dance, chances are you’ll be able to find a video of someone (or a few someones) calling it, and you can also search for videos of callers you admire and pick up some style tips. Nils Fredland, George Marshall, and Susan Kevra are nationally known because they have style; what’s your style going to be? Think of the callers you’d drive an hour or more to dance with, and use them as role models.

I called to the wall of my dorm room for about two months before I called for the first time, practicing to recorded music. Pick a recording with a strong beat; it’ll be easier to follow and call on time! I recommend Rodney and Randy Miller’s New England Chestnuts, The Moving Violations’ Faster than a Walk, and Airdance’s Flying On Home.*

Your local dance callers and organizers! If the same person consistently calls your local dance, get to know that person and ask for a guest slot. If there’s an open mic night, sign up. Don’t get intimidated by telling the organizer or the main caller for the evening that you’ve never called before; they were all there before you, and chances are they’ll be overjoyed that there’s a young person who wants to call a dance! If you’re nervous about being up behind the mic with no “safety net,” ask a more experienced caller to get up there with you for your first few dances and be a safety net.

If you don’t want to learn on your own, ask the organizer if they know anyone who does caller’s workshops. I wasn’t there because I was abroad, but last fall Akron caller Michael Hamilton hosted a workshop for beginning callers at Oberlin, and all the participants called one dance at the dance later that night.

Last of all, you are your own greatest resource. Calling isn’t an easy job, and gigs won’t drop onto your head; if you want to call, you are the person most responsible for making it happen. Reach out to other callers, pick some favorite dances, and emanate joy in what you do!

*  all available at the CDSS Store

A singer, dancer, musician—and Oberlin junior―Zoë Madonna interned with CDSS this past January.

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The Everyday Things—Remembering Mac

by Carol Compton

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Mac at Folklife 1992; photo by Doug Plummer

Shortly after Mac died I had an email from Caroline asking me to write a bit about him for the CDSS blog.  Despite the fact that Mac and his music have been in my life since I was, oh, maybe 3, I could not imagine what I could add to the already overwhelming collection of testaments from the people whose lives he had touched in so many ways.  Somewhat chagrined, I set the assignment aside to figure out later.

I was clearing out my car today.  After several weeks of gigs just close enough together that I never took the sound system out, or the music, or the traveling gear — let’s just say it was a project.  As I got to the bottom of the archeological dig I came across a neat brown leather case with a silver buckle that once had a shoulder strap so you could carry it like a quiver of arrows. In it is a music stand. And I knew, at least in part, what I wanted to say about the man who signed an autograph from “Uncle Bob” for me when I was about 8.

A number of years ago CDSS started a “wish-list” of things we needed that we hoped someone might have lying around, unused, that would find new life at CDSS.  One of the things we needed was a large number of music stands for all the folks participating in summer camp dance bands.  So the word went out in the newsletter that we needed music stands.  One day I’m up in the balcony at the Peterborough Town Hall, probably setting up for the Snowball.  “HEY COMPTON!!”  came exploding up from the front of the hall.  “HEY WHAT?” (Certainly not ladylike but I rather enjoyed trying to match his volume level.) “I’VE GOT SOMETHING FOR YOU,” he yells back.  Turned out he’d been gathering up music stands for months.  In one delivery we had enough stands to send to all three camps that year.

For all the wonderful music, for all the years of service to country and classroom, for whatever good times and difficult ones, I look at the outpouring of stories and emotions of the last few weeks and wonder if the greatest gift he’s left us is not about the big gesture or some grand and glorious tunes — it’s the knack Kwack had for doing small things that had an enormous impact.

For him, collecting stands, or starting a piano tuning or scholarship fund, or telling the guys to shape up and give the gals in weight room some respect, or getting to know the person who served him his coffee, or giving some kid a second chance — these were not “big” things, just part of life.  But those of us on the receiving end know better. These “everyday” things are the ones we hold onto and treasure.  (Okay, these and some of his jokes…) 

Somehow, the music stand in the leather case never made it out of my car and into the CDSS collection. It lives in the back of the car waiting for the moment when someone says “I need.” And when I hand it to that person and they admire the cool leather case, I tell them about the man who passed it on so someone else could play the music. Thanks, Bob.

Bob McQuillen died on February 4, 2014. An afternoon memorial service will be held on May 3, in Peterborough, NH, following by an evening dance; see https://www.facebook.com/groups/238978876284424/for more info.

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photo of Carol Compton by C. J. Leake

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Energetic and Laid-back

CDSS’s American Dance & Music Week at Pinewoods

A Week of Dance, Music, Songs and Fun, August 9-16, 2014

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photo by Jeff Bary

Gather with friends, old and new, for a memorable music and dance experience. The hardest part about the week is the difficult choices of which classes to go to. Program director Sue Rosen has gathered many of America’s finest dance teachers and musicians for this rich and varied program, and the multi-talented staff will offer a unique dancing and musical experience and opportunities to learn. This year we are featuring a strong program in the traditions from Appalachia and the American South and from Ireland, along with contras morning, noon and night.

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photo by Sargon de Jesus

Do you love dances? Want to be part of the Dare to be Square revolution and learn to call southern squares? Feel like kicking up your heels in the old Irish style of sean-nós stepdance or Appalachian flatfooting? Have you tried Irish set dance? Well, bring your dance shoes and lots of energy.

Can’t dance all day? Not a problem. Bring your instruments and your voices because the week promises a full program of music classes and more. Come and try something new under the guidance of teachers who are experts in their fields, and who will have you playing and singing with your heart and soul. Or get messy and creative with paper, paint, glue and who-knows-what else in the daily community art class. Carve out some time to sit on the porch, take a swim, jam or nap, but don’t miss the daily gathering where we’ll join for singing, laughs and concerts.

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photo courtesy CDSS Archives

Evening dance parties will set the nights aglow, followed by after-dance parties in the camphouse where the fun continues with more opportunities for playing music and games, singing and dancing. We’re excited about the week and look forward to seeing you there!

American Dance & Music Week is funded in part by the Massachusetts Cultural Council. We thank them for their support.

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