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Meet Mary Wesley, our new Youth Intern!

Mary calling for a dance (photo by Roger Katz)

Mary calling for a dance (photo by Roger Katz)

We are very pleased to welcome Mary Wesley as our new Youth Intern. She’ll build on the excellent groundwork laid by her predecessors Ethan and Max, as she reaches out to our younger constituents and helps us better address their needs. See our Youth Desk pages for a wealth of resources geared toward young dancers, musicians, callers, singers, and organizers. And now, I’ll let Mary speak for herself.  ~lydia

Hello, neighbor!

As the new CDSS Youth Intern for 2011-2012, I hope you’ll consider me your personal connection to CDSS. I am here to listen to your ideas, answer your questions when I can, and connect you with people and resources to help support your goals. I am also here to learn from you! I rely on you to be my eyes on the world of song and dance that we all love and share. Please give me a shout with any questions, stories or ideas you think I should know about: mary@cdss.org.

Here are some questions that intrigue me:

What connects us? Which questions and answers do we have in common and how can we discuss them together?

By “us” I mean our community: your singing group, the people you go dancing with, musicians at your weekly jam. This community is vast! I found my way into this world contra dancing and Morris dancing in northern Vermont, but there are so many portals. For a year after college I worked as an archaeologist, traveling great distances between projects. As I moved about the country I found I could connect with this community wherever I went. Landing in Bloomington, IN knowing nobody, I found friends at the Wednesday night contra dance. At the University of Chicago’s Folk Festival I was instantly at home listening to a room full of people singing Shape Note hymns. Dancing in Brentwood, CA I could compare notes on rag-coats with the local Border Morris team. In South Carolina I took some archaeologist friends to the Palmetto Bug Stomp. As we drove back from the dance they exclaimed, “It seemed like everyone knew you already!”

Mary dancing at YDW

Mary dancing at Youth Dance Weekend 2011 (photo by Ryan Carollo)

In a way it was true – traditional music and dancing brings people together in a way that provides instant familiarity. You may never have spoken with someone but you can harmonize a tune. However, the joy of these art forms lies in the diversity of their expression. There are a thousand different ways to sing a song. The experiences we share singing, playing and dancing together are crafted by a bouquet of individuals each with their own background and approach to the tradition. So I ask you this: what was your portal? What did you find at your first country dance or learning your first tune that left you wanting more? If you can answer this for yourself it may be your first step in opening the door for someone else. You can spread that joy and help our community grow and expand!

Mary talking with a bunch of young folks at a contra dance (photo by Sarah Babbitt Spaeth)

Mary talking with a bunch of young folks at a contra dance (photo by Sarah Babbitt Spaeth)

There is no formula for community growth. What works well in one vibrant community may have no bearing in other places. Fortunately, this modern world of connectivity makes it easy for us to observe and share thousands of examples of what’s happening in song and dance communities across the continent. There is so much we can learn from each other! If you’re wondering how to get more young people to come to your English Country Dance, someone else is too. If you’ve had wild success starting a pub sing at your college, your story could inspire someone to start a group at their own school.

So let’s start talking. How? The first move to make is simply to start a conversation with people in your local community. Celebrate what’s going well; discuss what you’d like to change or improve. Stay in touch with your neighborhood, but don’t forget, your CDSS neighborhood stretches coast to coast and it’s a resource. Leave a comment here on our blog, or submit a post yourself. Stop by my Youth Intern Facebook page to post stories or ask questions. You may also submit something to the CDSS newsletter. Make your voice heard – continue the conversation!

I look forward to hearing your stories. See you around the neighborhood!

Mary

Mary holding CDSS sign

Mary in CDSS outreach mode (photo by Daniel Friedman)

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