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Early Music is more than music before 9 a.m.

CDSS’s Early Music Week at Pinewoods—Fairest Isle: Music and Dance of Great Britain and Beyond

Beautiful music under the trees, June 26-July 3, 2014

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DSC_0511_EM 2010_lady in mask_michielsEnjoy the fun of playing rollicking English dance music, or the beautiful polyphony of composers like Byrd, Gibbons, Dowland, Jenkins, the lively rhythms of Holborne, the poignant harmonies of Purcell, pungent Scottish tunes, the intricacies of high Baroque composers like Handel, and so much more.

In this idyllic and restful setting, you’ll be treated to fabulous food, wonderful people, plenty of opportunity to carouse and have fun, as well as to play great music together, and to dance to the music of some of the best English country dance musicians around. The fun is what distinguishes this from a lot of other workshops. And yet the teachers are also highly accomplished renowned experts in the field of early music.

Come and feel the special magic of CDSS Early Music Week at Pinewoods, no matter your age or level of ability. Discover why people return year after year and why others wish they’d found out about it earlier!

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photo by John Sidtis

Our program offers musical challenges and opportunities to players and singers at every level, from highly experienced to those who are just beginning. From morning technique and consort classes to afternoon special topic ensembles, we will play and sing music from the vibrant Middle Ages to the virtuosic Baroque.

If you’ve never played a musical instrument (but wish you could) or if you studied music years ago (and fear you’ve forgotten everything), there are classes to get you started or to help brush off the rust. Introductory classes are offered in recorder, viol, and harp.

Advanced and intermediate players have a wide array of classes from which to choose. Singers of all abilities will benefit from singing class, chorus and mixed ensembles with instruments. EM 2010 Driving in-1_whoDancers and dance teachers can learn an instrument and participate in the nightly dance parties and the daily dance classes, including high-level technique classes, challenging ensembles and historical dance.

All classes are led by the outstanding and dedicated performing faculty. Our staff features active professionals and acclaimed teachers of early winds (recorders, reeds and brass), strings (viols and violin), harp, harpsichord, voice and dance.

This year, we are offering a class called What Every Musician Needs to Know About the Body. This class (sometimes called Body Mapping) leads musicians to play and sing with greater ease, to avoid injury, and even heal from injury. It’s eye-opening, relaxing, practical and fun.

– Frances Fitch, Program Director

Comments from some recent participants:

  • Outstanding! Sang things I never knew I was capable of.
  • So amazing what we learned and accomplished.
  • This was the most I have ever learned in a dance class.
  • It was as close to perfect as I can think of.
  • Great positive energy. Had a great time!
  • Loved my week here. Will be back next year!

Scholarship Opportunities

In addition to the scholarships available through CDSS, summer scholarships are offered by Early Music America (deadline: April 15) and The Viola da Gamba Society of America(deadline: April 15).

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

MCC logo_full _web version

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Speaking Up for the (Participatory) Arts

by Rima Dael, Executive Director

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photo by Ryan Carollo

Today is National Arts Advocacy Day, hosted by Americans for the Arts, and we are celebrating by developing a new partnership with Children’s Music Network, a like-minded organization, to address how both our organizations can better connect with educators and artists that bring participatory arts into classrooms. We’re looking forward to our conversations!

I also want to take a moment to remind you of how we at CDSS advocate for the arts year ‘round and why…

First, we believe that participatory arts change lives. (Has it changed yours? Or someone you know?)

Second, we believe, and have experienced, that the participatory arts of English and North American traditional dance, music and song spread joy and build community which, in turn, change lives.

Next, with almost 100 years of experience, we know that participatory dance, music and song thrive within communities. And because we believe this, we want to make sure communities which support our participatory arts continue to thrive.

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photo by Erin Nolan

The work of CDSS is to ensure there are people, places and communities where this can happen. We will harness our resources nationally to build resilient communities which ensure the continuity and preservation of the traditional dance, music and song which we love.

We already share the work that CDSS does and its importance in different ways:

We advocate strongly for the inclusion of participatory arts for children, families and adults.

We talk to elected officials and legislators of the importance of the arts in our communities. We did that in October 2013 by testifying to the MA legislators.

We make available CDSS resources that you can take to build up your dance, music or song community: tools from past leadership conferences, our online library of resources: and our how-to-kits.

And as mentioned above, we are partnering with Children’s Music Network to discuss strengthening our connection with classroom educators and artists.

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photo by Sarah Strong

And, as always, places to find and build community and your own skills in dance, music and song are at our summer camps. Sign up for a week, and dance and sing your brains out this year!

Participatory arts change lives! Pass it on.

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Handing on the Tradition

by Zoë Madonna

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Outside the dance hall (Photo by Zoë Madonna )

The 2014 Ralph Page Legacy Weekend’s Saturday dance was buried in eight inches of wet, heavy snow that started falling at about ten in the morning and did not stop till late evening. Fortunately, the gym of the Memorial Union Building at the University of New Hampshire was heated enough to keep everyone comfortable. The kind of vigorous dancing that makes dancers sweat through their shirts was nowhere to be found at Ralph Page; even after three hours of dancing, I was hardly tired. The tunes were played at a moderate pace, some dances didn’t have partner swings, and one of the staff callers tells me he’s never used a calling card in his life.

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The past into the future (Photo by Zoë Madonna)

The Ralph Page weekend is more of a celebration of social dancing history and tradition than it is a modern “dance weekend.” A loop of David Millstone’s documentaries on Dudley Laufman and the history of contra in New England played in one room, where dancers could rest their feet. Memory books about now-deceased Ralph Page mainstays were laid out on a table. Workshops and dance sessions were themed around the past; a retrospective of mentors (Bob McQuillen, Larry Jennings, Ralph Sweet, Marianne Taylor), a program themed around one of Ralph Page’s Tuesday night dances at the Boston YWCA, and a session of “contras and squares that folks think ‘Dudley doesn’t know.’” “Dudley” is Dudley Laufman, who made immeasurable contributions to getting youth involved in contra dancing in the 1960s. He still plays fiddle and accordion, calling while he plays.

I was there because I’d gotten a calling scholarship, so I was in attendance at Dudley’s workshop on the “dos and don’ts of calling.” He hadn’t come with any dos and don’ts past “don’t ask at the beginning how many people are there for their first time” and “don’t let the band boss you around,” but the other attendees had plenty of questions for him and he had plenty of stories to tell, like the time he and his wife Jacqueline played a gig on a Boston Harbor yacht for a convention of insurance salesmen, during which they had to wear full colonial dress and were  not allowed to speak to their fellow performers or the audience. Dudley is in his 80s and had heart surgery recently, but that isn’t stopping him from calling barn dances. These days, a Dudley set usually consists of a few chestnut contras, some circle dances, a New England style square, and a Sicilian circle or two. Moves that have become commonplace in modern contra, such as the hey for four and gypsy, cannot be found in Dudley’s sets.

Dudley also had plenty of questions for me, whipping around with surprising speed for someone his age every time he remembered something he wanted to ask. “If a bus full of Girl Scouts, no, if a bus full of people with Down’s Syndrome pulls up and everyone comes in, what are you going to call?” I puzzled that question over for a minute before saying I’d call the simplest circle mixer I know. “Would you have them change partners?” asked another caller. I didn’t know what to answer. I still have a long way to go.

The defining moment of Ralph Page for me happened during lunch on the final day. As I was walking through the cafeteria, the jam session that had been playing struck up Money Musk. Two couples set up at one end of the cafeteria aisle and called for a third; I grabbed a partner and we three couples started dancing. No calls were needed. We all knew this dance. By the time my partner and I were waiting at the top, the line was at least twelve couples long. By the time the dance ended, there were at least twenty couples on the line: a good quarter of the people at the weekend, dancing Money Musk in a cafeteria for fifteen minutes with unabashed joy.

The Ralph Page Legacy Weekend was created in 1988 to recognize the contributions that caller Ralph Page (1903-1985) made to contra and New England folk dancing. It’s held the weekend before the third Monday in January (MLK, Jr. Day), at the University of New Hampshire in Durham, NH and sponsored by the New England Folk Festival Association.

A singer, dancer, musician—and Oberlin junior―Zoë Madonna is interning with CDSS this month.

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Categories: American Dance, Arts & Tourism, Ballads, Beginning Dancers, Chorus Songs, Contra Dance, Dance Callers, Display Dance, English Dance, Features & Fun, Folk Dance, Guest Posts, Ideas & Resources, Morris Dance, Musicians, Old Time Dance, Round Dance, Rounds, Song, Square Dance, Traditional Dance, Traditional Music, Traditional Song, Updates from the Office | + Leave a comment »

“Nobody remotely like him…”—Pete Seeger (1919-2014)

Text and photos by Stewart Dean

576A3583 (Medium)Nobody remotely like him, and a towering example to us all of a life well led, decently, indomitably, with heart, conviction and a burning sense of fairness and compassion.

Attached are some pictures I took of him last summer at the Summer Hoot at Ashokan.  He was then so frail, but his spirit was still fierce.

When he wasn’t at the mic or talking to someone, he would look out into space as if gazing into eternity…with utter calm.  It seemed to me he could have, at any time, stepped into the void….utterly surrendered and unafraid

He has now turned and turned….which he wrote: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GbPl91kTFro

His voice has been faltering but him never.

“…in our direst need, the smallest gifts: the nail of the horseshoe, the pin of the axle, the feather at the pivot point, the pebble at the mountain’s peak, the kiss in despair, the one right word.

In darkness, understanding.”

(“Dy Cabon’s Prayer to the Bastard,” by Lois McMaster Bujold, Paladin of Souls)

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Youth Traditional Song: The New Kid’s Tale

by Zoë Madonna

10201_10201832828280265_1026612310_n_zoe madonna at 2014 yts_by Suzanne Mrozak

I was the Doctor in the mummer’s play. My role was a) to use the tiny flask and revive the Soldier and the Sailor after they had fought and killed each other, and b) make a glaringly obvious Doctor Who joke. (Photo by Suzanne Mrozak)

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “youth” as “the time of life when someone is young” or “the early period of existence, growth, or development.” Something or someone is “youthful” when it “[has] or [shows] the freshness or energy of someone who is young,” or is “in an early stage of development.” With that in mind, was Youth Trad Song, which took place during the first weekend of January, a “youth” event? To encourage young people to attend Youth Trad Song, admission was balanced 80% “young” (under 50) and 20%  “young at heart” (over 50). Still, 40 or 45 years old is not considered a “youth” under most definitions; what, then, makes Youth Trad Song a youth event?

The answer to that question is involvement and openness. Before the weekend, a schedule of staff-led workshops was posted on the website, but the directing committee also actively sought submissions for camper-led workshops, with the reminder that anyone could schedule one at the last minute at the weekend; all that a would-be workshop leader had to do was write the location and the theme of the workshop on the giant schedule on the dining room wall. The result was a delightful, spontaneous hodgepodge of song (“Around the World in 80 Songs,” “the anti-pub sing,” “Georgian and Ukrainian harmony singing,” “camp songs with Jillian and Eevy!”) filling up every corner of the handful of buildings YTS occupied. There was room to create, and share creations and ideas; the only thing that everyone was asked to do for the weekend was learn “West Indies Blues” to sing together at the first dinner. The crowd didn’t even make it ten feet before breaking into “Bringing in the Sheaves,” kicking off a song circle that lasted till three AM.

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Sam Kleinman leads a song from the new shapenote tune book, The Shenandoah Harmony. (Photo by Zoë Madonna)

A perfect example of the kind of organic creativity YTS’s environment cultivates:  I participated in a mummer’s play during the open mic on Saturday night, in honor of Twelfth Night. The idea of doing the play had been brought up just that morning at breakfast by Marvin Warren, who had seen a good number of Twelfth Night plays but had yet to take part. After a bit of tossing ideas around at lunch (St. George? Sarcastic dragon?), we gathered enough people (Soldier, Sailor, Doctor, Chimney Sweep) to perform the stock play in the song “Rise Up, Jock.” We picked parts, added parts where they were needed (Old Father Christmas made an appearance in the guise of Brad from the Foggy Bottom Morris Men), we gathered and made props (most out of paper bags and duct tape, in keeping with the Paper Bag Mummers of Waltham’s tradition), learned the chorus to the song, found stock lines and insults thanks to Lynn Noel’s iPad, and found a willing stooge whose open mic performance Marvin (playing the fool) could interrupt by shouting “Room! Room!” and banging on a pan, announcing the arrival of the mummers. Five minutes before we went on, a woman named Rose volunteered to be Beelzebub and pass the hat at the end of the play, and we ended up raising some money for next year’s Youth Trad Song scholarship fund.

What does it take to be young at heart, or youthful? Some of the attendees, like myself, were at very early stages of our lives as folk singers. But then there were people at the event who have been singing for 50+ years, who have well established identities as performers and singers and leaders in folk and traditional music communities.  I wouldn’t have been too surprised if the veterans had cliqued up and did their thing while us kids did our thing, as I sometimes see at contra dance events. Instead, everyone sang like they were new and youthful and open to everything they heard, celebrating each contribution alike.

A singer, dancer, musician—and Oberlin junior―Zoë Madonna is interning with CDSS this month.

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Exceedingly Good Song Night

by Zoë Madonna

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“And I bid you good night”) Zoë Madonna

What do you get when you take a back room of a New York bar, fill it with singers coming out of varied folk traditions, sell them some food and beer, and then give them five hours to sing what they will? That’s Exceedingly Good Song Night, a monthly event in New York’s East Village run by acting coach Ken Schatz. Professional musicians and amateurs, experienced singers and first timers: generations mix and join in on the choruses at Exceedingly Good Song Night in a way I rarely see at any other traditional song event.

I went to my third EGSN last Sunday as part of a trip to New York which I wasn’t sure was going to happen until about a half hour before it did. There’s a loose theme every month; this month, the theme was “noise.” Ken serves as unofficial master of ceremonies, constantly looking around the room to make sure everyone who wants to sing gets a chance to sing, calling on people who might be shuffled into a corner of the small stage or otherwise not in the center of the room. One of Ken’s songs of choice for the night was “The Fox,” not to be confused with “What Does the Fox Say.” Most of my generation knows the story in that song through Peter, Paul and Mary’s kid’s album, but Ken’s version was set to a different melody with the relevant line “up jumped John, ringing on his bell.”

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Spontaneous blues dancing (Zoë Madonna)

Hunting songs were plentiful that night, probably because of all the hunting horns that usually appear therein; someone sang “Dido Bendigo,” and then Heather Wood, formerly of the Young Tradition, followed it with a parody version, as she sometimes does. Charlie, from Maine but visiting family in Brooklyn, sang “West Indies Blues.” There was a whole contingent down from Massachusetts at this Song Night; Nicole from Amherst sang a bluegrassy murder song (“ain’t nobody knocking at the door”), Mel from Boston sang “The Heavenly Aeroplane” (“this old world’s going to reel and rock”) and Laura from Williamsburg sang a version of “Mary Had a Little Lamb” with a chorus borrowed from the Civil War (“shouting the battle cry of freedom”) and some decidedly not kindergarten-safe verses.

Most of the songs at Song Night have choruses or opportunities for harmonies, but most people are glad to take a little break from singing when someone wants to sing a story song or a ballad without a chorus. After Ken announced the next month’s theme, “Romance Or Lack Thereof,” I asked if it would be apropos to lead one that fit both themes and sang “The Little Duke Arthur’s Nurse,” a rare ballad with a happy ending about a man who hears his sweetheart singing (fitting both themes) and then escapes would-be killers by…listen to Frankie Armstrong’s version and find out.

Other songs I heard that night included a bunch of mountain spirituals, a handful of shanties, and one “Cherokee deer song” which is apparently supposed to travel through the ground into the leg of the deer and make the deer come to you so you may eat them. No deer showed up; they must have been stuck in the traffic on the George Washington Bridge.

In addition to all the singers, there was a healthy contingent of people with instruments who could improvise, so most of the songs ended up having a few instrument notes behind them. There were guitars, a banjo, a concertina, and a Shruti box present; the latter only came out to accompany its owner as a haunting drone under a ballad. Some people got up and waltzed during a song in 3/4 time, and during a blues number a few people got up to blues dance. Most of the songs were traditional or have been folk processed enough that they could be, but near the end of the night Ken requested a decidedly modern song and Will, from Montague, sang the “Ballad of the Button Box.” (“If you can type, you can play the concertina…”) Though I had the longest journey home (three and a half hours) this time out of any of my visits to Exceedingly Good Song Night, I was able to stay till the end for the first time; when I was living with my family, I always had to catch a train home well before closing, but this month, I was present to sing the last song, and joined in for the choruses on “And I Bid You Good Night.” I bundled myself into Will’s car and slept most of the way back to Massachusetts, tired, happy, and full of new old melodies.

Zoë Madonna is interning with us this month; her blog last week, abouther first dance experience, is here.

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Encouragement

by Zoë Madonna

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Zoe, in blue.

In come I, an Intern, welcome or welcome not, sheltering from the polar vortex in Western Massachusetts and helping out at the CDSS office for my winter term project this year. I’m Zoe, I’m a junior at Oberlin College, and I’ve been dancing and singing since shortly after I started school there.

I don’t remember what or who exactly brought me to my first contra dance; someone had told me that it was a. fun, b. possibly relevant to my interests (I had started playing piano accordion a few months pre-college), and c. happening at the school gym on Friday night. I was only there for the last half of the dance, following a production of Waiting for Godot. I missed the beginner lesson and was therefore adrift on the floor; some people I knew from various other activities were there and asked me to dance. Initially I was terrified of messing up, of causing a traffic accident with another dancer, of being not fun to dance with. Unlike lindy hop, which I had begun to learn two months prior, my partners wouldn’t be stuck with clueless me for just three or four minutes, and the amount of damage I could do was significantly multiplied by the fact that contra required me to interact with everyone on the floor.

When I stopped looking at my feet after a few dances, I was pleasantly shocked by what I noticed passing in front of my eyes as I danced down the hall, allemanded my neighbor, and stumbled my way through my first attempts at a hey for four. These experienced dancers weren’t only tolerating the other newbies and me; they were smiling at us, helping us by way of a guiding hand or a point at what shoulder to pass. They were asking us to dance.

Like many of my generation, I’m quite wired into social media, and I once searched the “contra dance” tag on Tumblr to see if anyone else had posted stories or just snippets of their dancing lives. The most re-shared post on the tag was not wholly about dancing, but included a few sentences about the author’s negative experience wherein “barefoot dancers of all ages gave [the author and his friends] fierce stares and shouted directions at us when we failed to do what the dance dictated.” I have seen those same fierce stares directed at new dancers on multiple occasions in various scenes, when veteran dancers meet a newbie and see an obstacle to their enjoyment of the dance, rather than a future dance partner and community member. It takes courage to step onto a dance floor for the first time and meet the eyes of complete strangers, and when those first attempts are scoffed at or refused, one cannot expect that the new dancers will have any desire to return.

I left the gym that night riding on a cloud of endorphins kicked up by fiery fiddle notes, feet stamping the floor in unison, and the almost constant smiles of my partners and neighbors. If I had been met with the same reception as the discontented Tumblr author was, I cannot say whether or not I would have returned for the next dance (and the next, and the next, and…). Experienced dancers actively welcoming in new ones with a smile and a request to dance is the only way how the tradition will stay alive and evolve through my generation and all who will come later.

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Travels + Partnerships = CDSS Community

by Rima Dael, CDSS Executive Director

1472955_10153521689310113_316745647_n 575205_10201002881497318_1815970005_nCDSS started the year in Tokyo and we’ll end the year a little quieter, with many of us staying close to home, but we’ll be singing, dancing and playing music as we say goodbye to 2013 and welcome in 2014.

An important part of building community through dance, music and song is visiting the communities where it happens. This year, as CDSS’s director, I went to meet, listen and learn from the following communities and events:

  • International folk dance community & CDSS members, Tokyo, Japan
  • Ralph Page Dance Legacy Weekend, Durham, NH
  • Sacramento CDS, Sacramento, CA (Exec meeting)
  • New England Folk Festival, Mansfield, MA
  • The Dance Flurry, Saratoga Springs, NY
  • Elixir Cape Dance Weekend, Cape Cod, MA
  • Massachusetts Nonprofit Network Conference, Boston, MA area
  • Arts Alliance of Northern New Hampshire Creativity Conference, Freedom, NH
  • Boston Early Music Festival, Boston, MA
  • Keith Blackmon Memorial Dance Weekend & River Train book release party, Great Valley, NY
  • Lenox Assembly, Lenox, MA
  • CDSS Lifetime Contribution Award Ceremony, Lansing, MI
  • Ann Arbor, MI dance communities
  • Contra-Indications, Des Moines, IA
  • Central Iowa Barn Dance, Ames, IA (Exec meeting)
  • Childgrove Country Dancers & Dance Discovery, St. Louis, MO
  • Phoenix Traditional Music and Dance, Phoenix, AZ
  • Turners Falls, MA (testimony to the Massachusetts State Joint-Committee Arts, Culture and Tourism)

Some of the staff traveled as well or danced or sang locally. We even taught a dance last weekend at the annual Eastworks Building’s Holiday Party (Eastworks is where our office is). We also spent time meeting, listening and learning while dancing, singing and playing music at our summer camp programs in Plymouth, MA; High View, WV; and Lyman, NH. We’ve had members drop by the office en route to festivals, dances and camps, or just to say hello and to shop at the CDSS Store or to tell us about their communities. We love hearing about your communities, and to see you!

A thank you to those who gave on, and spread the word about, Valley Gives Day, 12-12-13. (Special thanks to Joe K. from Fredonia, NY whose donation won us a Valley Gives golden ticket prize of $1,200.) Valley Gives is a part of our year-end Annual Appeal, allowing us to highlight our Education priorities. Beyond the fundraising, the true value for our part in it is training and experience for us—participating in social media, getting the word out about CDSS to our local community, and communication and connection with funders and area nonprofits that are now interested in our work. In my travels this year, I’ve heard from our dance and music communities that a big challenge for them is connecting with the mainstream community and with other organizations of similar interests in their area. So CDSS is  tackling this issue head-on. Using our backyard as our personal laboratory, we are forging ahead by developing relationships with like-minded organizations too. We’ll share our experiences and tips on how to do this in the coming year.

Speaking of the new year and new partnerships, we’re starting 2014 by sponsoring the dancing of a CDSS affiliate, Vintage Dance Society (VDS), at WGBY’s Masterpiece Ball, which has a “Downton Abbey” theme. In conjunction with the Ball, WGBY will host an advance screening of the opening episode of the series’ fourth season. I’m a fan, like many of you, and hope to attend the screening!

So 2014 will see CDSS building strategic partnerships with arts and nonprofit organizations that share interests within our folk communities and other arts and education sectors. We know the proverb of it taking a village to raise a child. The same works for programs and organizations. Strong programs need strong organizations to build and sustain them. Strong organizations depend on a network of partners and a strong community from which to draw upon to sustain itself. CDSS is working to strengthen its partnerships and build a community to sustain itself in its next 100 years. It is also one of the reasons we travel to meet and learn from you!

It was a delight to meet so many of you this year. Thank you for sharing your communities with us.  Thank you for helping strengthen the community around CDSS.

On behalf of the CDSS staff, Board and volunteers, may I wish you all the very best of the holiday season!

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CDSS Contra Task Group surveys 480 contra dance callers!

CDSS Contra Task Group surveys 480 contra dance callers!

Do you know 500 people who call contra dances? We do! Last spring the CDSS Contra Dance Task Group sent a survey to all the contra dance callers we could find. 480 completed the whole long survey. The results are fascinating and a summary of findings is available here on our website.

Among the highlights:

  • Callers responded from 45 states in the US, plus 6 provinces in Canada and 9 other countries (with Denmark, Australia and England being most frequent).
  • 75% of respondents were over the age of 50 while 8% of the respondents were under 30. Men and women were represented pretty equally among respondents.
  • There is tremendous diversity in the dances people call for – in size, level of experience and frequency of dancing.
  • A number of callers don’t think of themselves as just contra callers since they call a wide variety of kinds of dances (e.g., squares, mixers, big circle) depending on the situation.
  • A great many callers (40%) are calling less than they would like. Only 20% are calling more than 10 times a year.
  • Challenges callers face include limited opportunity to call, calling for groups with very mixed experience, marketing oneself as a caller, dealing with issues in the dance community, working with the band, and feeling burned out by trying to do too much.
  • Asked how they learned to call, callers listed dozens of websites, books and other sources. Many of these are in the process of being added to the existing CDSS contra dance resources page. Watch this space for an announcement when this goes live!
  • Most callers learned by observing other callers but they also learned in other ways such as being mentored (usually informally) and attending callers’ workshops.
  • Those who had experience with callers collectives found them to be an excellent way to get feedback and improve one’s skills – as well as to try out new dances.
  • There is quite a bit of interest in having an online database of dances as well as there being identified challenges around setting something like this up. We are going to explore some possibilities.
  • Many other needs were identified and there were also many suggestions for new resources.  See the full report for more details!

We hope you find the report interesting and useful. Doing the survey has been a lot of fun for us. We’ll be pursuing a number of areas identified in the survey to increase the resources available to callers and would welcome your help.

If you are interested in helping, look at our list of priorities (last slide in the PDF).  Then email volunteers@cdss.org.  Please put “Contra Dance Task Group” in the subject of the email.  Also, state which item you are interested in and how you think you may be able to contribute.  Watch our blog for more news about next steps in moving some of these ideas forward.

Enjoy!

CDSS Contra Dance Task Group

Lynn Ackerson (El Cerrito, CA)
Emily Addison (Ottawa, ONT)
David Chandler (Metuchen, NJ)
Martha Edwards (St. Louis, MO)
Lisa Greenleaf (Bolton, MA)
Chris Page (San Diego, CA)
Louise Siddons (Stillwater, OK)
Mary Wesley (Lincoln, VT)

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Dancing Well Is Proud to Announce Next Dance Series with Veterans and Families Affected by PTSD

by Deborah Denenfeld

The soldier froze at the door to the conference room. His breathing was shallow. His eyes darted around the room. 

He had danced with us before, in a different location, so I was surprised by his reaction. 

“Are you okay?” I asked. 

“It’s this room …,” he said. “But I think it’ll be okay. There’s only this one door, but I can throw one of those chairs through the window to get out if I have to.”

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Photo by Deborah Denenfeld

This is the world tens of thousands of soldiers and veterans live in. Acute awareness of their environment and their own personal safety keeps them alive in extremely dangerous situations. Now back home, their PTSD puts them on high alert at a moment’s notice.

As I’ve worked to create a dance program to benefit these individuals, this scene has stuck in my mind.  This soldier, who participated in the dance series I led at Fort Knox in 2010, is part of a phenomenon that concerns me deeply—the proliferation of PTSD among combat veterans.

Veterans with PTSD face higher unemployment, divorce, and suicide rates, as well as serious health problems related to ongoing stress and anxiety.  These individuals need to be integrated back into a supportive community. They need a safe place to heal and re-acclimate, together with their loved ones. This is where Dancing Well: The Soldier Project comes in.

Community dance helps these individuals in myriad ways. Soldiers have reported improved mood and memory, decreased anxiety, greater ease in groups, better relationships with family members, and an improved outlook on the future.

I’m happy to report that the soldier did decide to enter the room, and, once he did, the live music and dancing brought him back to the present moment. Before he knew it, he was smiling and enjoying himself. And when the series was over, he reported all the positive outcomes listed above. I cannot fully describe to you how gratifying it is to see this kind of transformation.

And now, through your generous support, this same kind of experience, these same benefits, will be available to many more veterans and families touched by PTSD and debilitating brain injury. In the midst of writing a blog post about our participation in the Celebration of Life, a local suicide prevention fair for veterans, I received word that Dancing Well had raised the funds for its first dance series.

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Dancing at the Celebration of Life suicide prevention fair for veterans; photo by Deborah Denenfeld

As I received the incredible news, I thought of the solders and families I danced with at Fort Knox and of the many families who will now benefit from this unique and powerful program. I’ve already spoken to three veterans who hope to participate, and we expect to be dancing together in the first quarter of 2014.

This first series is just the beginning, marking the official launch of the Dancing Well national project, which will include four dance series and the creation and implementation of a comprehensive curriculum to train others to lead dance with veterans suffering from PTSD and brain injury, and their loved ones.

In closing, I am incredibly grateful for the unflagging support of the dance community. We could not have reached this critical milestone without you—thank you from the bottom of my heart. I know 2014 is going to bring much health and healing, and I look forward to sharing the details with you as they unfold.  Wishing you joy for the holidays!

The Country Dance and Song Society continues to be the proud fiscal sponsor for the project. 

 

 

 

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