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Small to Large Gifts—It All Helps!

by Rima Dael and Caroline Batson

Help us Help Teachers! CDSS + Valley Gives, Thursday 12/12/13, until midnight

CDSS VGIt’s Valley Gives Day, 12/12/13, the 24-hour e-philantrophy event! This year CDSS is raising funds to create online toolkits to help teachers and parents bring the rich heritage of North American and English traditional dance, music and song to more classrooms and communities. See recent blogs on CDSS’s website about why we think this is important.

Here’s what a gift, small or large, can do for us:

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Photo by Daniel Friedman

$12—Why give $12? Because today is 12/12! $12 is meaningful because it is about what one can spend on coffee easily in a week, if you’re getting regular coffee. If you’re getting lattes, $12 doesn’t get you through the whole week, but $12 is a meaningful commitment to help CDSS help teachers bring dance, music and song into classrooms.

$20—Dance, music and song are important in the lives of children. See Nils Fredland’s blog about teacher support. And this just in, we’ve got more requests from other schools to replicate the teacher training he just did with CDSS member David Wiley!

Erin Nolan_Karana and JuliaFWP2012$53—A tank of gas. We travel to speak to teachers and artists. CDSS Education Director, Pat MacPherson, used a tank of gas to go learn about the Common Core State Standards at a creativity conference where she met a professor from Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in North Adams, MA. At this conference there was learning and networking with teachers on how to use the Arts with the Common Core State Standards now adopted by most States.

$100—Online resources for teachers. We’ve talked to teachers who have asked us to provide them with online resources. Why online? It saves them time! Online resources will showcase teaching notes and how other teachers have used dance, music and song in their classrooms. Let’s make this happen for them!


Photo by Paul Bestock

$250—We want to get with it, electronically! We have some great resources for teachers that exist in binder and booklet format, but need to embrace the 21st century to digitize and update these resources for use online.

$500—Tablets have become a great resource in the classroom. Not as heavy as a laptop, and a good way to read book, articles, research on the go and show videos. The e-book format is exciting for us as we envision a resource that will connect theory to practice and right on the same page a “how-to” video or audio! We’re excited to make this happen.

Donate before midnight! CDSS + Valley Gives

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Categories: American Dance, Arts Advocacy, Dance Callers, Display Dance, English Dance, Features & Fun, Ideas & Resources, Morris Dance, Musicians, Traditional Dance, Updates from the Office | + Leave a comment »

The Lifetime Importance of the Arts

by Rima Dael, CDSS Executive Director

Erin Nolan_Karana and JuliaFWP2012

Photo by Erin Nolan

In my travels I get to meet communities across the country. Last month I was in Lansing and Ann Arbor, celebrating Judi and Glen Morningstar with the 2013 CDSS Lifetime Contribution Award (LCA). The warmth and joy that exuded from that evening was a testimony to the Morningstars’ work and the community they helped build. Many thanks to the Ann Arbor Community of Traditional Music and Dance and all the participants for the wonderful celebration!

The following week, in St. Louis, I had the opportunity to dance and meet with dancers from Dance Discovery and I got to dance with Dr. John Ramsay, himself a LCA recipient (2010). Dance Discovery performed one of their dances and there were two wonderful morris performances at the break. Dancer/photographer Doug Plummer was visiting and took some wonderful photos; thanks, Doug! I also danced and met with callers and musicians associated with Childgrove Country Dancers. It was wonderful to dance with the St. Louis community, and to participate in their Calling Party—here’s a video of one of the dances we vetted:

DeniseSmith_ogontz family week 144

Photo by Denise Smith

A core focus of the work of the Morningstars and Dr. Ramsay is working with young people, students and homeschoolers. Teaching dance, music and song to young folks is important to CDSS and so is reaching out to teachers—classroom teachers, PE teachers and music teachers—to use traditional dance, music and song in the schools. In fact, this is an important programmatic priority for CDSS.

The arts can play a crucial role in improving students’ abilities to learn, because they draw on a range of intelligences and learning styles, not just the linguistic and logical-mathematical intelligences upon which most schools are based. (See Eloquent Evidence: Arts at the Core of Learning, President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities, talking about Howard Gardener’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences, 1995.)

BarbaraDyskant_R6. Kids Out with Peter U3 IMG_2647

Photo by Barbara Dyskant

Recently, CDSS member David Wiley, president of the Historic Jonesborough Dance Society, and caller/CDSS staffer Nils Fredland, accompanied by Sassafras Stomp, visited Washington Elementary in Kingsport, TN to provide a contra dance workshop for teachers and students. They worked with 40 kindergarteners and first graders, along with their PE, music and classroom teachers. Read Nils’ blog post about the event.

We know adults care about arts in school. Not just parents! According to the Americans for the Arts national public opinion survey:

  • 95% of respondents believe the arts teach intangibles such as creativity, self-expression and individualism;
  • 91% of respondents believe the arts are vital to a well-rounded education;
  • 89% percent of respondents believe that arts education is important enough that schools should find the money to ensure inclusion in the curriculum;
  • BUT 67% of adults say they do not know how to get involved.

CDSS can help you get involved!!!

As we’ve shared last year, CDSS is working hard to provide resources for public schools to use traditional dance, music and song as tools to educate their students. We’re continuing our work. This is not a new priority for our community, but CDSS has recommitted our organization to the task. We have our Lifetime Contribution Awardees and so many others who’ve paved the way to thank for strengthening our efforts and allowing us to support their accomplishments.

Thank you, Dr. John Ramsay. Thank you, Glen and Judi Morningstar. We’re following your lead, passing on traditions to the next generation, training teachers, and, with the help of our members and donors, making sure we have tools for busy school teachers to use dance, music and song well. Help us help teachers on Valley Gives Day this Thursday, 12/12/13.

VG event-logoCDSS wants to create online toolkits to help more teachers, schools, kids and parents across the country enjoy dancing activities in their classrooms and communities. Your donation to CDSS on 12.12.13, Valley Gives Day, will support this project and CDSS outreach. (You can schedule your donation ahead of time by going to that same link.)

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Kicking off Valley Gives at Eastworks

As we gear up for our local community giving event, Valley Gives, CDSS staff took an unusual lunch break today to pay a visit to neighboring friends and arts organizations in the Eastworks building where our offices are.  As requested by folks in the building who saw us last year, we once again took up antlers, sashes, fiddles and a triangle and performed the Abbots Bromley Horn Dance.  The folk dance dates back to the middle ages, originating from the English village of the same name.  People’s reactions ranged from stares to gasps, from “Woahs” to “No one will believe me when I tell them about this”…and lots of smiles.  Many people took cell phones out and recorded us in their offices spaces, restaurants and dancing down the hall.

We love sharing our traditions and giving back to our community.  In this spirit, if you’re in the area please join us this Thursday, 12/12/13 at 4:00 pm as the Valley Gives bus makes a stop in the Big Y parking lot in Northhampton.  We’ll be singing songs together and spreading the word about Valley Gives, a 24-hour e-philanthropy event for local nonprofits in western MA. You can donate to any of the over 300 non-profits in the Pioneer Valley.  We hope that you will consider donating to CDSS. Your donation on 12/12/13 could help us become eligible for thousands of dollars in prizes!  You don’t have to live here to donate.

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Valley Gives—The Need for Teacher Support

by Nils Fredland, CDSS Education Specialist

dyskant,b tr07 dsk1 1897

Photo by Barbara Dyskant

The Education team at CDSS is working on the creation of resources for school teachers who are interested in including participatory American folk dance in their classrooms. To that end, Pat MacPherson, CDSS Director of Education, and I are talking to teachers about what they need, and we are actively fundraising through Valley Gives again this year, on 12.12.13, to allow us to produce the best possible resources to meet those needs.

Last month, as part of this important and exciting initiative, I had the pleasure of going to Washington Elementary School, in Kingsport, TN, and meeting with Physical Education and Music teachers from that school district to discuss the role participatory American folk dance can play in their classrooms. Long story short, a PE teacher from the school, named John Luppe, came to one of the contra dances put on by the Historic Jonesborough Dance Society. Once John spoke to David Wiley, HJDS’s president, about his wish to bring contra dance to his school, it was a done deal that something would happen! John’s enthusiasm was the spark and David’s superb organizational skill and commitment to dance in Tennessee was the reason the meeting with the teachers happened. I got a call from David the week before Sassafras Stomp and I were scheduled to come to Tennessee to play, and the next thing we all knew we were scheduled for an arts residency at Washington Elementary the following week. Whew!

The teachers I met in Kingsport, while interested in the idea of bringing participatory folk dance into their classrooms, spoke about having an already jam-packed curriculum which included a broad overview of many kinds of dance, from Maori Stick-Dancing to Ballroom Dancing to the Electric Slide, and many things in between. Square dancing, while part of the survey, seemed in some cases to be pushed to the end, “if we have time,” presumably because the teachers feel less confident in their ability to teach the dances. As a result, they have a harder time engaging their students in a satisfying experience. Contra dancing was not mentioned, although the Virginia Reel was. It was clear that the teachers knew, and used, some Play Party games, but didn’t call them by that name. There was a general sense among the assembled group that, while American folk dance is a great thing to include in their dance program, students have no context and connection to the importance of that experience, and teachers, at least in the assembled group, lack appropriate repertoire and skills to become dance callers for a week.

After the informal lunch and discussion, we adjourned to the school’s auditorium for two 40-minute sessions, each with around 40 kindergarten and first grade students. Teachers, parents, administrators, and guests observed as I split the children into smaller groups of twenty, and led each group through the same 20 minute lesson. The lesson covered the skills necessary to a successful dance experience:

  • Appreciating the music and musicians
  • Listening and responding to the music
  • Moving in time to the music, individually and as a group
  • Holding hands respectfully
  • Listening and responding to the caller
  • Learning a song and associated dance

My lesson was as much for the teachers as for the children, showing a solid, basic, accessible lesson to begin the building of a culture of participatory dance in a classroom of young children. And the children—such sweet faces, and such openness to a new experience. My tour around the South was ten days, and the experience at Washington Elementary was, hands down, the most memorable and meaningful of my time on the road.

Please help support this important work through a generous donation to CDSS through Valley Gives on 12.12.13. Your gift will fund our outreach work in schools and our development of useful, accessible resources for teachers and schools.

VG event-logoCDSS wants to create online toolkits to help more teachers, schools, kids and parents across the country enjoy dancing activities in their classrooms and communities. Your donation to CDSS on 12.12.13, Valley Gives Day, will support this project and CDSS outreach. (You can schedule your donation ahead of time by going to that same link.)

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Valley Gives—Engaging Families in Dance

by Pat MacPherson, CDSS Education Director

dyskant,b tr07 dsk1 1897

Photo by Barbara Dyskant

CDSS’s Valley Gives fundraising, on 12.12.13, will be dedicated to creating toolkits to support dancing in schools. Here is a local story about someone successfully introducing dancing to his students and families, told to me by CDSS Outreach Manager, Linda Henry.

The person who initiated it is a music teacher. Let’s call him Bill. In his classroom, he has been teaching his kids dances and singing games for years, using the excellent resources sold though the CDSS store. Bill wanted his students to experience traditional dance and music in the context of community, in addition to their classroom. So he started imagining having a dance in his school that would include families and students. He contacted his PTO and presented the idea as an activity they could sponsor. This was a somewhat risky investment so Linda invited the head of the PTO to her local family dance, with free admission. The woman came to the dance, saw what the dancing was all about, and had a hunch the families in her school community would enjoy it.

Once Bill had the approval of the PTO, he asked Linda to find a caller and musicians. Linda had the great thought to invite caller Andy Davis, an excellent community dance caller, since she knew the kids in Bill’s classroom were familiar with Andy’s repertoire.  She put Andy and Bill in touch with one another, and they planned a program.

When Andy came to call, he included the dances Bill’s students already knew. The kids were the experts! They were dragging their parents onto the floor, getting them dancing. There were over 100 people at the dance, Linda said, and it was exciting and very successful. There were rave reviews from the parents, who loved dancing with their children, and the PTO said “We want to do this again.” Since that first dance, there have been two more.

VG event-logoCDSS wants to create online toolkits to help more teachers, schools, kids and parents across the country enjoy dancing activities in their classrooms and communities. Your donation to CDSS on 12.12.13, Valley Gives Day, will support this project and CDSS outreach. (You can schedule your donation ahead of time by going to that same link.) Please support this fine project.


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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.

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25th Anniversary of Calling and Dancing

dancingRecently, CDSS sent a Certificate of Appreciation to recognize the Vissenbjerg Country Dancers as they reached their 25th Anniversary of Calling and Dancing.

We received the following note and we picked out a couple of pictures to share.

“Hello David and Anna Rima Dael,

Thank you so much for The Certificate of Appreciation that Erik Lilholt brought us to our 25th Anniversary of Calling and Dancing.

We are very honored and pleased that it is given to the Vissenbjerg Country Dancers.

musicWe had a wonderful evening. 134 dancers, 4 musicians and us. Good food, good humor, good music, everybody happy, also the 4 newcomers we got this year.

Nine callers to get us through the evening.

Best wishes
Margit and Frede Olsen
Tommerup – Denmark”

CDSS would also like to recognize:

P.E  Christiansen, celebrating 25 years as a caller
Inge Aakilde, celebrating 25 years as a caller of English country dance

Do you know anyone that is celebrating a milestone?  Please share with us so we may recognize their achievements. Email:



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DART is coming to Amherst, MA, this weekend!

DART 2013Inspired by the Dancing England Rapper Tournament (DERT), the Dancing America Rapper Tournament (DART) is a weekend-long opportunity for rapper teams to compete, show off, and learn from each other. Judges, stationed in pubs, award ranks, prizes, and constructive critiques based on teams’ performances.

We are very excited to have this tournament in our area…check out the DART website for more information. And visit their Facebook page.

We wish all the teams participating — Flesh Wound, Northampton, MA (Host team); A Sworded Affair, Burlington, VT; Half Moon Sword, New York City, NY; Charles River Rapper, greater Boston, MA; Candyrapper, Sudbury, MA; Charm City Rapper, Baltimore, MD; Bubble Rapper, Carlisle, MA; Pocket Flyers, Sudbury, MA; Rust Belt, Oberlin, OH; No Apologies, Boston area, MA — the best of luck!

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Keith Blackmon Memorial Dance Weekend and Book Release Party

blackmonflyerI am excited to share that I will be attending the 2nd Annual Keith Blackmon Memorial Dance Weekend and Book Release Party this Saturday, Oct. 25th, in Pennsylvania. Click on the flyer on the right to download a PDF version.

For information on New River Train visit: and see Nils Fredland’s blog on documenting Keith Blackmon’s work:

I look forward to a fun evening of dance and song! Hope to see some of you there.

Cheers, Rima

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Legislative Testimony

by Rima Dael, CDSS Executive Director

IMG_20131006_235845_rima & senator o'connor ives_cropped

Rima and Sen. Connor Ives

This past Friday, Pat McPherson, Director of the CDSS Education Department, and I provided testimony to the Massachusetts Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts and Cultural Development. State Representative Cory Atkins (D-Concord) and Senator Kathleen O’Connor Ives (D-Newburyport), Co-Chairs of the Joint Committee, are traveling around the state with fellow committee members to solicit ideas from the arts, cultural and tourism communities, and the general public, to help the Committee develop policies that strengthen arts, culture and tourism in Massachusetts.

Tourism is recognized as the third largest revenue producing industry in Massachusetts with a $3.6 billion payroll across 124,700 jobs. In 2011, 21.3 million people visited the state and spent $16.9 billion, according to the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism. Tourist surveys consistently indicate that arts, culture and history are among the top reasons for choosing to visit our state. Nonprofit cultural organizations employ nearly 18,000 Massachusetts residents, generating $28 million in payroll taxes and $1.2 billion in annual in-state spending.

“Tourism and the arts bring Massachusetts to life,” said Atkins. “People come from all over the world to visit Walden Pond, Tanglewood, the Freedom Trail and our other internationally renowned destinations. Our artists, dancers, and musicians produce captivating works that produce jobs and showcase the creativity of our Commonwealth. On this tour, our Committee will explore the rich artistic and cultural heritage of Massachusetts, its impact on our economy and our communities, and ways the Legislature can help sustain it for future generations.”

Our primary goal of providing testimony was to raise the visibility of traditional dance, music and song in Massachusetts and showcase the good work of the Country Dance and Song Society over the past 98 years.

IMG_20131006_235957_rima & rep denise andrew_cropped

Rima and Rep. Andrews

“I look forward to visiting different parts of the state and working with the Regional Tourist Councils to promote these areas and the attractions that they offer in an effort to encourage economic growth throughout the Commonwealth,” said Senator Kathleen O’Connor Ives.

Senator O’Connor Ives and I shared a fun moment as fellow alums of Mt. Holyoke College. Rep. Andrews, a member of the committee, came up to ask advice from CDSS on thoughts and resources for bringing dance to a community in her district and engaging children and their families in participatory dance. Also in attendance were Linda Henry, CDSS Outreach & Grants Manager; Lynn Nichols, CDSS Webmaster; and CDSS member Alex Krogh-Grabbe of Amherst.

CDSS is working on creating toolkits to provide to members with best practices to engage local elected leaders to increase the visibility of traditional dance, music and song, and provide testimony on the value of our participatory arts in our communities. We thank the Massachusetts Cultural Council for their on-going support of our work and thanks to the Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts and Cultural Development for their time visiting towns around Massachusetts.


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Categories: American Dance, Arts & Tourism, Arts Advocacy, Dance Callers, English Dance, Features & Fun, Ideas & Resources, Morris Dance, Musicians, Traditional Dance, Updates from the Office | + Leave a comment »