Every year of Stockton Folk Dance Camp, a syllabus is created that includes folk dance descriptions and notations for each dance that is taught. I'm thrilled to get the opportunity to serve on the committee that researches these descriptions and notations for the 2019 camp, and hopefully for many years beyond.
I'd seen the folk dance High Green Mountain performed last July when I had the opportunity to participate in a musical performance for the Mildred Hill concert series in Port Orford. I've since learned that there are two versions (maybe more) of this dance. I'm referring here to the dance based on the teachings of France Bourque-Moreau.
Vicki I's dance group from Port Orford performed a modified version of the dance to accommodate limited dance space in the carpeted church sanctuary. Even in the confines of that situation, the dancers each carried and shook bells on their hands. The unevenness of the music really caught my attention. Two weeks later, when it was featured in the "Dances for All Ages" segment at Stockton Folk Dance Camp, I knew I wanted to include this dance in my fall semester class.
The "patty cake" part of the dance - when dancers approach the center of the circle and do a series of thigh pats and bell flings, then go back out of the center and do a totally different sequence of thigh pats and bell flings - is my favorite part. I love that the sequences and the music are "crooked".
Also new this semester, we are doing a peppy Sicilian Tarantella. And we're using tambourines.
Up until now in my life, the only times when I initiated dancing with a thing in my hand was holding a hankie between the first and second person on a Sytos... and o-n-c-e as a short line leader on a U Sest. I've held things that other dance leaders used in a class at Stockton or Pourparler (I'm still looking for just the right time to pull out the from-stoic-to-silly balloon dance that I learned from Bobi). But this is really the first time I've introduced dancing with stuff. My opinion: it's terribly fun. My most sincere thanks to William who brought a big bag of bells and tambourines to class. Now that we have them, I'm on the hunt for other dances that use bells and tambourines.
In Goldendale, WA, just over the border from Oregon, there is a lovely art museum - Maryhill Museum. Gail and I had talked about visiting for a long time. We picked a date, and made plans to go.
Often, we'll try to combine our travel with visiting a dance, a jam session or sing-along in the community where we're going. I contacted Sue, a friend in Hood River, to ask if there was anything happening in town that weekend. She said that originally WAS the date of the regularly scheduled dance, but the band had to cancel due to a death in the family.
Gail and I play music and we've played for dancers many times. She plays bouzouki and I play hammered dulcimer and penny whistle. Together, we are The Little Match Girls. We offered to play for the dance. And so it was back on!
Though few in numbers, the dancers were enthusiastic. Sue was flexible and masterfully lead the group with a variety of set dances and a southern running square dance. At one point, we relied on some international folk dance music that I had on my phone. We danced Jocul Mosilor, a Romanian line dance, and Wassouma, a fun dance from Suriname which the kids especially liked. A good time was had by all!
Stockton Folk Dance Camp is an annual gathering of international folk dance aficionados and guest instructors. It's a week-long extravaganza of dancing. And then repeated for a second week!
One way the camp raises money for people seeking scholarships to attend camp is by having an auction each week during camp.
At camp this summer, Susan Gregory created and donated an amazing auction item - she outfitted a Barbie doll with a wardrobe of ethnic dance costumes, dance-branded casual wear, and other assorted fun pieces. She made a Stockton Barbie to be auctioned off each week at the auction.
I was thrilled to have been the high bidder during the first week of camp!
Check Out her Stockton folk dance camp T-shirt and choice of reading material! I'll post some pictures of her in her fabulous costumes here, and you can also follow her on Instagram.
My class is a community ed class through the local community college. I like to start each new semester gathering information from dancers, especially new-to-me dancers: "How did you hear about the class? What's your dance background? What do you want to most get out of this class?"
Even though it is a beginning level class, some people come back semester after semester, year after year. I was deeply touched this week when someone who has been dancing with me for over 6 years announced in our opening circle that she wants to always have this in her life. Okay! Let's do it!
On the last night of this semester's class, the dancers in my class spontaneously made a circle. Instead of holding hands, we held each other in our arms. And we sang:
May the long time sun shine upon you
All love surround you
And the pure Light within you
Guide your way on
Guide your way on
It was a perfect closing prayer for our 10 weeks together.
I cancelled my summer class due to a bicep tendon injury. Big ouch. Waking up with my arm totally immobile the day after the injury was shocking. Watching my body gain range of motion and strength was magical. What a fabulous creation we are with such healing properties. The worst pain of the summer was not dancing and not teaching.
Last night I went to a contra dance. By the middle of the dance, I felt that I had been handled wrongly by many -- not that anyone was intentionally abusive towards me in their dancing. I think people just don't know how to dance with others... how to hold hands without thumb squeezing the other person's hand... how to allemande without a jack hammer throw approach... how to raise a joined arm or swing in a way that supports the other person...
Any time we are physically connecting with others while dancing, it's important to touch in a way that enhances the dance rather than causes physical or emotional hardship to others. But if you are dancing with someone and you experience discomfort, say something about it immediately. Tell the person it hurts you when you are touched a certain way. If it happens again, stop dancing and talk with the dance organizer about your experience.
With a new dance class semester starting this week, I am dedicating myself to teach not only series of steps and dance styles, but more importantly HOW we dance together with others in ways that does not cause injury. Dancing can be a fun and powerful way to connect with others when there is safety and comfort for everyone on the dance floor.
A lot of what I do as a dance instructor has to do with preparation. As I spend time figuring out who I'll be working with, I think about their skills, the reason for the dance/why they are there, how much time we'll have together... there are several things to think about.
My spring 2016 class got underway last week. Best compliment ever: more than one person commented on how much they liked the dances I selected this term. Yay! Without fail, I always think I've put together a great assortment of dances -- because I obsess over it, make endless changes until the plan is exactly what I think it should be. But to have a dancer - and more than one! - say that they like the selection of dances, well - music to my ears. Thank you!!
Other than playing the flute in a pit orchestra, I've never been involved in a local community theater production. Imagine my surprise last summer when Becky Bell-Greenstreet, Artistic Director for the Logos Players, invited me to choreograph her spring 2016 production of Fiddler on the Roof. I love that show! The music is fabulous - the dancing is exciting!
I agreed that if the actors need to learn a traditional Israeli folk dance, I could surely help with that! Want the actors to learn Zemer Atik? I'm on it. But beyond that... I didn't feel qualified for the job. Looking back now, I don't remember exactly what Becky said to convince me that I could take on the challenge of being the choreographer for her show. Rehearsals started in December; opening night is in five short days.
When The Logos Players rented the rights to this musical production, it came with a choreographic manual. The 200+ page manual a blow-by-blow description of the original Jerome Robbins choreography. The requirement when renting the rights to perform the show is that THIS is the choreography that will be used in the production. For me, that was good news (I didn't have to create any original choreography) and bad news (who in our little, rural shtetle on the south coast of Oregon can do this level of dancing?).
In addition to the manual, I turned to YouTube to see examples of other productions. I found a delightful video of the musical number "Tradition" and excitedly showed it to the director. Becky, in her typically generous and kind way, pointed out to me that I was looking at a video of the Broadway show featuring Topol. She reminded me that while the dancers/actors/singers in the video rehearse every day, our cast has other full time jobs. She advised me to simplify.
"Simplify" became my mantra as I did this work. My first job was to find bottle dancers... people who would be able, willing, available to work on the challenge of dancing with a bottle perched on their heads. Hats off to Jeff, Kay, Pam and Anna! They have worked hard! Sure, bottles have fallen. Hopefully none will during the performances.
There are 30 people in the cast. The large all-cast numbers are exciting. It has been a challenge to teach dancing to this group of folks. I have come to admire and appreciate them over and over. They look adorable in their costumes, and I can't wait to see them perform!
And as for me, I must be doing an okay job - one of the cast members approached me to choreograph a spring 2017 production of HMS Pinafore. Simply... simplify...
"Line up for a contra dance"... "Repair your square"... I had an opportunity to say these things when calling a contra dance for square dancers last month, and when calling a square dance for contra dancers this month.
Last month at a regularly scheduled dance of the local modern Western square dance club Saints-N-Aints (of which I am a member in good standing), I called the contra dance "Al's Safeway Produce" written by Robert Cromartie. Pictures above, I had six willing couples who braved a new experience. They did a great job, and they were good sports! I wanted their first exposure to contra dancing to be fun. For the full experience, I invited local band Cultural Ecology to play for this dance.
Imagine a band schlepping their instruments, setting up, tuning up and playing O-N-E dance! I appreciated their enthusiasm for sharing live music with the square dancers, who only infrequently dance to live music.
Interestingly, during the walk through, the top eight dancers turned themselves into a square formation after the first two calls. What?! No squares in this dance! I was fascinated to watch that transformation.
It was challenging for them to grok the contra formation, and the progression of couple #1 dancing with the next neighbors down the hall and couple #2 dancing with new neighbors up the hall. But I saw many smiles, and full effort!
This month at Contra on the Coast (a weekend contra dance event), I called the traditional southern square "Take a Little Peek". Because traditional square dances have few moves, the contra dancers caught on very easily. They had a good time, and I was encouraged enough to consider calling another square!
One similarity I noticed is that at each of these two dances, there were one or two people "on strike" who wouldn't even give it a try. Earlier in the day at one of these events, I had a woman annoyingly ask me why do squares and contras have to be together? She announced they are two very different things, and she had no intention of doing the other. Okay, but it seems like everyone else had a lot of fun.
Dancing give me SO many things to think about...