Here is a brief list of workshop sessions that I have lead at dance
weekends. If you want more information about a topic, let me know
and I’ll send a more complete description. If there is a topic
that your community would benefit from and it’s not represented here,
let me know and I’ll do my best to build a fun, entertaining workshop
session to address your specific needs.
Style Workshop Session Topics
Lead, Follow, Communicate!
Aiming after a swing, Twirling, Silent instruction, rollaway, gentle
Definition, application, balanced weight, dances with figures which
emphasize good weight.
Transitions; Rocket Science of dance
Apogee, balanced forces, centrifugal and centripetal, gravity
well. It's all about those magic weightless moments in a dance
where you're floating between connections. Superb!
Contrasting music styles and how
we dance to them
Jigs, Reels, Marches, Old-time and the figures and matching dances to
Twirls, Allemandes, bouncy vs. smooth style, crowded conditions, timing
Dancing in unusual circumstances:
Crowded hall, Hot hall, Small crowd, mostly beginners or influx of
Dance Workshop Sessions
Triple minor contra sets
Reintroduce the triple minor set and dance some wonderful examples.
Some contra dance chestnuts
Old favorites from years gone by.
Introduction to English Country Dance
The figures, style and music. Similar to contras, but with
English Country Dance
I can prepare a session program for any level of dancers‘
Unusual figures in contra dance
Gate, Double Do-Si-Do and gypsy, Irish star, Yearn, Variations on the
hey (this could be a whole fun session in itself), and others.
Back to our roots
English figures in contra dances. Or Contra figures in English
dances. Hard to tell, sometimes.
Caller Workshop Sessions
Without Musical Support:
Teaching figures to new dancers.
Simplify, condense, clarify, demonstrate, extract essentials.
Teaching a pre-dance beginners
Pace, content, analysis, comfort
Tools, variety of dances, variety of music styles, on the fly,
communication with band.
Accuracy, clarity, rhythm, how long to prompt, inflection
All those unseen details that good callers attend to while calling
dances. Also known as "Trade Secrets 101".
With musical support:
Expect the unexpected
We’ll give callers the opportunity to react to real-life situations
that commonly arise at dances. Discussion generated regarding the
best way to deal with various contingencies.
Working with Musicians
Communicating what they need to know, Communicating your needs, working
together as a team
Waltz Trick Swap
This is based on the concept of those clothing swaps that are run at
some dance weekends or local events where people bring dance togs that
they’ve gotten tired of and trade ‘em in for the same that other people
bring. Everyone leaves happy with “new” dance outfits. In
this case, you get to keep what you brought.
I’m often asked to lead a waltz workshop at dance weekends. I can
waltz ok, even with a few simple “moves”, but nothing flashy or
particularly noteworthy. So, what to do when leading a waltz
workshop where everyone already knows pretty much how to waltz?
At this session I act as facilitator, leader, ringmaster; I keep things
moving, make sure nobody takes over and dominates the show, make sure
everyone that wants to gets a chance to participate. And the
participants,...? They demonstrate their favorite waltz “trick”,
teach it, offer help learning it, everyone tries it while the band
plays a waltz, and we go on to someone else. The last 10 to 15
minutes we leave for open waltzing. A 60-minute session works
well for this.
Community Events Workshops
Along with the Portland band Joyride, we produce a monthly
first-Wednesday contra dance. We’ve learned a lot in the three
years of producing this monthly event, and what we’re doing is
apparently working since after our third season we have cultivated a
loyal following and every dance is comfortably full of experienced and
committed dancers. We learn from our mistakes and pay attention
to feedback. I’d be happy to lead a session where discussion of
starting and maintaining a dance series is the topic. One of the
most valuable resources for anyone doing the same thing or even
thinking about it is to share experiences and gather ideas from
others. I would hope to learn as well as share my experiences.
Sue Songer (Portland Collection Tune Books) and I together produce the
annual Portland Megaband contra dance. The band consists of 80
musicians, two conductors and one caller. The dance is held at a
very large ballroom in downtown Portland on a wide stage and huge
speaker stacks which our sound engineer loves to use. The dance
typically draws 500 to 600 dancers. One year we had over 650
dancers. It’s a huge event. As a workshop session I could
lead a discussion of the logistics of producing large dance events
based on our experience with the Portland Megaband. We’ve been
doing this for 12 (?) years and we’ve learned a lot. Again,
sharing experiences, philosophy, vision, methods etc. may be valuable
for anyone interested in a similar endeavor.
I play several instruments, most notably a silver “C” concert flute and
several bombardes. I play in the Portland contra dance band
called Joyride. In our band I am often one who selects tune sets
to go with the dances that the caller has programmed. My band
works together to match tunes to dance figures. Although I
believe that the hired musicians should be the ones looked to for
musical workshops, I can see taking part in a “Matching tunes to dances
and vice versa” workshop along with one of the hired musicians.
As a caller and a musician I may have a perspective that could be
And even though I believe the hired musicians should be the ones to
lead music workshops, I’d be happy to lead a slow jam or teach some
tunes. Particularly if there are other woodwind players around
and the hired musicians are too busy or overworked or just don’t want
to lead such a session.