The blog has moved!


In case you missed it, the CDSS blog has moved to a permanent home hosted on our own servers.

Please visit for your blogging pleasure.

— Max


Photos from the 2011 Board Meeting

The CDSS Governing Board had its general meeting last Thursday and Friday in Easthampton, MA. By my count, there were 23 board members coming in from 19 states and provinces. I’ll share more information about the Board meeting in a later post, but for now here are a few photos I took.

Outgoing Executive Director Brad Foster speaks to the group on Thursday morning:

The Executive Committee of the Board has traveling meetings every November and February, respectively. This February the Exec meeting was in Houston, Texas. Next November — as we discovered at the meeting — they’ll convene in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Here, Linda Lieberman (IA) and Jenny Beer (PA) examine a map showing the locations of past CDSS Exec Board meetings:

Here’s the full list of Exec meeting locations since 1996, FYI:

Year Jan / Feb Oct / Nov
1996 Washington, DC Portland, OR
1997 Toronto, ON Berea, KY
1998 Philadelphia, PA London, ON
1999 New York, NY Lutherville, MD
2000 Houston, TX Ann Arbor, MI
2001 Seattle, WA Atlanta, GA
2002 Tucson, AZ Ottawa, ON
2003 Minneapolis, MN Vancouver, BC
2004 Durham, NC Oberlin, OH
2005 Tacoma Park, MD St. Louis, MO
2006 Princeton, NJ Los Angeles, CA
2007 Gainesville, FL Mt. Nebo, AR
2008 Ashland, OR Asheville, NC
2009 Lawrenceville, KS Upper Valley, VT, NH
2010 Buena Vista, CO Ann Arbor, MI
2011 Houston, TX Winnipeg, Manitoba

Of course, during the breaks there was singing and dancing. A dance in the hallway, called by Pat Peterson (NC):

At the end of Thursday’s meeting, the board celebrated Brad’s 28 years as Director of CDSS:

Among the components of the ceremony was the presentation of this director’s chair:

Those are the photos I’ve got for now.

There was, of course, a seemingly endless supply of chocolate continuously circumnavigating the table. Some of you may remember this fact from my ‘live’-blogging last year’s meeting on Facebook, which you can still read here: Part 1 and Part 2. I regrettably report that Wendy Graham’s (CO) accidental band name “Habits of Creature” has not, to my knowledge, yet been adopted by anyone. Morris teams?

— Max

Periodic Table of Contra

I’ve heard many a comment on the overlapping interests of dance and math/science, but usually folks aren’t talking about chemistry. Enter “The Periodic Table of Contra”:

This table (click on it for a larger version) was designed by April Blum, one of the organizers of the FootFall dance group. I asked April what had how she came about giving physical science twist to contra dance moves. Here’s the entertaining story she shared:

I had seen other Periodic Tables — there’s one of desserts, for instance, and one of fruits and vegetables, and I think I’ve even seen one of fishing lures. But for some reason I pulled up a “real” one and found myself wondering if I could use the actual abbreviations — no cheating — for terms that callers use.

I was absolutely OBSESSED with it for the better part of three weeks. Most of it was easy, but there were a few entries that were surprisingly difficult, since the collection of abbreviations is a VERY mixed bag. I made lists and lists and lists.

My personal “Eureka!” moment involved xenon (Xe). That was a tough one, and I’d been stuck on it for a week. Then, one morning as I was driving to work, I pulled up behind a car that had an “I love LAX.” bumper sticker. I was staring idly at it, waiting for the light to change, when I suddenly made the connection — Xe was “Cross Trails” of course! The driver behind me must have thought I’d lost it — I was pounding on the steering wheel and laughing like an idiot.

We’ve sold enough to cover our original printing costs and any additional posters that we sell go directly to FootFall. We hope to sell enough to provide some additional scholarships for young dancers (we already give a substantial discount, but we’d like to do more to make the weekend affordable, especially for students).

I’m sure this would make Mendeleev proud.

— Max

If you’d like to order a Periodic Table of Contra (while supporting youth scholarships at FootFall) contact April at

Posters are 18 x 24 (they fit a standard size frame) and printed in color on poster-quality glossy paper.
$10 each, and $2.75 for postage per order of 1-5 posters.

Great for dance halls, dorm rooms, or perhaps your lab.

Morris Dancing at the UN (updated)

Happy May Day! In the spirit of this international day of morris dancing, here’s a photo from the archives showing morris dancing  at the UN:

This photo was taken in 1947 at the United Nations Fiesta at Rockefeller Plaza, NYC by Genny Shimer. My colleague Pat MacPherson shared this photo with me. While Pat might know more of the individuals pictures, I’m sorry to say at the moment I don’t. (If you know or think you know, drop a comment below!)

I can tell you that at the front right is Bob Hider, whose papers inspired two recent posts from Pat. The photographer, Genny Shimer, was a former CDSS director, teacher, and scholar. You can read more about her here and here (pdf). She authored, among other things, the modern Playford Ball (with Kate Van Winkle Keller) and our Genevieve Shimer Publications Fund is named in her honor.

You can also see Genny in this charmingly grainy video (featuring Tony Barrand) which I recently came across of a jig competition at Pinewoods in 1982:

(Parts two, three, and four also available.)

Traveling another thirty or so years forward, I never tire of watching Maple Morris: The Movie. If you need some morris inspiration and energizing, you can’t do better.

Well… I didn’t intend this post to be a mini-retrospective of morris over the last 50 years, but it’s happened anyway. Time to get outside and step sprightly. Enjoy your May Day!

— Max

UPDATE: Caller/scholar David Millstone, who scanned the original UN photo, provides the following elucidating information:

Left side, back to front: Jack Langstaff, William Partington, Russell Loughton

Right side, back to front: Jack Shimer, Bob Guillard, Bob Hider

Jack Langstaff is, of course, co-founder of Revels, along with his daughter, Carol, and he also led some weeks at Pinewoods for CDSS back in the day. I don’t know that we can say for certain that Genny took the photo, although it did come from the photo album that belonged to her and her husband, Jack Shimer. After Genny died, Jack Shimer married Joan Carr, who was for a time the CDSS Assistant Director. As Joan Carr, she was the recipient of Pat Shaw’s dance, “Quite Carr-ied Away, or Joan Transported”. And after Jack died and Joan was preparing to move, she asked that the album be passed along to CDSS. 

Mr. Scarlett Replies

In my last post (“Letters to Mr. Scarlett”), I looked at some letters we discovered while processing materials for the CDSS Archives at UNH. These letters were from notable callers Ralph Page and Benjamin Lovett to one unknown “Andrew Scarlett”. Two readers wondered if there were any letters from Mr. Scarlett in the Ralph Page Collection at UNH.  I went online and starting searching, virtually, through the boxes of correspondence and there it was — a letter from Mr. Andrew Scarlett, dated January 27, 1938. It is a reply to that first Ralph Page letter we have in the Hider collection.

Roland Goodbody, Curator of Special Collections at UNH, sent me a copy of the letter and all of a sudden Mr. Scarlett came alive. His penmanship and courtly writing made me think him old rather than young, but those were different days and polite writing was the norm.

You may recall that Page asked for “the Americanized version of Huntsman’s Chorus” and in the January 27 letter Scarlett obliges, writing: “The Huntsman’s Chorus is a grand folk dance with the universal appeal that pleases and thrills all groups. We use the Americanized form of the dance which differs from the English as baseball differs from cricket, or as the Declaration of Independence differs from Magna Carta. ”

Andrew Scarlett's instructions to Huntsman's Chorus

Scarlett continues, writing: “The traditional music and dance was collected by Leta M. Douglas of Giggleswich, Yorkshire, England. It is published by her in a small collection of folk dances entitled Six Dances of the Yorkshire Dales Price 2/6 Postage 3d (that’s about .70 in our money).”

Scarlett suggests a visit to Page, “en route to my camp on Lake Winnepesaukee” [sic], and finishes his post with the observation that in the Oranges (New Jersey) they have five folk dance groups and a great many more in nearby New York “with its cosmopolitan population.” Even so, five groups is a wonderful number, whether they are cosmopolitan or not.

As far as the fate of the Page and Scarlett correspondence goes, Roland and I decided that, despite the correct rules of provenance, it is important that the letters be easily found if searched for. So, the Page letters in the CDSS Hider collection will join Mr. Scarletts’ reply in the Page collection. Copies of the letters and directions to the originals will stay with Hider.

Scarlett's reply (page 1)

Scarlett's reply (page 2)

And that, for the moment, is the end of the story of Mr. Scarlett and Mr. Page.

— Pat

Visit the CDSS library page to browse our online and physical collections.

If you are interested in donating to the CDSS Library or Archives please contact me at

Summer Office Internship 2011

I’m happy to share an exciting opportunity, especially for high school and college age individuals: the CDSS Summer Office Internship. College credit opportunities available. Read more below. Download and share the flier (pdf). – Max

Come intern at CDSS HQ.

CDSS is seeking a
Summer Office Intern

The Country Dance and Song Society is seeking a motivated individual for its summer office intern program. The intern will work closely with the staff on projects capitalizing on their interests and skills. Areas of responsibility may include archives, sales, membership and services, web and social networking outreach, and dance and music camps. This is an excellent opportunity for meaningful, hands on experience with a national non-profit while supporting English and Anglo-American dance and music traditions including contra, English country, and morris/sword dancing.


  • Internships may be full-time or part-time and take place between May 15th and August 31st.
  • Individual must be able to commit to being in the office in Haydenville, MA at least ten (10) hours/week for at least four (4) weeks. Exact schedule is flexible.
  • Individual should be passionate about the communities we serve.
  • This is an unpaid internship, though we are happy to assist you in receiving college credit.

To apply or make an inquiry please contact

About CDSS

For nearly a century, the Country Dance and Song Society has been dedicated to celebrating and preserving traditional English and Anglo-American dance, music and song in North America. We publish books, booklets, recordings, and a quarterly newsletter; offer outreach grants for groups and events; run a mail order service from our store; and run several weeklong dance and music programs each July and August. Visit for further information.

Other opportunities

If you are seeking an internship during the school-year, please e-mail

CDSS welcomes volunteer help. If you are interested, please e-mail

Square resources page: Nils’ sneak peek

Nils on the trombone.

Nils Fredland, our American Dance/Music Projects director, has been at work on some square dance resources to be available on our website. He’s posted here — on his own wonderful blog (which usually features reflections on an evening’s calling) — with a sneak preview.

As he says, “One early aspect of the project was to create a set of broad definitions about the various styles of square dancing,” which is what he shares with us in his post.

An excerpt:


A style of dancing rooted in the French courts and English high-society. Most traditional New England squares are in this style. The quadrille (upon which today’s American quadrille style squares are based) was an 18th century French invention, but by the early 19th century these dances had swept both Europe and the Americas. The early quadrilles were five or six-part, carefully choreographed sequences danced in four couple square sets.

So take a look at Nils’ post for a short-n-sweet overview of square dance styles and be on the lookout for the full resources available at in the near future.

On the Beat

— Max

Find other resources in the Advice & How-To area of our website.

Nils previously worked with caller Ralph Sweet to produce the wonderful book on singing squares, On the Beat with Ralph Sweet, available at our online store.

An Important Message from Brad Foster

Friends, here is a message from Brad. – Robin

I am writing to let you know that I am resigning from my position of Executive and Artistic Director. The board and I have been unable to agree on a vision for the future of CDSS; I am stepping aside to help the process move forward. I will be wrapping up my work as CDSS Director by May 27th.

I am looking forward to moving on to new challenges.

CDSS and I all wish each other well, and are parting on good terms. I’ve offered my continued support to CDSS’s process of moving forward. I will be teaching this summer at two CDSS camps and hope to see you there or at other events this summer and in the future.

Here is a message from Bruce Hamilton, President of the Board:

“I’d like to thank and congratulate Brad for his many years of service as Executive and Artistic Director to CDSS. Although Brad is leaving this role, we still regard him as very much a part of the CDSS family, where his devotion, passion and many contributions to country dance and song are deeply appreciated.”

Thank you all for being part of the CDSS community; knowing you means a lot to me. I wish you all well and hope to see you in the future.


Celebrating Tom!

Photo courtesy Arthur Ferguson.

This past weekend, I was pleased to attend the CDSS Lifetime Contribution Award ceremony for Tom Kruskal. The Lifetime Contribution is presented annually to individuals who have made a long-term and exceptional contribution to the mission of CDSS. In 2010, there were two recipients: John Ramsay and Tom Kruskal. John Ramsay’s award was given on October 16, 2010 in St. Louis. You can read about that here (pdf).

CDSS presented Tom Kruskal his award in Framingham, MA, on Saturday, April 2, where the greater Boston dance community celebrated Tom, and enjoyed one incredible party. For more than 40 years, Tom has — among many other things — nurtured morris and sword dancing in America, most recently establishing teams and mentoring innumerable young dancers.

The Celebrate Tom! Committee (Karen Axelrod, Deborah Kruskal, David Fleischmann-Rose, Erika Roderick, and Andra Horton) did a superlative job organizing the party and planning the program. Over 300 people, from the Revels community, Tom’s church, and the music and dance community, joined in the festivities. Many past and present CDSS Governing Board members came, as did members of the CDSS staff — these are their impressions.

Candyrapper taking the stage. Photo courtesy Arthur Ferguson.

Brad Foster, CDSS Executive Director: “The mix of youth and longtime CDSS members was fabulous and it was wonderfully overwhelming to be there. I would turn around and say, ‘I haven’t seen you in years’ and then turn around again and say the same thing.”

Steve Howe, CDSS Assistant Director of Programs: “It was a terrific gathering for someone who so clearly deserves it. Seeing seven sets of Great Meadows teams dance Cotswold was a great joy; I’m only sorry I was standing up so people behind me couldn’t see.” [Steve is over 6′ feet tall.]

Robin Hayden, Associate Director of Development: “Having worked at CDSS for over 20 years, I well remember a time when we worried about the future of morris. Well — our worries are SO over! It’s clear, from the national perspective we have at CDSS, that the widening ripples of this ‘youth quake’ — arising from Tom’s work and that of many other dedicated leaders — have had a profound effect on the whole culture of American and English dance across the continent. Morris on!”

Tom's supporters managed to fill a large stage. Photo courtesy Marty Stock.

As for me, it was both joyful and moving to be there. I had a wonderful time, reconnecting with old friends, helping out at the greeting table, and watching the spectacular dancing from Candyrapper, Pinewoods Morris Men, New Moon Sword, and Tom’s kids and teen teams: Hop Brook and Great Meadows Morris & Sword — with music by Tom, and others, on concertina.

Here’s a video from Emily Ferguson of PMM dancing at the ceremony:


At the greeting table there were two baskets of ribbons, for past and present members of Hop Brook and Great Meadows to wear. A little girl was looking wistfully at the basket and obviously was torn about whether she could take one or not. She disappeared and reappeared a minute later with her Mom, who asked, “Can future members of the teams take a ribbon?” This little girl’s older siblings are team members, and she has been waiting more than eagerly to join Hop Brook herself and now that she is 9 1/2 years old, the moment is in sight. Past, present, and FUTURE — give that girl a ribbon!

— Pat

Visit for an interview I did with Tom, music samples, and a tribute & chronology.

Joel Gonzalez also posted two nice YouTube videos of Great Meadows singing “The Parting Glass” and their rapper finale. Thanks!

2011 Camps Update

It’s been a little quiet on the blog front recently. We even passed up April Fools! Rest assured, we’re getting back up to steam and there are some interesting posts in the works that will be coming soon.

The first round of camp applications have been processed, so I can give you an update on what’s full and what still has space. Steve has been stuffing envelopes and getting them to the Post Office. If you have registered, you should hear from him by the end of this week. If you have not registered you, there is still space at several weeks. Visit for the most up-to-date availability. Here’s what it looks like at the time of writing:

Week Location Adult? Family? Start Date Wait list?
Adult & Family Week at Timber Ridge Timber Ridge adult family 08/14/11
American Dance & Music Week Pinewoods adult 07/30/11
American Dance Musicians Course Pinewoods adult 08/27/11
Campers’ Week Pinewoods adult family 08/20/11 moderate
Early Music Week Pinewoods adult 08/13/11
English & American Dance Week Pinewoods adult 08/27/11
English Dance Musicians Course Pinewoods adult 08/13/11
English Dance Week Pinewoods adult 08/06/11 moderate
Family Week at Ogontz Ogontz family 07/30/11
Family Week at Pinewoods Pinewoods family 07/16/11 short
Harmony of Song & Dance Pinewoods adult 07/23/11
Singing Squares Callers Course Pinewoods adult 07/30/11 long
Teachers Training Course Ogontz adult 07/30/11
Viol Intensive Course Pinewoods adult 08/13/11

Waiting List If you’re interested in a week with a waiting list, consider applying. With a short or moderate wait list, you might still get in. With a long waiting list, you’re welcome to apply, but your odds aren’t spectacular

Scholarships If you’re interested in a scholarship, read this and/or contact Linda Henry.

– Max

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