As a teen in the mid 1960s, I started doing this thing called “contra dancing” at a summer camp in New Hampshire. I couldn’t believe people actually did this stuff — it was so cool! I was hooked, and dancing became a lifelong habit. In 1981 I began calling for dances in Salem, Massachusetts. I was asked to step in, because the local caller took summers off and we did not want to stop. I soon discovered that being a caller is a great opportunity to facilitate other people’s sense of fun and discovery while having lots of fun myself!
Nowadays, I lead evenings of contras and squares, English country dances, family dances, school programs, and special events such as weddings, festivals, etc. I have also presented workshops on numerous dance related topics. My taste in dances is eclectic, and I tend to present a wide variety of dances when I call. My repertoire includes plenty of New England contras, as well as an assortment of squares, singing calls, mixers, old chestnuts and freshly minted dances. I have a special fondness for English country dances, and my English programs also blend old favorites with new gems. Fortunately, there is no dearth of wonderful dances to draw on! I call most often in NY State, but I also travel farther afield to call when I can extract myself from my day job.
A musician as well as a caller, I am happiest when the calling and music are well integrated. I like to play guitar, 5-string banjo and fiddle for dances. Put a guitar in my hands and I’ll be both your caller and band for a singing square dance.
All in the family
My entire family has long been involved with dance and music. It was my mom who started me off playing the guitar many years ago. My wife is an excellent musician who plays recorders, whistles and oboe for English and contra dancing. My oldest son plays numerous instruments, and will list them for you if asked. The next one is a devoted dancer and great singer who composes some very intriguing dances. The youngest regularly introduces me to new kinds of music, and loves to sing and dance as well.
And, yes, it’s true. My wife, children and I are all now–or have been at one time or another–Bassett Street Hounds. The Hounds are Syracuse’s finest (and only) border Morris team.
I am a longtime member, supporter and board member of my local dance organization, the Syracuse Country Dancers. I also have the privilege of serving on the board of the Country Dance and Song Society, a vibrant organization dedicated to “continuing the traditions and linking those who love them” throughout North America.
You will sometimes find me on staff or volunteering at various dance weekends and camps. It’s all good!
Dance projects, large and small
The links below may be of interest to other dance geeks. Each is an excellent example of how I often find myself working on dance-related projects when I probably ought to be doing something else….
- Cracking Chestnuts, my book, which is intended as an introduction to–and appreciation of–such wonderful dances as Hull’s Victory, British Sorrow and Rory O’More
- An index of all of Ted Sannella’s published dances, for others who appreciate (as I do) Ted’s rich contribution to contra dance choreography
- Syllabi for the Ralph Page Dance Legacy Weekend
- My list of Petronella “spinoffs”
- Bring Back Money Musk
- Dance sequences I have cobbled together, experiments and creations of varying quality and utility; I also offer a repository for some interesting dance sequences created by friends and neighbors who do not have them published elsewhere