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Omigosh, we’re dancing! 

For the first time since March 2020, some dances in upstate New York have started up again. It feels great to be dancing together face to face, and I look forward to dancing with you soon!

About Me

Photo by David Murray

I went to my first contra dances as a teen in the mid 1960s and have loved it ever since. My first experience with calling was in 1981 in Salem, Massachusetts, when I was asked to step in, because the local caller took summers off (and of course no one wanted to stop dancing!). Being a caller has been an ongoing opportunity to learn more about dancing. I also get to facilitate people’s sense of fun and discovery while having lots of fun myself!

Over the years I have led many 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 endeavor to present a wide variety of dances when I call. My repertoire of American dances includes plenty of New England-style contras, as well as an assortment of squares, singing calls, mixers, old chestnuts and freshly minted dances. I also have a special fondness for English country dances, and my English programs likewise blend old favorites with new gems. Fortunately, there is no dearth of wonderful dances to draw on!

I am mostly a New York State caller, but I have often traveled farther afield, including gigs on both coasts, and in Canada.

All in the family

David attends the ball

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 quite well; his favorite is the mandolin. The next one is a devoted dancer and great singer who has composed some very intriguing dances. The youngest raps in English and Vietnamese, and has expanded my tastes in music. The grandchildren started lessons early and will not be far behind.

And, yes, it’s true. My wife, children and I have all been (at one time or another) Bassett Street Hounds. The Hounds are Syracuse’s finest (and only) border Morris team. Woof!

Dance organizations

I am a longtime member, supporter and board member of my local dance organization, the Syracuse Country Dancers. I also did a six-year stint 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, and I’m a longtime supporter. If you are connected in any way to traditional dance and song in the North America, you have certainly felt the influence of CDSS, and I’d encourage you to join!

Dance projects

The links below may be of interest to other dance geeks.

  • My Dances: These include both tried and true dances, and some experiments that might benefit from further development (listed as “beta”). There are also a number of as yet un-tested dances created during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • I also offer a repository for some interesting dances by friends and neighbors who do not have them published elsewhere.
  • Cracking Chestnuts, a compilation of columns I wrote for the CDSS News with contributions by David Millstone. The book includes all the columns (slightly refined), and adds some more material from David Millstone as well as appendices with directions for 20 more chestnuts and a list of our sources. Cracking Chestnuts is both an introduction to and an appreciation of such wonderful dances as Hull’s Victory, British Sorrow and Rory O’More, and includes notation for appropriate tunes for the dances. David and I have also created a set of video examples of every dance in the book, including those in the appendix.
  • Bring Back Money Musk (“It’s once, and a half around, once and a half and you go below…”) As a corollary to “Cracking Chestnuts” project, I created these web pages to track correspondence related to what turned into a grassroots movement to “Bring back Money Musk!”
  • Syllabi for the Ralph Page Dance Legacy Weekend. Some of these were created by other people, but I did lots of them. My first was 1998, and then I did all but one through 2014. When some missing tapes were discovered for 1997, I went back and created a syllabus for that year as well.
  • Sannella Stories is a webpage I created in collaboration with David Millstone to acknowledge Ted Sannella, “The Dean of New England Callers,” on the 25th anniversary of his death. The site includes many people’s memories of Ted, a collection of photographs, audio files, and videos, an index of all his dances, various other people’s dances and tunes dedicated to Ted, and links to other sites with information of interest.
  • Petronella Spin-offs. I used to try to track every contra dance that borrowed the spin-to-the-right move from Petronella (yes, the chestnut that started it all…). I gave up after 200 or so. The best way to do this now is to go to The Caller’s Box, type “petronella” into the “Figures match” box, and click “Search!” Last I looked it was well over 1,000.