Chicago AOSA Post Workshop Notes

Chicago AOSAPeter and Mary Alice present *

Creating a Dynamic Learning Community
with Traditional Dance, Singing and Storytelling


THANK YOU: To Marcie Kumor, Maryann Loda, Manju Durairaj and the many other Chicago AOSA folks who helped organize this workshop and took such good care of us.  Thanks to Sanna and Mars Longden for transportation and a wonderful visit on Friday.  And thanks to those of you who participated so enthusiastically in the workshop dancing, singing and storytelling; we had a wonderful time!


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MEET OUR BOYS & their ladies:

Stefan singing (with the family last New Year’s Eve)

Stefan on percussion/vocals and his wife (red head) Zara Bode with their band the Sweetback Sisters

Sam singing

Sam fiddling

Sam’s wife Beth Orton 

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 Go to your own local dances; they are fun, welcoming, aerobic, and it will make you a better dance teacher:

Chicago Barn Dance Company

contra and square dances, old time music

Ethnic Dance in Chicago

Chicago Area Folk Dance

Sanna Longden, folk dance teacher and publisher

is the founder of the annual national conference on teaching folkdance to children:


which is happening in a few short weeks and still has space (Thursday – Sunday, Nov 13- 16 at Folklore Village in Dodgeville, Wisconsin).  Contact Sanna and Mars Longden at

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Blaydon Races p. 5 in handout – in NEDM’s “Chimes of Dunkirk
For music we used “Blaydon Races” from “Chimes of Dunkirk” CD (2012 edition). You can also use any jig or  reel medley for this dance. We did this is a mixer, but you can also do it with younger children without changing partners. We always start  teaching this, as we do with any circle mixer, by having the dancers promenade and defining the gents/moons/peanut butter/inside partners and the ladies/stars/jelly/outside partners.

Sun Is In My Heart p.5 in handout
in NEDM’s 
I’m Growing Up” book/CD/DVD
We find this to be calming and comforting both for us and the children.

A Little Seed p. 3 in the handout
in NEDM’s “I’m Growing Up” book/CD/DVD

Gate Swings Open p. 5 in the handout    

Three Little Pigs p. 6in the handout.

Form the Corn p 11 in the handout.
in NEDM’s “I’m Growing Up” book/CD/DVD
This is a great activity to use anytime, anywhere; children can just stand from their chairs or desks and do the dance.

Traffic Jam by John Krumm
Scatter mixer.
Although you can use any reel medley (like the French Canadian reels from “Sashay the Donut”) for this dance, it is best to use an ABAB tune (rather than the usual AABB).  The one ABAB tune we have on our recordings is “Heel & Toe Polka” from Chimes of Dunkirk, which works great for Traffic Jam.

Level One

Formation: dancers scattered across floor
Music: ABAB tune (or AABB, but dance sequence will go twice through an AABB tune)
A: (All just walking single in random directions) Step, step, step, step, clap clap clap, stamp stamp stamp. Walk in different direction, Step, step, step, step; clap clap clap; stamp stamp stamp (Clapping is clapping own hands together.  Stamping is with one foot.)
B: 8 sashays (alone) sideways in one direction
Then 8 sashays back in the other direction.
Level Two
Formation: couples scattered across floor
A: Partners standing side by side holding partner’s handy hand, walk four steps in one direction. Then partners face each other and clap (both hands) each other’s hands: clap clap clap; stamp stamp stamp.
Repeat, walking in opposite direction
B: Partners take two hands with each other, and sashay 8 beats in one direction, and 8 beats in the opposite direction.
Level Three
Formation: couples scattered across floor
A: Partners standing side by side holding partner’s handy hand, walk four steps in one direction. Then partners face each other and clap (both hands) each other’s hands: clap clap clap, then stamp stamp stamp.
Repeat, walking in opposite direction
B: Partners take two hands with each other, and sashay 8 beats in one direction, then LEAVE PARTNER AND QUICKLY FIND A NEW PARTNER and sashay in another direction with new partner.
Repeat, starting with this new partner
A great dance for older elementary children.

Old Brass Wagon p.2 in the handout – in NEDM’s “Down in the Valley
This can be an a cappella singing game, or, with the CD (or live music) a great early dance to instrumental music.  When Peter teaches it he walks through the figures first, and then says “Now just do whatever Mary Alice says,” and puts on the CD.

Hop Up, My Ladies by Mary Alice Amidon
Formation: Circle of partners
Music: “Hop Up My Ladies” as sung by Elizabeth Mitchell on her album “Blue Clouds” (you can purchase this cut on iTunes).
Did you ever go to meeting…
March to the left (CW) not holding hands
Don’t mind the weather
Clap, clap,
cause the wind don’t blow.
Stamp, stamp, stamp.
Hop up my ladies three in a row (3X)
All hop on each word Hop.
Don’t mind the weather cause the wind don’t blow. As before.
Instrumental March to the left.
Can your horse-a carry double…
Two hand turn with partner.
Hop up my ladies… as before
Is your horse a single footer…
All trot into center for 8 beats, (small trots)
And back out.
The rest is the same matching of actions to lyrics as above.
Notes: Check out Elizabeth Mitchell’s children’s music both on iTunes and Youtube.  While you are at it, check out Dan Zanes.  They are our two favorite children’s singers.

Dance teaching tips
Mittens; front of your mitten on the front of your neighbor’s mitten, thumb lightly on back; take hands drop hands take hands drop hands; posture; teach the forward separately  from the back in the forward and back; shake partner’s hand, hang on, take partner’s left hand for teaching promenade; while promenading: inside person is the moon/peanut butter/gent,  outside is the star/jelly/lady; four steps of making a circle from a  promenade: “Hang on to partner stop walking, hang on to partner face the center, drop hands, take hands.”; 9 ways of keeping the circle big and round on circle left and right; dosido (gents start on inside, ladies start going outside) flowing into two hand turn flowing into promenade; when music starts clapping the first of each 8 beats; doing the dance with your hands; “thick” calling, then “thin” calling then no calling; saying the call right before the ‘clap’ or before the first beat of  the phrase and figure.

Comment ça va p. 5 in the handout – in NEDM’s “Sashay the Donut
This is a good preparation for “Simple Square” (in “Chimes of Dunkirk”).
We danced this to “Toast” from “Other Side of the Tracks

Community Dance

PICTURE BOOKS I See bibliography: p. 17 in Handout.

When I Grow Up I’ll Be Me

Waking Up Is Hard to Do



Fox – in Amidons’ Song in My Heart” CD & book.
Try creating your own storytelling introduction to this great traditional song.

Seed in the Ground by Connie Kaldor
This is in our “Song in My Heart” book and CD of children’s songs.

This would be wonderful for an all-school sing with some guys (fathers? teachers?) singing the baritone.

Brotherhood & Sisterhood p. 10 in the handout.
This is in our Song in My Heartbook and CD of children’s songs.  It was commissioned by Amy Martin for the Lititz, Pennsylvania Elementary School.

I’m Growing Up p. 8 in the handout
This is in our Song in My Heartbook and CD of children’s songs.
We did this standing up with motions to the recording on the “Song in My Heart” CD.

Here We Go Riding Our Ponies p. 9 in the notes.
in NEDM’s 
I’m Growing Up” book/CD/DVD
Children practice handshakes and eye contact in this instantly engaging singing game.

Accretion Reel p. 4 in the notes.
In our workshop yesterday I forgot to teach doing a gypsy before the right elbow turn. A gypsy is like a dosido except you face each other and maintain eye contact.  They gypsy flows right into the right elbow swing.

Old Bald Eagle Square p.2 in the handout
In NEDM’s “Sashay the Donut” book and companion CD.
For music use the “Old Bald Eagle” cut on Sashay the Donut.
This is a perfect first square dance for younger children.

Simple Square p. 4 in the handout.
In NEDM’s Chimes of Dunkirk” book and companion CD.
For music use the “Simple Square” cut (Andy Davis calling) on the Chimes of Dunkirk CD, or  use any jig or reel medley and call it yourself.

Choosing partners story  We think it is a real gift to children to teach them  how to choose their own partners.  I like to frame this in ‘Kings’ and ‘Queens’ language to help the children get over their self consciousness over  choosing partners.

I start with a story about how Kings and Queens realized that it might be more fun to dance with more than just their own spouses, and so they needed to devise a polite and efficient way to choose other partners.  “And the method they came up with was so good we still do it today.”

I have them all practice the words: ‘May I please  have this dance?’ ‘Yes thank you.’ and then practice answering me, and then practice  asking me.  Then I demonstrate what it looks like to ask a partner to dance, by asking one of the ‘Queens’.  Then, I have that Queen sit down, and I ask her again, showing the 10 steps: The approach. Eye contact. The question. The answer. King puts out his hand. Queen stands and takes King’s hand. They hang on to each other’s hand and walk to the top of the hall.  If there are  two Queens then there is a Queen on one side and a Queen on the other side.  If there are two Kings (you know the rest). If it is a King and a Queen, the King stands on the King’s side, the Queen on the Queen’s side and they face each other, nose, toes and bellybutton, taking two hands. Then they drop their hands, and, voila, there they are.

Durham Reel p. 3 in the handout.
In NEDM”s “Chimes of Dunkirk” book and companion CD.
We used ‘Slow G’ from NEDM’s ‘Sashay the Donut’ CD; Assembly/Popcorn Behavior (the same band that recorded Other Side of the Tracks) at their dreamy best.


Seed in the Ground SSAA

How Can I Keep from Singingp. 12 in the handout.
I have tried to arrange this a few times, but never quite got it.  I was inspired to try again when I was involved in a few musical events honoring Pete Seeger after his death last winter, and finally came up with this arrangement which I am happy with.  Pete Seeger had a lot to do with making this song well known in the 60’s and 70’s.

PICTURE BOOKS II See bibliography: p. 17 in Handout.

Don’t Worry Be Happy

Day Is Done

I Miss You Every Day

Eye of the Needle
Mary Alice learned this story from a picture book of the same name.  She made up the songs to go along with it.

Bridge of Athlone – p. 5 in the handout
In NEDM’s “Listen to the Mockingbird” book & companion CD.
This requires a 3-part tune.  ‘Listen to the Mockingbird’ has a three part jig: ‘Blarney Pilgrim’ that works great for this dance.  We really like dancing it to the three-part ‘Reel de Rimouski’ on NEDM’s ‘Any Jig or Reel’ CD, which is what we did yesterday.  We find this to be an engaging dance for 2nd – 6th and great for a community dance.

Creating an Original Dance With Your Students I start with the question: “What is a dance?” A dance starts with a formation (or a shape): longways (line of partners facing each other), circle (partners in circle) or  square (four couples facing in). There is also the Sicilian Circle formation (couple facing couple around a circle)  And also the concentric circle formation where couples are in a circle with, say, the gents facing out and  the ladies facing in. Then there are the figures, which is, simply what the dancers do in the dance.  Some obvious figures include some you do with the whole group (let’s say we’re doing a circle mixer)       Forward and back      Circle left, Circle right,       Grand Right and Left         etc. and figures you do just with your partner (or neighbor)      Right hand turn     Dosido and some that are a bit of both like      Promenade. It is OK to have an original figure or two in our original dance, but not too many.  Mostly you should have familiar, common figures that dances can learn quickly. Once we (or I) decide on a formation, I simply say, “What first.” and do whatever the first person suggests, in our case, “Jump!”. As the suggestions come in I might invite discussion about which suggestion to choose (if there are more than one).  I try to use as many of the children’s  ideas as possible, and I almost always have the children try out dancing a suggested figure before discussin g it. Your job is also to facilitate the children creating a dance that is fun to do.  You might make a small suggestion here and there, especially one that might help make a student’s suggestion more successful and flowing. The children can help figure out how to make the dance fit the AABB of the music.  It is also an option to ignore the AABB and make up a dance that goes across the AABB pattern of the music. Once you and your students have made up a dance, it is important to name the dance.  This is the same process as making up the dance.  I take in suggestions and facilitate the decision making.  Sometimes we combine the words in two or three different suggestion.  Sometimes we vote on two or three different name candidates.  Sometimes, as  happened with us, someone comes up with a suggestion so inspired that I declare it the official name by acclamation. When students create their own dance, they really take ownership of it.

Picasso Promenade by Participants in Peter and Mary Alice’s September 2014 Chicago AOSA Workshop.
Formation: Circle Mixer
Music: Any jig or reel.  I would recommend a reel medley such as “Quebeqois Reels” from NEDM’s “Sashay the Donut” CD.
A1 Circle left, Circle right.
A2 Forward and back (8 beats)
Then next figures go across the phrase from the 2nd half of A2 through all of B1:
Right elbow partner, Allemand left corner, Allemand right partner, Swing corner (crossed hands grip).  This corner becomes your new partner.
B2 Promenade corner.

I realized after we did the dance that there was one source of confusion that I did not deal with.  We talked about the fact that the “Gents” always promenaded on the inside and the “Ladies” on the outside, but I did not deal with the fact that there is a tendency for dancers, when they make a circle after a promenade, to sometimes end up on the correct side of their promenade partner (gent on the left/lady on the right).  My favorite way to deal with this is to drill making a circle from a promenade with the following instructions: 1) Hang onto your partner, stop walking. 2) Hang on to your partner, face the center. 3) Drop your hands. 4) Take hands in a circle.

Hey, this is a great dance, congratulations!  It was going fine, and was a lovely dance, but what made it a great dance was the suggestion to add the two hand turn (which I then turned into a crossed two hand swing) right before the promenade.


From the Seed in the Ground  by Connie Kaldor; SSAA/piano by Peter Amidon.  This arrangement is for sale on our website choral sheet music download store along with a few other treble voice arrangements and lots of SATB arrangements.  You sounded GREAT on it yesterday!

How Can I Keep from Singing again, this time standing on the floor in SATB sections.  Beautiful singing!  This new arrangement will be published in the next edition of Mary Alice’s and my “Twenty-five Anthems for Interfaith and Community Choirs“.  Check out also our recently published “Fifty-five Anthems for the Small Church Choir“.

Storytelling with your students

The below is already in your notes, but it is so important that I am copying it again here:
Mary Alice and I find storytelling to be the most immediate, consistently powerful focusing activity we do with children.  Where I used to think of storytelling as a survival technique, a last-ditch management tool, now I realize that it can be one of the most important and precious gifts we can give to our students.

Some of you might be saying: “But I have never told a story.  I am not a storyteller.”  Hogwash.  You are telling stories all the time.   You tell your colleagues about a wonderful or challenging event in a music class.  You tell your loved ones about an unforgettable event that happened at a wedding or a funeral or a Thanksgiving gathering.  You tell your own children about when you were a child.   You are the expert teller of these, your stories.

So your first stories for your students might be about your life: about when you were growing up, or about a real event that happened to you recently.  The children will love these stories: they open a window to the children of who you are.

Now keep your storytelling style more or less the same as telling these personal stories and switch to folktales.  You know quite a few already, and very few if any children in your class will have heard these stories simply told before.  Goldilocks and the Three Bears, The Three Little Pigs, Three Billy Goats Gruff, The Mitten, Little Red Riding Hood, you add to the list.  Being a music teacher gives you the advantage of practicing the same story with various classes, but remember, in traditional storytelling, children love hearing stories again and again.   At first you tell the story, then the children help tell you the story, then you and the children act out the story.

Children want stories, children need stories.  Children’s synapses are constructed in such a way that storytelling, especially the telling of traditional folktales, puts them into a deeply receptive state, a mild trance really.  The universally recognized archetypal characters in folk and fairy tales (kings, queens, giants, witches, ogres, princes, princesses, talking animals, bullies, unselfish younger siblings) help children figure out the moral fabric of life. It gives them a place to put the mysteriously unpredictable mood swings of the powerful adults around them, and it helps them deal with their own fears and joys.

As it is very likely that children are hearing folktales rarely if ever outside of the music classroom, I, Peter Amidon, do hereby authorize all you music teachers to tell stories to your students.

Peddler’s Dream traditional folktale
I have forgotten where I first learned this folktale.  It is a variant of the ancient folktale type:
“The Man Who Became Rich Through A Dream”
which goes back to the “1001 Arabian Nights” and before.  Here is a website devoted to variants of this tale:

Acting out stories: Children do this quite naturally; you just  set it up and, as much as possible, get out of the way.  After telling a folktale I give them the homework to retell it aloud,  we might go through a speed through of the story or do a quick group map of the story or discuss the story (What was the funniest/saddest/most scary/most memorable moment?)   Once they all know the story well, you are the narrator, and maybe also the musician (guitar, accordion).  Pull the characters (and human props) from the ‘audience’ of children sitting in a bunch in front of the ‘stage’. All the action takes place right in the middle in front of the audience.  The ‘actors’ speak loudly so everyone can hear.  If they forget what happens next you can feed them a line as the narrator: “And then the boy asked the peddler how much it cost.”
You can use this method to create a musical performance with added instrumental music, songs and dancing, or just do it once and leave it at that.

Larry’s Mixer p. 6 in the handout
From NEDM’s Listen to the Mockingbird” book and companion CD.
You can do this to any jig or reel.  We used “Cheris” from NEDM’s “Other Side of the Tracks” CD, which starts quietly, almost meditatively and slowly builds the energy to the end.  It is an unusually long track (8:34) which allows dancers to really get into the groove and flow of the dance.  Try doing “Larry’s Mixer” NOT as a mixer for a week or two before doing it as a mixer.  A wonderful dance for older elementary age children.

Now It’s Time to Go in Amidons’ Song In My Heart” book and CD.

Circle Waltz Mixer – in your handout
In “Sashay the Donut” – use “In Continental Mood” from the “Sashay the Donut” CD.  This is a wonderful dance for upper elementary school children.  I do with also with 2nd graders by replacing final figure of a two hand turn with a slow bow/open like a book and wait for the opening phrase to start the sequence again.  You can see me teaching it and dancing it with children here.

Happy dancing, singing and storytelling with your students!


Peter (and Mary Alice)