Kansas City Heart of American AOSA post-workshop notes

Peter & Mary Alice Amidon’s  –  Heart of America (Kansas City) AOSA workshop:
Creating a Dynamic Learning Community with Traditional Dance, Song & Storytelling
Saturday, March 4, 2017 – William Yates Elementary School – Independence, Missouri

** Many thanks to Stephanie Myers who spent months working out the details of this workshop with us and then took great care of us during our stay (including taking us out to dinner on her BIRTHDAY! with her sweet husband Jim); to Eve Osborne for driving us from & to the airport; to Mark Hamblin for helping out with sound; to Leigh Tarwater and Christine McDonald for taking care of many of the details and logistics of our visit; to all the other volunteers that made this a great visit and fun workshop for us; and to all of you particpants who danced and sang with such enthusiasm and spirit. **

* First some info that might be of interest, then the post-workshop notes. (Scroll down for the post-workshop notes).

   *            *            *

An Opportunity for Community Dance Callers & Music Educators

Amidons’ Choral Arranging & Publishing

   *            *            *

Sign up on our email mailing list for approximately once-monthly notices about upcoming Amidon workshops and publications.  Just go to the Amidon website and sign up on the homepage:


   *            *            *

MEET OUR BOYS & their ladies:

Stefan and Zara singing with the Starry Mountain Singers. Zara singing lead on the left, Stefan singing bass on the right.

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

Stefan is currently touring with The Devil Makes Three

Sam with the Australian Chamber Orchestra

Sam fiddling

Sam’s wife Beth Orton singing Leonard Cohen’s “Sisters of Mercy”

*            *            *

 Go to your own local dances; they are fun, welcoming, aerobic, and it will make you a better dance teacher. Here are links to information in Kansas City, Missouri and Kansas:

Kansas City English Country DancingKansas City Contra DancingMissouri Contra & Square DancesKansas Contra & Square DancingLawrence KS Contra Dancing

*            *            *

This is the best place we know to get a small (smaller than the standard 120 bass) accordion like Mary Alice uses for your teaching: The Button Box.

*            *            *

There are a lot of great wireless headset microphone systems.  This is the wireless headset system that Mary Alice and I have used for the last ten years:

Shure PGX1 transmitter (small device you hook onto your belt or pocket)
Shure WH20 headset microphone (worn on head – plugs into Shure transmitter)
Shure PGX4 receiver (small wireless receiver that plugs into your sound system)

You can call Shure directly at 847-600-2000.
We also use Musician’s Friend a lot; they have great phone customer support: 877-513-9720

*            *            *


(note, “NEDM” = “New England Dancing Masters”)

Quartz Mountain Man in the Middle by Peter Amidon
for music we used “Galope de la Malbaie” from NEDM’s “Any Jig or Reel” CD.
After having folks promenade and determining who the inside and outside partners are (gents & ladies or peanut butter & jelly – whatever language you use) I start by teaching the clap/jump figure, then the two claps into the jump/clap.

Sun in My Heart
A Little Seed

Both from NEDM”s “I’m Growing Up” book/CD/DVD.
Both of these are calming, centering chants for young children.  We often do them to help calm ourselves down in the classroom.

Form the Corn in NEDM’s I’m Growing Upbook/DC/DVD collection
This is a great singing game for classroom teachers to know – children can just stand up from their chairs or desks and do this dance/game when they have been sitting too long. It is also great for an assembly program.

Sleeping Bunnies  from NEDM”s “I’m Growing Up” book/CD/DVD.
Young children will ask for this one; they can do it all day.

Here We Go Riding Our Ponies In NEDM’s “I’m Growing Up” book/CD/DVD.
Children practice handshakes and eye contact in this instantly engaging singing game. We teach the “Whoa, whoa, whoa” carefully, otherwise the children will be riding their ponies forever.

Kindergarten Reel In NEDM’s “Listen to the Mockingbird” collection but just in the book, not on the CD.
You lead this with whatever instrument you play: piano, French horn, recorder, electric guitar, whatever! If you would like the mp3 of the piano/violin music we recorded for the “Kindergarten Reel”, you can download it

, or just send me an email <amidonpeter@gmail.com>; and I will email you the mp3 (no charge).  This is a great first longways dance for young children – the most important thing they learn is the last figure: moving up on place.

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 & take” for getting into crossed-hands promenade position; 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.

La Bastringue in NEDM’s Chimes of Dunkirkbook and CD collection.
A wonderful, simple dance that can be done keeping the same partner (as we did it) or as a mixer where you dosido your partner, then do a two hand turn with your neighbor, keeping your neighbor as your new partner into the promenade.

I’m Growing Up in the Amidons’ Song in My Heart book & CD, and NEDM’s “I’m Growing Up” book/CD/DVD
Mary Alice wrote this song about the different stages of life.

Vote for Me  in the Amidons’ Song in My Heart book & CD
By Faya Rose Touré, lawyer, educator, songwriter from Selma, Alabama.  She was the first African American female judge in Alabama.

Brotherhood & Sisterhood  in the Amidons’ Song in My Heart book & CD
Peter was commissioned to write this song for the Lititz, Pennsylvania Elementary School for their “Celebrate the Differences” event.

I Live In Music

In the Fiddle is a Song
I Miss You Every Day

Come Along Everybody In NEDM’s “I’m Growing Up” book/CD/DVD
We know a music teacher who starts every class with this singing game; children taking hands and making a circle the moment they first walk through the door.  You can have fun with the children making up different motions for the dance. We love the challenge of remembering the cumulative movements in this singing game.

Sasha In NEDM’s “Sashay the Donut“collection.
A great dance for all ages! We are not sure of the origins of this dance: one source suggested it was a novelty dance based on a Russian pop song from the 60’s.  ‘Ras, dva, tri’ is Russian for ‘ready, set, go!’

Grumpy March by Peter Amidon – in NEDM’s “Sashay the Donut” book and CD
music: any reel, but we like using “Wizard’s Walk” from the Sashay the Donut CD (the dance was written to go along with Jay Ungar’s tune “Wizard’s Walk”.
I have all the dancers say “Grump, grump, grump, turn, together, right, together, left, Grump, grump, grump, turn, together, right, together, left” before they practice doing the figure. * Dancers need to practice making the long skinny circle in A2 QUICKLY after the 2nd clapping pattern that ends A1. * Demonstrate how, when skipping back single file clockwise in the 2nd half of A2, dancers  skip directly into skipping around partner in B1.
Physed teachers love this dance because it is so energetic and aerobic.

Choosing Partners 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 In NEDM’s “Chimes of Dunkirkcollection.We used ‘Slow G’ from NEDM’s ‘Sashay the Donut’ CD; Assembly (the same band that recorded Other Side of the Tracks) at their dreamy best.

Picture Books II
When I Grow Up I Want to Be Me
We All Went on a Safari

Peddler’s Dream a traditional folktale
Here is a link to an outline of Peter’s version of the story.

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 the boy told the peddler that he did not have fifty cents.” You can use this method to create a musical performance with added instrumental music, songs and dancing, or just do it once for its own sake and leave it at that.

Psalm of Life poem by Longfellow, tune from the singing of Lotus Dickey, arr. P. Amidon
In the Amidons’ “Twenty-five Anthems for Interfaith & Community Choirs” and “Online Choral Store“.
This is from the Department of Taking Care Of Our Own Adult Musical Needs.  Here is a recording of the Starry Mountain Singers singing Peter’s arrangement and here is a performance of the song by Peter & Mary Alice from their album “I’ll Never Forget

Larry’s Mixer in NEDM’s “Listen to the Mockingbird
Formation: Circle of couples, gents facing out ladies facing in.
Music: We used “Cheris” from NEDM”s “Other Side of the Tracks
Do this dance NOT as a mixer the first few times through, and then add, in the beginning of B2, the progression: “Everyone keep walking, let go of your partner, gents walk faster and move up to the lady in front of you and promenade her, now your new partner.”  Demonstrate how to dance this to the phrasing of the music, so that each figure starts at the beginning of the musical phrase.

Creating an original dance with your students
Review what the most common dance figures are, 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. You might have them raise hands with suggestions to help keep a bit of order and fairness. 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 discussing 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. 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 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.

Heart of America Mixer – your original circle mixer
Formation: Circle Mixer
Music: Any jig or reel. We used “The Coming Dawn” from NEDM’s “Other Side of the Tracks“.
A1: Forward & back (8)
Forward and back (8)
A2: Allemand left Neighbor
Allemand right Partner 1.5 (once and a half)
B1: Starting with the next person past your partner as number 1, Grand right and left (well, actually, in this case you are doing a grand left and right since you start with the left hand), going into a
B2: promenade with the 7th person who becomes your new partner.

Circle Waltz Mixer  In NEDM’s  “Sashay the Donut” collection.
We used ‘In Continental’ Waltz from the ‘Sashay’ CD  for the music. Here are some tips to for teaching this dance:  Start by having everyone promenade. Tell all the inside (left hand) partners they are “rocks” and all the outside (right hand) partners they are “twirlers”. Make a circle, all holding hands around the circle.  All look at partner and say “goodbye”.  Posts stay in place and keep their feet planted during the “twirl” figure.  Carefully teach the first “twirl” each “Post” does with their left hand neighbor, from left to right.  Once the dancers get that twirl, the rest of the dance can go pretty smoothly.
Here are two short Youtube films of me TEACHING and DANCING the Circle Waltz Mixer with children.

*     *

Mary Alice and I had such a wonderful time with all of you and we are in love with Kansas City. Thank you all, and keep dancing and singing!


Peter & Mary Alice Amidon