Maine AOSA & MMEA Post-workshop Notes


Peter & Mary Alice lead
Creating a Dynamic Learning Community with Traditional Dance, Song & Storytelling
Friday, September 25, 2015 • 9:00 am – 3:30 pm
Le Club Calumet, 334 West River Road, Augusta Maine

Thanks to Nancy Cash-Cobb for doing a terrific job in the planning and organizing of this workshop, to all of the other folks who helped out before and during the day, and to you, the wonderful group of music teachers, who participated with such enthusiasm.  Mary Alice and I really enjoyed dancing and singing with you yesterday!

First some announcements, then the notes:

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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

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:

Maine – Regularly scheduled dancing and more

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Blaydon Races
in NEDM’s Chimes of Dunkirk collection
We used ‘Blaydon Races’ from NEDM’s 2010 Revision of the ‘Chimes of Dunkirk’ CD for this. 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 often call this at weddings.  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
A Little Seed
Both of these are in in the handouts, and in NEDM’s “I’m Growing Up” book/CD/DVD.  Both are calming chants that we use as much to center ourselves as the children.

Shut the Gates – Mary Alice learned this from Kathy Reid Naiman in a workshop for teachers who work with young children.

Ten Little Fingers – Try this for Halloween.

Tree Song – in NEDM’s “Down in the Valley“.  I introduced this with a story about Roger.  It is basically the same family: Roger, Mary, their thirteen children, their youngest daughter who then marries and lives with Roger and Mary and has Eliza.  I use this same family for the storytelling introductions to “Chiney Doll” and “When I First Came to This Land”.   You can order the music (unison/piano) for your younger children’s choir from our Amidon Online Choral Sheet Music Download Store.

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.

Old Brass Wagon – In NEDM’s Down in the Valley collection
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.

Dance Teaching  Tips: POSTURE – touch ears with shoulders, then relax shoulders, describe good posture, find a someone with good posture as a “posture leader” (“We are going to call this “Selena 3rd grade posture”. 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; saying the call right before the ‘clap’ or before the first beat of  the phrase and figure.

PICTURE BOOKS I – see the bibliography
I Live in Music
– try doing this with other kinds of music
In the Fiddle is a Song
– have young children “read” the book with you.
What a Wonderful World


The Fox – in “Song in My Heartbook & CD. I introduced this with a story, and continued the story between the verses.

From the Seed in the Ground – in “Song in My Heartbook & CD. This is one of our favorite children’s songs of all time. I did

      a piano/SATB version
(late we did the “Seed in the Ground” Flash Mob Dance to a recording of this arrangement) that you can purchase in our Online Choral Store.

Humpty Dump – A great way to teach older children the classic nursery rhymes.  After a child suggests a nursery rhyme, have the whole class recite it all the way through before putting it into the song.


Starburst – originally called Accretion Reel by Jack Mitchell.
Great dance for upper elementary students who are shy about partners; they switch around so much that they don’t have time to think about who they are dancing with. You can go into a square dance formation at the end of this dance; have each group of four join up with another group of four and make a square set.

Old Bald Eagle Square – In NEDM’s Sashay the Donut collection.
Andy Davis’s brilliant version of ‘Old Bald Eagle’ is the simplest square we know: a great first square dance for young children.  Try it with the Sashay the Donut CD to Andy’s calls.

Lucky Seven – In NEDM’s “Chimes of Dunkirkcollection
We used ‘The Coming Dawn’ from NEDM’s  Other Side of the TracksCD. The grand right & left exercises: First all promenade to determine inside/outside gent/lady or moon/star roles.  Then all face partner.  Ladies crouch while men weave around circle, starting on the inside. Then Men crouch and assist ladies as they weave around: right hand for outside, left hand assist for inside.  Then all stand and face center and do a stationary grand right and left just with the arms, counting up to seven.  Repeat that, but this time stepping in place (two steps per arm reach).  Then face partner and ‘repeat after me’ some of the rules: ‘I will not turn around, I will not go back, I will only take a hand when I say a number, I will only say a number when I take a hand.’  Tell them that it always takes seven times to get it right,  and make sure, when it doesn’t go right, that they all go back to where they started from (rather than trying to fix it in the middle of the grand right and left figure). Level one: Wait 8 beats on 2nd half of A2 music.   Level two: dosido partner on 2nd half of A2 music. Level three: At end of grand right and left allemande right the 7th person about 1 1/4 into a promenade.

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.

Kings & Queens – in NEDM’s “Sashay the Donut” collection.
We used ‘On the Danforth’ from NEDM’s ‘Other Side of the Tracks’ CD for this dance.  You might also use our other version of ‘On the Danforth’ which is on our ‘Sashay  the Donut’ CD. Before we teach this dance we will dub each child a King or a Queen, and talk to them (sometimes while the music is playing to help sustain the mood) about what it means to be a King and Queen: They have royal posture, they never rush, they make good decisions, they are very attractive; basically describing the ideal King/Queen or, which, in my mind is being the very best person they can be.  Then I “dub” each child a  king or a queen, making sure they have their royal posture before I dub them. This is in the style of an historic English country dance (e.g. dances done in Jane Austen’s time).


Form the Corn – In NEDM’s “I’m Growing Up” book/CD/DVD. A great no-formation dance for any age, any situation.

I’m Growing Up – in “Song in My Heart book and CD and in “I’m Growing Upbook/CD/DVD. Mary Alice had everyone stand up and follow her in a dance to the recording of this song.


     Martin Luther King – in “Song in My Heart book and CD.

     Brotherhood/Sisterhood – in “Song in My Heart book and CD.

Storytelling with Children – see p. 18 in your handout.

The Peddler’s Dream – a traditional story from many cultures. This is my version of the story; I think of it in an 18th century New England setting.

Acting Out Stories – See p. 18 in the handout.
You can see from the wonderful performances of the Peddler, the Woman, the Girl and the Five Angels what kind of magic can happen when you do this creative activity with children.

Traffic Jam learned from John Krumm
Use “Heel & Toe Polka” for music from “Chimes of Dunkirk” CD.
This is a terrific “scatter mixer” for any age; particularly for older students who do not have much dance experience.

From the Seed in the Ground Dance
If you got the sun
*Walk sideways with hands miming sun rising.
and if you got the rain
*Walk sideways the other way with hands miming rain.
and you plant a little seed
*Crouch down.
in the old back lane
Then jump and turn halfway with arms moving directly over head, end pointing in opposite direction.
And you wish and you hope
hands clasped together in front, take step to diagonal left, then diagonal right,
And you keep the weeds down
Crouch down, keeping head up.
You might find, oh
standing up, step and gesture with arm to left.
You might find
step and gesture with arm to right
a root growing down from the seed
mime with hands
in the groundtake one step forward (leaving other foot in place) ending with forward leg bent a little and back leg straight. Arms in front at an angle.

Noble Duke of York – in NEDM’s “Rise Sally Rise” (formerly “Jump Jim Joe“) Also NEDM’s “Alabama Gal” book/CD/DVD.
I added the up, down halfway up and jumping movements that the rest of the dancers do while the top couple sashays down the middle and back.  My favorite moment is when the top couple’s sashay back up the middle turns into a skipping cast off just as the other dancers land from their jump and, skipping, follow the lead couple in the cast off.  We were inspired to teach skipping as an art form by watching the wonderful Mark Morris Dance Company.  If you have the older “Jump Jim Joe” CD but would like the updated mp3 of the music we used in the workshop (which is only on the “Alabama Gal” book/CD/DVD and “Rise Sally Rise” CD) send me an email and I will send you the mp3: <>

Larry’s Mixer – in NEDM’s “Listen to the Mockingbird” collection.
We used the cut Cheris” from NEDM’s Other Side of the TracksCD, which is the band “Assembly/Popcorn Behavior”, a quartet that includes  our two sons Sam (fiddle) and Stefan (percussion). Also try doing this to “The Coming Dawn” from the same CD, or try “Golden Keyboard” from NEDM’s Any Jig or ReelCD.  All of these are flowing music, and I find that this dance can have a sublime “Historic English County Dance” feel (think Jane Austen) when done to those cuts of elegant music.


PICTURE BOOKS II – some of these Mary Alice just talked about.
Mother Earth
Exclamation Point
    First Strawberries
    Owl Moon
    I Miss You Every Day
    Over the Rainbow
    Day Is Done

How Can I Keep from Singing
You sounded beautiful on this! Mary Alice and I are well into a sort of second career of choral arranging and publishing:
Twenty-five Anthems for Interfaith & Community ChoirsFifty-five Anthems for the Small Church Choir
Online Choral Store

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.

Your the One – by YOU
Formation: Circle Mixer
Music: any three part reel (use “Quadrille Joe Bouchard” from Sashay the DonutCD.A1: Dosido partner, Seesaw neighbor
A2: Circle left, Circle right.
B1: Forward and back, right elbow turn partner
B2: Forward and back, left elbow turn neighbor while saying “YOU’RE THE ONE!”
C1: Gents step forward and circle to the right WHILE Ladies walk single file clockwise.
Gents circle back to the left WHILE Ladies walk single file counterclockwise.
Last few beats of music gents let go of hands and back up WHILE ladies fine the “YOUR THE ONE” new partner and slip on on their RIGHT.
Wow – what a great dance!

Circle Waltz Mixer – in NEDM’s “Sashay the Donut” collection.
We used ‘In Continental’ Waltz from the ‘Sashay’ CD  for the music. This is a wonderful dance for a wedding  where you can do it the original way we learned it, doing  a short waltz instead of the two hand turn.  It is helpful to have boys be “rocks” and girls be “twirlers” (or vice versa) to help keep track of who are the rocks and twirlers.  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”. All look at partner and say “goodbye”. Rocks stay in place and keep their feet planted during the “twirl” figure. Carefully teach the first “twirl” each “Rock” 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 Youtube tutorials for teaching and dancing the Circle Waltz Mixer:
Circle Waltz Mixer – Teaching
Circle Waltz Mixer – Dancing


Thanks again for your enthusiastic and dynamic participation; Mary Alice and I had a most wonderful day.


Peter (and Mary Alice) Amidon