Oklahoma Orff & Kodaly Chapters Workshop


Notes for Peter & Mary Alice’s 5-hour workshop

Creating a Dynamic Learning Community with Traditional Dance, Song & Storytelling

Saturday, September 29, 2013

Oklahoma AOSA and OAKE Chapters

Many thanks to Trish Ranson who did so much to make this possible, and to everyone else who helped out with the space, food, sound and more.  We had a wonderful time with all of you.



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Coming soon (in a few weeks):

Fifty-five Anthems for the Small Church Choir


Twenty-five Anthems for Interfaith & Community Choirs


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MEET OUR BOYS & their ladies:

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


Stefan’s girlfriend Zara Bode (red haired lead singer – Stefan on percussion and bass vocals)




Sam’s wife Beth Orton



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After the workshop Mary Alice and I, along with Trish and her family, went to the Oklahoma City contra dance called by Sandy Knudson.  It is a really wonderful dance; a great mix of experienced and less experienced dancers, great music and wonderful calling by Sandy.

Here is a website where you can find dances in and around Oklahoma:


and here is a page specifically about Oklahoma City contra dancing and English country dancing:



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 Note: “NEDM” is our abbreviation for “New England Dancing Masters”.


Quartz Mountain Man in Middle p. 11 in handout

Composed by participants of the Amidons’ 2012 Oklahoma Fall Arts Institute workshop. Music can be any jig or reel.  I used “Martin O’Connor” from NEDM’s “Other Side of the Tracks” CD.

Singing In the Rain in NEDM’s “Down in the Valley” book & CD.


The Sun is In My Heart p. 11 in handout

In NEDM’s I’m Growing Upbook/CD/DVD. We find this to be calming and comforting both for us and the children.


Five Little Bunnies p. 12 in handout

In NEDM’s “I’m Growing Up” book/CD/DVD.


Down in Valley p. 2 in handout

In NEDM’s Down in the Valley” book/CD/DVD


Old Brass Wagon p. 10 in handout

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.


Rural Felicity p. 10 in handout

This is in NEDM’s Sashay the Donut collection. I like using jig medleys for this.  It is a great dance for a community dance.


PICTURE BOOKS I pp. 15, 16, 17 in handout


Earth and I

Waking Up Is Hard to Do Goes along great with Wake Me Shake Me in NEDM’s “I’m Growing Up”

I Call My Hand Gentle

Owl Moon

Now It’s Time to Go p.3 in handout


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From the Seed in the Ground in Amidons’ “Song in My Heart” book and CD


Dreams to Be p. 7 in handout


A Little Seed p. 4  in handout

In NEDM’s “I’m Growing Up” book/CD/DVD. We love “the little wait…” in this fingerplay/song.


I’m Growing Up p. 8 in handout

In NEDM’s “I’m Growing Up” book/CD/DVD. Make up your own motions for Mary Alice’s song.


The Goldfish by Laurie Berkner

Mary Alice is wild about this song, because children are so wild about it.


Here We Go Riding Our Ponies p. 9 in handout

In NEDM’s I’m Growing Upbook/CD/DVD. Children practice handshakes and eye contact in this instantly engaging singing game.


Kindergarten Reel p. 11 in handout

In NEDM’s Listen to the Mockingbird“. We use this as a first longways dance to instrumental music for Kindergarten children. You can do it playing anything: piano,  accordion, French horn, recorder, whatever; or you can use this recording we made but have not yet put on any of our NEDM CDs:



Virginia Reel In NEDM’s Chimes of Dunkirk“.

After you’ve done “Kindergarten Reel” for a while, just play any jig (jigs are 6/8 and reels are 4/4) medley and start with something like: Forward and back, one hand around, two hands around, dosido, then do the sashay down the middle etc. and the Kindergarten children are doing a simple version of the Virginia Reel.


Larry’s Mixer p. 11 in handout

In NEDM’s “Listen to the Mockingbird”. We used the cut “Cheris” from NEDM’s Other Side of the TracksCD, which is the band “Assembly”, 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 Reel” CD.  All of these have 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.  Your performance of this, in three concentric circles, was an historic moment in the history of dance.


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 p. 13 in handout

In NEDM’s Chimes of Dunkirk collection. This is  ‘Slow G’ from NEDM’s ‘Sashay the Donut’ CD; (sorry, NOT in “Other Side of the Tracks” as I put in the handout) Assembly (the same band that recorded Other Side of the Tracks) at their dreamy best.


*  *  12:00 LUNCH *  *


Say What You Want p. 3 in handout


PICTURE BOOK II pp. 15, 16, 17 in handout

Mail Myself to You


The Whales

The Day You Were Born


Psalm of Life p. 19 in handout

You sounded so beautiful singing this. This is in the “We need to be fed musically, with adult musical and creative experiences in order to be a more complete music teacher and human being” department.


Bridge of Athlone p. 7 in handout

In NEDM’s “Listen to the Mockingbird” collection. 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. Here is a Youtube video of some, I think, 4th graders doing the dance; their classroom teacher had taught  it to them, and I brushed it up a bit before we made this video:



Creating an Original Dance

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


and figures you do just with your partner (or neighbor)

Right hand turn


and some that are a bit of both like


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 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.  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.


Okie Slide Created by you!

A1: Circle left, circle right (16)

A2: Right elbow turn partner (8)

Left elbow turn corner (8)

B1: Facing center: four claps and four stamps (8)

High five partner with right hand (2)

High five corner with left hand (2)

 The Slide: One step forward (Gents Left, Ladies Right)

Turn to face partner as you bring the other foot in.

Step that same foot (Gents Right, Ladies’ Left) towards outside of circle.

Slide other foot to meet the outside foot. (4)

B2: Grand R & L: 1, 2, 3 (8)

Promenade 4th person (8)


Peddler’s Dream a traditional folktale


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 peddler told the boy why he should take the wooden wagon.” 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.


Sicilian Vowel Dance p. 12 in handout

In NEDM’s “Sashay the Donut” collection

We used ‘Golden Keyboard’ (actually, the piano only comes in at the end of the cut) from NEDM’s ‘Any Jig or Reel’ for this. Do this with 5th or 6th graders who have a fair amount of dance experience, and who have already learned the grand right and left (‘Lucky Seven’ from our Chimes of Dunkirk collection is a good teaching dance for the Grand Right and Left figure). You should have at least 20 dancers (five groups of four) to do this dance; 24 or more is even better.  It can work at a community dance if you have all the younger children dance with an adult or older experienced child partner. The main teaching point is, once folks are in the formation of couple facing couple (Sicilian circle formation), having everyone point to the left.  Those pointing to the inside of the circle say “I go inside first.” Those pointing to the outside say, “I go outside first.” That is the direction they start going  when they do the big, no hands, stay-with-partner grand right and left.


Now It’s Time To Go (again)

You are such wonderful singers!


Circle Waltz Mixer p. 13 in handout

In NEDM’s “Sashay the Donut” collection

You can see the teaching and dancing of this in these two NEDM Youtubes:



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.  In the original  dance gents are the “posts” and women are the “twirlers”, but it works perfectly fine in a non-gender community  dance with a two hand turn.  Here are some tips to for teaching this dance: Start by having everyone promenade. Tell all the inside (left hand) partners they are “posts” and all the outside (right hand) partners they are “twirlers”. 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.


Keep on dancing, singing and storytelling!


Peter and Mary Alice