Old Saybrook CT Music Teacher Workshop


Southeastern Regional Music Professional Development Committee

Old Saybrook High School, Old Saybrook, CT – Friday, March 11, 2016

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

led by Peter & Mary Alice Amidon

Many thanks to all who made this possible, and in particular, to Lee Ann Olsen, who worked out most of the details of the day with us and helped us load in and set up, and to Jeremy, the Old Saybrook High School Band teacher, who, in the middle of a run of his school’s production of “Into the Woods”, did a great job providing and helping set up the sound system for the day.

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 storytelling/singing

Sam fiddling

Sam’s wife Beth Orton (a cut from her yet-to-be-released album – Moon)

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

Here is a link to a link with listings of contra and square dances in Connecticut.

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AccordionThe best place we have found to find a good smaller accordion for music teaching is “The Button Box” in Amherst, Massachusetts.

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First you will see just a list of everything we did in each of the four sessions. Below that the same list is expanded with more detailed notes about each dance, singing game, song, story and picture book.

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9:00 am

  • Circassian Circle
  • Sun in My Heart/A Little Seed
  • Here We Go Riding
  • Sandy Boys
  • Teaching Tips
  • La Bastringue

10:00 am

  • Fox
  • Humpty Dump
  • Picture Book 1
  • Mentioned:Miss You Every Day/Owl Moon/Day Is Done
  • Did:I Live In Music/Madeline
  • Starburst
  • Old Bald Eagle Square
  • Noble Duke of York
  • Old Brass Wagon

 11:00 am

  • Brotherhood
  • Tree Song
  • Form the Corn
  • Sleeping Bunnies
  • Kindergarten Reel
  • Zip It Up
  • Choosing partners
  • Durham Reel or Kings & Queens
  • Larry’s Mixer

 12:00 pm Lunch                

 1:00 pm

  • Martin Luther King
  • Vote for Me
  • Brotherhood & Sisterhood
  • Chiney Doll
  • Sam Chiney Doll
  • World Can Be Better – Kid President
  • Traffic Jam
  • Lucky Seven
  • Psalm of Life
  • Original dance (“Hello Partner”)
  • Circle Waltz Mixer

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* 9:00 am *

Quartz Mountain Man in the Middle created by music teachers at an Amidon Oklahoma Arts Conference
Formation: Circle Mixer
Music: any reel. We used “Fancy Hornpipe” from New England Dancing Masters “Any Jig or Reel” CD.
A1: Circle left, circle right
A2: All forward & back
Gents only go forward, all clap 3X starting on 5th beat
jumping on 3rd clap: gents turn halfway round, ladies jump to right.
B1: dosido & right elbow turn new partner (or just long elbow swing)
B2: promenade new partner
    For music we used  In any circle mixer have all the dancers promenade and determine what to call the inside (traditionally ‘gent’) and the outside (traditionally ‘lady’) partners are called.  Peanut butter/jelly, spider/fly, moon/star, gent/lady.  Then I teach the “jump/clap” figure that everyone does.  You wind up by crouching and dropping arms low and back; the clap sort of launches you in the air.  The challenge is teaching the two different kinds of jumps that the gents and the ladies do at the same time.  I do a dosido/elbow swing with adults because adults get dizzy easier than children.  With children I just have them do a long right elbow swing with their new partner after the jump/clap.  I love the moment when all the dancers jump up at the same moment, and, when they land, are facing their new partner.

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.

Here We Go Riding our PoniesIn NEDM’s “I’m Growing Up” book/CD/DVD. Children practice handshakes and eye contact in this instantly engaging singing game.

Sandy Boys by Mary Alice Amidon
Mary Alice uses the tune ‘Sandy Boys’ as played by the ‘Improbobilities’. You can do this to any reel; best if it is Old Time music.
formation: circle of couples
A1) All forward and back twice with a hoot (16)
A2)       right elbow partner (8)
left elbow neighbor (8)
B1) face the center:  clap clap,
stamp, stamp
clap, clap, clap,
stamp, stamp, stamp (8)
repeat clapping & stamping (8)
B2) do si do parner
see saw neighbor (a left shoulder do si do)

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.

La Bastringue
traditional French Canadian
in NEDM’s Chimes of Dunkirk collection
music: La Bastringue or any other reel, preferably French Canadian.
Formation: Circle of partners.
A1 (16) All forward and back with a hoot in the middle (on the fourth beat) (8)
Forward and back again with a shout (8)
A2 (16) Circle to the left (8)
Circle to the right (8)
B1 (16) Dosido and two hand turn (new or same) partner (16)
B2 (16) Promenade (new or same) partner (16)

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* 10:00 am *

Fox Went Out in Song in My Heart book & CD.  I introduced this with a story about how the Fox family got so hungry that Poppa Fox just had to go on the dangerous journey of stealing a duck and a goose from the farm.

Humpty Dump – a great song for teaching nursery rhymes to older children. We have them recite the poems in a sort of formal way before putting them into the song. Challenge your students to come to class with nursery rhyme selections.

Picture Book 1 See handout bibliography
Mary Alice mentioned:
Miss You Every Day
Owl Moon
     Day Is Done
And she read
I Live In Music
and I read

Starburst (or “Accretian Reel”) – Challenge your students to do this dance without your calling; following on their own the phrasing of the music. Do a square dance after this dance by have each group of four find another group of four with which to make a square set.

Old Bald Eagle Square in “Sashay the Donut” The simplest square dance we know. In both this and “Solomon Levi” try teaching the dance and then put on the CD and let Andy do the calling.  You should dance with your students.  Use “tap in” to deal with a class of, say, 20 students.  the five students who are out (because you are dancing!) each have an assigned student in a square that they trade back and forth with each time you say “Tap in!”.

Noble Duke of York – in NEDM’s “Rise Sally Rise” (formerly “Jump Jim Joe“) Also NEDM’s “Alabama Gal” book/CD/DVD.
Here is my shortcut way of teaching the cast off:
* Have top and bottom couple each take two hands with partner.
* All other couples leave the set.
* Bottom couple makes a two hand arch.
* Top gent (or you) demonstrates skipping around to left in a cast off, down below and then up through the arch back to place.
* Top lady demonstrates same thing, starting her cast off to the right.
* Top gent and lady cast off at the same time and take one hand with partner as they go through the arch.
* Now all the other dancers rejoin the set and the ladies follow the lead lady and the gent follows the lead gent.
* The next time you do it, have the bottom lady and gent follow, respectively, their lady and gent lines, and the top couple makes the arch when reachng the bottom.
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: <amidonpeter@gmail.com>

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 I teach it I walk through the figures first, and then say “Now just do whatever Mary Alice says,” and put on the CD.

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* 11:00 am *

Brotherhood and Sisterhood – in “Song in My Heart” book and CD. We encourage you to write your own songs and sing them with your students. It is deeply satisfying, and having children sing your composed songs helps demystify songwriting for children. Songwriting is both challenging and fun.

Tree Song in NEDM’s Down in the Valley collection
I introduced this with a story that I made up.  Elements of the story came from this singing game, the singing game ‘Roger is Dead’ (NEDM’s Down in the Valley) and the traditional song ‘Chiney Doll’ (on our ‘Song in My Heart’ CD).
Lorraine Hammond, who composed this wonderful singing game, is a songwriter and musician, and one of the best known Appalachian dulcimer players in the country.  She is in the greater Boston area.  The piano arrangement on the CD is Peter’s and is available as a children’s choir piece for young singers.  We find this to be a calming, centering dance, both for the children and for ourselves.

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

Sleeping Bunnies In NEDM’s “I’m Growing Up” book/CD/DVD
Children love and need “floor time”. This has a similar appeal as Jean Ritchie’s “Hunt the Cows” (in NEDM’s “Down in the Valley” collection.

Kindergarten Reel – In NEDM’s Listen to the Mockingbird collection but just in the book, not on the CD. You can lead this playing the music for the dance. We do have a recording for this dance but it is not on any of our New England Dancing Masters (NEDM) CDs.  If you would like the “Kindergarten Reel” mp3 send me an email <amidonpeter@gmail.com>; and I will email it to you as an attachment.

Zip It Up – by Peter Amidon. In NEDM’sdd
formation: longways 6-8 couples
music: 3-part jigs
A1: Long lines forward and back, right hand turn partner
A2: Two hand turn partner, dosido partner
B1: top couple sashay down and back
B2: top couple cast alone down to bottom, and *Zip it up, sashaying back up the middle.
C1 & C2: Top couple do a #weaving pousette to the bottom.
repeat dance with new top couple.
*Zip it up: Each couple takes two hands with partner as soon as the Lead Couple passes them on this sashay up to the top.
#Weaving poussette: When the top couple gets to the top of the last sashay, finishing the ‘Zip it Up’, all should have two hands with partners.  The top couple leads a weaving poussette from top to bottom: top gent pushes and all other gents pull.  Lead Couple weaves back and forth down to the bottom of the set.  All dancers poussette back and forth until lead couple has reached the bottom.  The whole line should move together in the opposite direction of the lead couple.  Each direction takes four beats, but should be described as three steps.

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 by Peter Amidon, in NEDM’s Sashay the Donut collection.
Formation: Circle of couples, gents facing out, ladies facing in.
Music: We used Cheris from Other Side of the Tracks, but you can use any jig or reel
A1 (16) Do-si-do partner.  (8)
Allemande left the person to the left* of your partner.  (8)
A2 (16) ‘See saw’ partner.  (8)
Allemande right the person to the right* of your partner.  (8)
B1 (16) Right elbow turn partner.  (8)
Promenade partner
B2 (16) Continue promenading partner..  (8)

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* * 12:00 pm Lunch * *              

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* 1:00 pm *

Martin Luther King – in “Song in My Heart” book and CD. We used this a lot when we were music teachers, and we sing it every year at our community celebration of Dr. King’s life and work that we have every year in Brattleboro, Vermont.

Vote for Me – in “Song in My Heart” book and CD. Faya Rose Toure AKA Rose Sanders, the first female African American judge in Alabama, lives in Selma, where she writes songs with children and teenagers to keep them in touch with Selma’s rich history around voting rights.

Chiney Doll  in Song in My Heart” book & CD. I introduced this with a story about Roger’s grandaughter Eliza. We talked about introducing songs and other activities in the music classroom with stories.

Sam Amidon retells and sings Chiney Doll.
When Mary Alice asked 2 1/2 year old Sam to sing “Chiney Doll”, first he had to tell the story, because whenever I sang the song with him I had always preceded it with the story.  Sam’s grunting and pauses through the story were not because he could not remember the story; he remembered it perfectly well.  That was his efforts to change the images in his mind into language; the very essence of storytelling.  Sam, 34, now makes a living travelling the world singing folk songs and telling (sometimes kind of strange) stories.

World Can Be Better – Kid President
Mary Alice made up a dance to go along with this. Children inhale the dance and song.

Lucky Seven
Music: Mary Alice played a jig.  We like doing
this to “The Coming Dawn” on NEDM’s
Other Side of the Tracks” CD.
Formation: Circle mixer.
A1 (16) Circle to left (8)
Circle to right (8)
A2 (16) All forward and back (8)
All face partner and get ready (or dosido partner) (8)
B1 (16) Grand right and left, passing six people and stopping at seventh.
B2 (16) Promenade this new person counterclockwise around circle,
gents on the inside, lades on outside (12)
All join hands in one big ring, ready to circle  left . (4)
In NEDM’s Chimes of Dunkirk collection We used ‘Golden Keyboard’ from NEDM’s  ‘Any Jig or Reel’ CD. 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…’ etc.  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.

Psalm of Life arr. Peter Amidon
You sounded beautiful singing this! Here is more information on the song from our 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, “Forward and back”. 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.

Hello Partner – an original circle mixer by YOU!
A1: Forward & BacK.
Partner right-hand-to-shoulder turn
A2: Neighbor: Clap: together, R, together, L (2X)
Weave past three people (no hands) starting with Neighbor.
B1: fourth person is new neighbor: sashay in four, out four
Boogie down & up
B2: Right elbow turn neighbor
Left elbow turn neighbor and say to partner “Hi Partner” as you take hands in a circle for the opening forward & back.

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

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We had such fun with you; keep on singing and dancing, and tell your students stories!


Peter (and Mary Alice)