Rocky Mountain AOSA post-workshop notes


Rocky Mountain Chapter of AOSA
Creating a Dynamic Learning Community with Traditional Dance, Song & Storytelling
Peter & Mary Alice Amidon
Saturday, October 8, 2016
Boulder, Colorado

Many thanks to Abby Fogarty, Kris Emanuel, Justine-Marie Sullivan, Alicia Knox, RuthAnn Chiaraluce, Kristin West, Rachael Allan, Dr. Tina Miranda, Joe DeWinkle, Amanda Smith, Emmy Ketchum, Mandy Leoberger, and many more who did so much to make us feel at home and helped with all aspects of the day. And thanks to all of you who sang and danced with us all day with such enthusiasm and skill.  You have an outstanding chapter and we had a wonderful time!  And thanks to your Chapter for the generous gift that came with the card.

First some announcements, then some info that might be of interest, then the post-workshop notes:

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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:

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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

Stefan is currently touring with The Devil Makes Three

Sam storytelling/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.

Here is a link to a web page that has listings of contra and square dances in Colorado.

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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.

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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

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Comment ca va (in handout)
In NEDM’s “Sashay the Donutcollection
Formation: circle of couples (not a mixer)
Music: Any reel. We used Quebeqois Reels from
Any Jig or Reel”.
This is really a version of “La Bastringue”  with a more sophisticated B1 section that makes it a great  dance for 4th – 6th graders; it is not too difficult, but it keeps them engaged.
* Two teaching tips specific to this dance:
1) “Bow to your partner, say “You are my partner.” Turn your back on your partner and bow to this person, saying “You are my neighbor.”  (Drill this a bit by having dancers bow to partner, then neighbor, then neighbor, then ceiling, then partner, etc.)
2) Facing neighbor all put left hand in the air. Everybody say and do this: “Elbow down, hand up, thumb around thumb, fingers over wrist, 7% arm wrestle (give weight to neighbor), then allemand left neighbor WHILE LOOKING FOR PARTNER, and then dosido partner (Gents/Moons going towards the middle first in order  to dosido passing right shoulders) WHILE  LOOKING FOR NEIGHBOR, then allemand left neighbor again WHILE LOOKING FOR PARTNER, then, “Hey”, take partners right hand in right (like a brief handshake) and go into a promenade with partner.

Sun is in My Heart
I Have Ten Little Fingers
Both of these are in in the handouts, and in NEDM’s “I’m Growing Up” book/CD/DVD.  The “The Sun Is In My Heart” is a calming chant that we use as much to center ourselves as the children. I like to make “I Have Ten Little Fingers” a little edgy and dramatic.

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

Come Along Everybody in NEDM’s I’m Growing Up” book/CD/DVD. We like to start a music class with this; having the children take hands in a line-which-becomes-a-circle as they first come into the classroom door.

Sally Go Round the Sun
Sally Sunshine
These are both in “Rise Sally Rise” book & companion CD. Only “Sally Sunshine” is in the handout. “Sally Sunshine” can have a lot of life and rhythmic energy. We use “Sally Sunshine” to help students dynamically and musically walk to the beat.

Starburst in the handout
You can use any jig or reel for this dance.  We do this with older elementary students, and make sure the students can hear the tune changing from A1 to A2, etc.  The “forward and back” at the end (well, really the beginning, as it happens at the beginning of A1) is really a “balance” forward and back, a little hop onto one foot forward (“Hello”) and then, as you hop back (“Goodbye”), turning away, and walking away from your group of four into the random individual walking around.

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 and take” 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.”; many 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 handout
In “Chimes of Dunkirk“.
This simple circle/partner dance can be easily adapted for younger children.  Have them circle left hold hands straight across, then “open like a book” into a promenade holding “handy hands” (gent’s right and lady’s left).

Sylvie in handout
I introduced this with a story based on the true story of my great grandfather Winfield Amidon who grew up in East Middlebury, Vermont with his five brothers, each of whom had a first name beginning with “W”.  Your storytelling repertoire can include true stories from your life, past and present.  Grafting details of your life onto folktales or storytelling introductions to songs can make them more vivid.
I have done a children’s choir arrangement of “Sylvie” that is available in our Online Choral Store.

Silver Rain in handout
In our “Song in My Heart” book & CD.
Facilitate having your students make up motions to this song.  (We sang an SATB version later in the workshop.)

PICTURE BOOKS I – See the picture book bibliography in the handout.
I Miss You Every Day – a great “partner” book to the song “I’m Gonna Mail Myself to You”
In the Fiddle Is a Song – with background music
Owl & Pussycat – This is in our “Song in My Heart” book & companion CD. I made up a simple storytelling introduction to this about how Pussycat met Owl, but then her parents, and Owl’s parents did not approve (No! No! NoNoNoNO!) so they decided to sail away together.

Highland Gates in the handout
in NEDM’s Down in the Valley collection
This is a great dance for opening a community dance. Folks can join in the dancing as they straggle in.

Going to Alberta in the handout
In NEDM’s Sashay the Donutcollection.
This is a GREAT way to teach the ballroom position (used for the waltz, the polka, and for a contra dance swing) at the same time as a simple polka step.  We have found this to be a great dance for little kids, big kids mixed ages, community dance, in short, for anyone.  You can do it as an a cappella singing game, or accompany it with piano, guitar, accordion, or Orff instruments, or do it to the music of the Sashay the Donut CD.

Kindergarten Reel in the handout
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.  Or you can use the recording: send me an email <> and I will send you an mp3 of the music.

Lucky Seven in the handout
In NEDM’s Chimes of Dunkirkcollection.
Mary Alice played for this.  We like dancing this to “Coming Dawn” from NEDM’s “Other Side of the Tracks” 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.

Discussion I was about how to incorporate more dancing into the classroom, how to keep the dancing positive, how to empower children and help them feel ownership of the dance, techniques for dealing with the issue of taking hands, and more.

Durham Reel in the handout
In NEDM’s “Chimes of Dunkirkcollection. We danced this to “Slow G” from NEDM’s Sashay the DonutCD, the dreamy music from our sons’ band “Popcorn Behavior” AKA “Assembly”.  This is an English Country dance.  The original dance is actually a robust dance that includes skipping, but I got the idea once to do it in the style of an elegant historic English Country Dance, and, as you probably noticed, the “Slow G” music helps sustain this mood.  It is fine to dance “across the phrase” on this.  There is no progression in the dance: the same couple leads each of the figures. It is a good chance to give children leadership responsibility.


All I Really Need in the handout.
In our “Song in My Heartbook & companion CD.
The United Nations Children’s Bill of Rights was the inspiration for this classic by Raffi.

Voting Song in the handout
In the Amidons’ “Song in My Heartbook and companion CD collection.
Faya Rose Touré, the first female African American judge in Alabama, lives in the Selma area and works with area students in projects and songs related to the extraordinary part Selma played in the Civil Rights movement.

Humpty Dump in the handout
We love helping older elementary school children become more familiar with our common culture of nursery rhymes with this instantly engaging camp song.

PICTURE BOOKS II – See the picture book bibliography in the handout.
Great Big Star
in the handout
A beautiful, simple traditional African American spiritual that is a great vehicles for solos (“Great big star…”) with younger children. Mary Alice showed you a picture book of this song made by a Kindergarten class that lived in the school library, complete with library card.
Johnny Appleseed in the handout
Mary Alice’s perfect setting of this poem. In the Amidons’ Song in My HeartCD and book.
Wild Strawberries

Day is Done

Lion’s 3 Whiskers traditional, from West Africa. The song is from the Oruba people in Southwest Nigeria.
Here is a transcription of my telling of this story.  Here is a transcription of the song “Ishe Oluwah

Act story out See handout on acting out stories with children.

Larry’s Mixer  in the 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 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.

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         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 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.

Rocky Mountain Revelry original dance by Rocky Mountain Orff Chapter music teachers at Peter & Mary Alice Amidon’s October 8, 2016 workshop. (This is a beautiful dance!)
FORMATION: Circle mixer
A1 Circle left
Forward and back
A2 Circle right
Forward and back
B1 Dosido partner
Seesaw neighbor
B2 Starting with partner, grand right and left four changes.
Allemand right the fifth person (who is now your new partner) into the A1 Circle left.
NOTE: The moment in this dance is the final allemand right with the fifth person (new partner) into the A1 circle left. This is worth working on: 1) note the change of hands you need to do: halfway through the allemand right, the gent lets go of the ladies right hand and with his right hand the gent takes the lady’s left hand and lead’s his partner into the circle left, taking his neighbor’s right hand in his left such that EVERYONE is in a perfect circle and takes the first step of the circle left on the first beat of A1.  This is an elegant figure, worth working on.

Discussion 2 How appropriate to mention this discussion after transcribing your beautiful dance. Creating a dance with your children cover’s many of the significant points of our discussion: how dance can create a dynamic learning environment with its effect on: individual self esteem, group synchronisticy and community building, physical/emotional/spiritual joy, social and cooperation skills, developing group empathy. These deeper effects of dance transcend even the very real math and language skills that children get from dance.  We talked about ways of enhancing language with discussions about the childrens’ experience of the dancing they do with you, including calling the dance and describing the dance to someone else on the telephone (with just words).

Silver Rain SATB in the handout
You sang this so beautifully; thank you.  You can hear more of our arrangements in our “Online Choral Store“.

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


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


Peter (and Mary Alice)