Salina Kansas Teacher Workshop

Peter & Mary Alice Amidon

Creating a Dynamic Learning Community
Traditional Dance, Song and Storytelling

Dear Salina area teachers,

We had a great time with you yesterday at our workshop.  Many thanks to Salina Arts and especially to Sharon Benson who organized our visit and set up the workshop.  Thanks also to host Sunset music teacher Linda Rohrer, and to Nelson and Kim who came to dance with us.

Your homework is to go dancing.  There is a regular dance in Witchita KS; here is a website with details on that and other dances in Kansas:

You can get more information on our work and books, CDs and DVDs, and sign up on our mailing list (I send about one notice a month) for updates on our workshops and publications.

Here are notes on what we did in the workshop:

Blaydon Races p. 6 in Handout

in NEDM’s “Chimes of Dunkirk” collection

We used ‘Blaydon Races’ from New England Dancing Masters (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.


Here We Go Riding Our Ponies – p. 6 in handout

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

We love how this simple, joyful dance teaches children how to politely shake hands.


 Come Along Everybody – p. 3 in handout

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

We know a teacher who has her students, when they first enter her room, walk immediately into a circle where they do this singing game.  Make up your own motions.


Shake Them Simmons Down – p. 3 in handout

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

a great introductory partner dance with music for young children.  Do this first as an unaccompanied singing game; add the recorded music a little later.


 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 p. 1 in handout

In NEDM’s “Chimes of Dunkirk” collection.

Music: “La Bastringue” on the “Chimes” CD or any reel medley.

We kept the same partners rather than doing this as a mixer.


Alabama Gal – p. 2 in the handout

This dance is in NEDM’s “Chimes of Dunkirk” collection.

Music: “Alabama Gal” from the “Chimes” CD.

Teach this as an a cappella singing game before trying with the CD which, as you found out,  goes pretty fast.  With younger children I teach the cast of figure in sections.  The first time through the dance finishes with just the  Gents’ line casting around to the left and back to place; then the whole dance ending with only the Ladies’ line casting to the right  and back to place; then the dance ending with both lines casting and the children taking partners’ hands as they come up the middle (but no arch), then the dance ending with the BOTTOM couple making the arch while the same (exhausted) 1st couple leading the remaining dancers around under the arch, and FINALLY, the “real” way to the do dance, where the head couples finishes the sequence by leading ALL the dancers in a cast of, and the head couples make the arch for the other dancers to go under.


Lucky Seven – p. 3 in handout

This dance is in NEDM’s “Chimes of Dunkirk” collection.

Music: We used “Coming Dawn” from NEDM’s “Other Side of the Tracks” CD.  You could also use any jig or reel.

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).   You can replace the “waiting” in the 2nd half of the A1 music with a Dosido.


Sashay the Donut – not in the handout.

This is in NEDMS’s “Sashay the Donut” collection.

I like calling this with groups of 4th-6th graders, 6-8 couples  in a set, to “The Flying Tent” on NEDM’s “Other Side  of the Tracks” CD.  You have to call pretty strongly in  the beginning to help define the phrase, but later on the  phrase gets much more clear and the dance goes great  with the music.  You can also do this dance with larger groups, in which case the dance will go across the phrasing of the music (once through the dance is more than once through the tune). You just pick up the beginning of the nearest 8 or 16 bar phrase when starting each sequence over again.


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.

Then I have a volunteer Queen ask a King, and when they are finished I have a  volunteer King ask a Queen, and they get in place in the line beside the first King & Queen. Then all ask.  This can be wonderful, and the  children who succeed in doing this can be quite proud of themselves.


Kings & Queens – p. 6 in handout

This dance is 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).



Mary Alice’s picture book/music bibliography is on pages 8-9 in the handout.

    I Live in Music
reading the book to Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five”.

   Marion Anderson
         singing the poetry of the book to the tune Mary Alice made up.

   Day is Done
singing the book to the tune of the song.

singing the book to the tune of the song.

singing the poetry of the book to the tune from another song.

   Over the Rainbow
showing the book to Judy Collins’ singing of the song.


Brotherhood & Sisterhood – p. 4 in the handout

This song is in the Amidons’ “Song in My Heart” book and companion CD.


 I’m Growing Up – not in the handout

This song is in the Amidons’ “Song in My Heart” book and companion CD.


Month Brothers a traditional folk tale.