San Antonio TMEA Post-Workshop Notes


San Antonio TMEA
Peter & Mary Alice Amidon
Thursday & Friday, February 9 and 10, 2017
San Antonio, Texas

Many thanks to West Music for sponsoring us and to Judy Pine in particular for doing so much to get us here and to help make our workshops go smoothly.  And thanks to all of you wonderful Texas music teachers for making the effort to come to this conference and for your enthusiastic participation; your students are lucky to have you!

* First some info that might be of interest, then the post-workshop notes. (Scroll down for the post-workshop notes). *

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Here is a lovely short dancing-with-children-community-dance film from our DVD “Chimes of Dunkirk – Teaching Dance to Children”:
Intermission from Chimes of Dunkirk DVD

You can find more videos and information by following our “New England Dancing Masters” Facebook page.

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An Opportunity for Music Educators

Amidons’ Choral Arranging & Publishing

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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 with the Australian Chamber Orchestra (last week)

Sam fiddling

Sam’s wife Beth Orton singing Leonard Cohen’s “Sisters of Mercy”

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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 links to contra dance and other traditional dances around Texas.

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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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Teaching Dance & Singing Games with K-2

Sun in My Heart
A Little Seed

Both from NEDM”s “I’m Growing Up” book/CD/DVD.
Both of these are calming, centering chants for young children.  We often do them to help calm ourselves down in the classroom.

Form the Corn in NEDM’s “I’m Growing Up” book/DC/DVD collection
This is a great singing game for classroom teachers to know – children can just stand up from their chairs or desks and do this dance/game when they have been sitting too long. It is also great for an assembly program.

Tree Song  in NEDM’s “Down in the Valley” collection
Lorraine Hammond, who composed this wonderful singing game, is a songwriter and musician, and gifted Appalachian dulcimer player and teacher.  She is in the greater Boston area.  The piano arrangement on the CD is Peter’s.  We find this to be a calming, centering dance, both for the children and for ourselves. 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). A storytelling introduction is a great way to get children more deeply involved in a singing game or song.

I’m Growing Up in the Amidons’ Song in My Heart book & CD, and NEDM’s I’m Growing Upbook/CD/DVD
Mary Alice wrote this song about the stages of life. We know teachers who have used it for Kindergarten graduation. Of course you can just sing it; Mary Alice made up a dance to the song that we like to do with the recording.

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. We teach the “Whoa, whoa, whoa” carefully, otherwise the children will be riding their ponies forever.

Come Along Everybody In NEDM’s “I’m Growing Up” book/CD/DVD
We know a music teacher who starts every class with this singing game; children taking hands and making a circle the moment they first walk through the door.  You can have fun with the children making up different motions for the dance. We love the challenge of remembering the cumulative movements in this singing game.

Highland Gates in NEDM’s “Down in the Valley” collection
Note that this is a dance you do in one circle, not concentric circles. We did it in concentric circles because there were so many people. I like, towards the end of the singing game, to try holding hands around the increasing large group of dancers in the middle with the shrinking number of dancers in the outside circle. This is a great dance for opening a community dance. Folks can join in the dancing as they straggle in.

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.  When you do it as an a cappella singing game you and the children can make up more figures or alternate figures for the dance.

Heel & Toe Polka In NEDM’s ‘Chimes of Dunkirk’ collection.
With younger children and at community dances we usually omit the right hand or right elbow turn that follows the clapping, and we go directly to ‘everyone pass right shoulders with partner, walk straight ahead, and take two hands with new partner.’ We have done this dance with children as young as Kindergarten.   Like other circle mixers, you can start out teaching it with the children staying with the same partner, and later one teach the changing partners version.  I demonstrated teaching dance vocabulary by tossing a pen into the center and saying “Face your partner nose, toes and bellybutton and take two hands with your partner.  Now, with your foot that is closer to the pen, the inside foot, put your heel on the floor . . .”  “…foot closer to the pen…” are words they understand, “inside” of “inside foot” is the dance vocabulary word you are teaching them. The key to making the progression of this dance work with K/1 students is, the first time they do the progression of “pass right shoulders” for you to stand next to each couple in turn, facilitating their pass right shoulders with partner.  The 2nd time you can announce “and now, and this is so exciting, we are all going to pass right shoulders at the same time”, and you might even say “raise your right hand and repeat after me: I will not turn around . . . I will not go back . . .  Good, now look over your partner’s shoulder and the person you are looking at will be your new partner . . .”

Kindergarten Reel 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! If you would like the mp3 of the piano/violin music we recorded for the “Kindergarten Reel”, you can download it

, or just send me an email <>; and I will email you the mp3 (no charge).  This is a great first longways dance for young children – the most important thing they learn is the last figure: moving up on place.

Noble Duke of York in NEDM’s “Alabama Gal” book/CD/DVD and “Rise Sally Rise” book and companion CD. 
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.  While this is a great dance for 2nd and maybe even 1st graders who have some dance experience, the added motions during “..And when they were up they were up …” and the skipping make it also a great dance for older elementary school children.  You might do a skipping workshop to get children to skip more gracefully and musically.  While this dance typically works for 5-7 couples in a set, if the head couple really launches into the skipping from the sashay and if all of the students skip vigorously throughout the dance you can challenge them to do the dance with, say, 9 – 10 couple (your whole class in one set) and all get home from the cast off at the end of the phrasing of the music.

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FRIDAY 10:00 am
Great Traditional Dances for Grades 3–5

La Bastringue in NEDM’s “Chimes of Dunkirk” book & CD
We have also made a DVD “Chimes of Dunkirk -Teaching Dance to Children” that includes all the dances in the Chimes collection and a feast of dance teaching tips
We used this dance as a vehicle for a lot of teaching tips: 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.”; 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; finishing each call right before the ‘clap’ or before the first beat of  the phrase and figure.

Galopede In NEDM’s “Chimes of Dunkirk” collection
We always do this to the specific tune ‘Galopede’ which is on the Chimes of Dunkirk companion CD. We often end a community dance with this dance. For more satisfying choreography, when the dancers cross over have them go past their partners place and turn and come back so that: 1) they never stop moving and 2) they get back to their partner just in time for the clap.  Similarly, when crossing right shoulders with partner to go back home, go past your own place before turning back so that you flow right into the dosido, BUT THEN stay in close so you are right there for the two hand turn. The 2nd version of ‘Galopede’ on the 2010 revision of the ‘Chimes of Dunkirk’ CD has an extra C music at the end for the ‘eggbeater’ figure where, after the top couple sashays to the bottom the last time through the dance, each successive couple sashays down the middle, while the outside couples continue moving up towards the top of the set.  Sometimes we practice this final figure ahead of time, sometimes we don’t.

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, 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).

Bridge of Athlone in NEDM’s “Listen to the Mockingbird” book/CD
Here it is danced by some wonderful fourth grade dancers.
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 ReelCD.
This is not in the notes so here is the dance:
A1 (16) All forward & back, clapping partners two hands on the fourth beat of the music in a “high ten”. (8)
All cross over to partner’s place, passing right shoulders.  (8)
A2 (16) All forward and back, clapping partners two hands on the fourth beat of the music in a “high ten”.  (8)
All cross back to original place, crossing right shoulders again.  (8)
B1 (16) First couple take two hands and sashay down the center.  (8)
Sashay back to the top of the set.  (8)
B2 (16) First couple cast off and all follow behind down the outside of the set.
It is wonderful if the dancers skip all the way through this figure. (16)
C1 (16) First couple make a two hand arch at the bottom of the set.  Other dancers  meet their partners below the arch, take one hand with partner, duck under  the arch, and skip back to place. All but the original first couple take two  hands and make arches, forming a long tunnel.  (16)
C2 (16) The original first lady goes up the center through the tunnel while first gent  goes up the outside of his side of the set (behind the gents line)  (8) Then the original first gent goes down the center through the tunnel while the first lady goes down the outside of her side of the set (behind the ladies’ line). Then all step back to place to prepare for the opening forward and back.  (If you want, you can have each couple go into a two hand swing (around and around and around) as soon as the gent has gone down through their arch.) (8)

Circle Waltz Mixer In NEDM’s  ‘Sashay the Donut’ collection.
We used ‘In Continental’ Waltz from the ‘Sashay’ CD for the music. Although it is fine to do this with gender-free partners, it is easier to keep children on track with the dance to dance it with gent/lady partners (traditional but not necessarily, gents are posts and ladies are twirlers). 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 make a circle holding hands (Posts on left, Twirlers on right). All look at partner and say “goodbye”. Turn to the person on the other side of you and say “You are first”. 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.
Here are two Youtube films of me teaching and dancing the Circle Waltz Mixer with children:
Teaching the Circle Waltz Mixer
Dancing the Circle Waltz Mixer

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Evening Community Dance

What a perfect way to celebrate my birthday (I turned 68) – and I don’t mean only the extraordinarily harmonious rendition of “Happy Birthday” – you were all so much fun to dance with, thanks!

Exploding Star – variation of dance by Chris Page that he named “Accretian Reel)
Scatter mixer
Music: Any AABB jig or reel
A1 Balance forward as you balance back turn to leave the square.
Scatter promenade individually (walk around in random directions by yourself).
A2 Gypsy and swing someone (or a right elbow swing)
B1 Scatter promenade as couples (you can do this just holding their handy hand or in promenade position)
B2 In groups of couples, circle left and right
Note: First time through the dance, just start with the scatter promenade.
Each dancer needs to be able to hear the changes from A1 to A2 to B1 to B2 in the music phrases for this dance to succeed.

Grumpy March by Peter Amidon – in NEDM’s “Sashay the Donut” book and CD
music: any reel, but we like using “Wizard’s Walk” from the Sashay the Donut CD (the dance was written to go along with Jay Ungar’s tune “Wizard’s Walk”.
Formation: longways set of 7-10 couples.
A1 (16) ‘Grump across’ the set (see note below), trading places with partner. (4)
Clap on each beat:  Own hands, right with partner, own hands, left with partner (4)  Grump back across the set to original places. (4)  Repeat above clapping pattern with partner. (4)
A2 (16) All take hands in big skinny circle and circle to Right (CCW). (8)
All drop hands turn and start skipping back the other way single file, circling (CW) back to the left, looking for partner. (8)
B1 (16) Without losing momentum, skip in an elliptical CW circle around partner,  getting closer and closer. (8)
All swing partner. This works best if everyone grabs partners wrists, right in right and left in left (crossed hands) (8)
B2 (16) Top couple sashay or continue to swing as they move through the middle to the bottom of the set. (16)
Notes: ‘Grump across’: Put on a grumpy frown and march to other side, passing right shoulders with partner, fists clenched, forearms parallel to floor. Turn to face partner on fourth beat in time for the clapping.
TEACHING TIPS: I have all the dancers say “Grump, grump, grump, turn, together, right, together, left, Grump, grump, grump, turn, together, right, together, left” before they practice doing the figure. * Dancers need to practice making the long skinny circle in A2 QUICKLY after the 2nd clapping pattern that ends A1. * Demonstrate how, when skipping back single file clockwise in the 2nd half of A2, dancers  skip directly into skipping around partner in B1.
Physed teachers love this dance because it is so energetic and aerobic.

Larry’s Mixer In NEDM’s “Listen to the Mockingbird” book & CD
The instructions to this dance are in the notes for our 3-5 dance session – we ended up not doing it then.
Music: any jig or reel, but we used, and love using, “Cheris” from the NEDM CD “Other Side of the Tracks” (our sons’ band Assembly AKA Popcorn Behavior”).
Teaching points: The first time you do this dance with your students don’t do it as a mixer, just have them do a long promenade.  Add the mixer element later on. * A choreography point – demonstrate how you dance to the phrasing of the music not by stopping and waiting, but by walking in larger loops so that you are starting each new figure with each new phrase of the music.  This makes it a most elegant dance. Never stop moving and walking so that each figure flows into the next.  Give weight on the allemands (make sure elbows are a bit bent, never straight elbows, so that you and your allemande-partner’s combined arms look like a shallow “W”).

Intersection Reel from Warren Doyle, adapted by Peter Amidon – in NEDM’s “Sashay the Donut” book/CD
Here it is danced at a Pourparler Annual Conference on Teaching Folk Dance to Children.
music; any energetic reel.
formation: Four longways sets laid out like a giant X (although we had EIGHT!).  The head couples are the ones closest to the corners of the room.  The bottom couples are the ones in each set closest to the center of the room.  Between the four sets is a space that I will call ‘no man’s land’.
A1 (16): Each of the four sets take hands in a ring and circle R (8)
Each of the sets circle L (8)
A2 (16): Dosido partner (8)
Two hand turn partner (8)
B1 (16): Top couples in each set sashay down through their own set, through ‘no man’s land’ and up through the middle of the opposite set till they get to the top of the other set.
B2 (16): Active couples sashay to the bottom of this new set they are in (not back to their original set). (8)
Long lines forward and back. (8) (We skipped this because the lines were so long.)
NOTES: I usually do this dance the way I learned it from Warren Doyle, with four longways sets in an X.  I had done it a couple of times with six longways sets, but this was the first time I have done it with eight.  I was chatting afterwards with John Feierabend and was surprised when he said he had done it with eight lines before. * Create the formation by having four (or six or eight) couples hold hands a circle in the middle of the room, then each of the four couples faces partner and takes two hands with partner.  They are now at the bottom of each of the four sets, and other dancers fan out from there to make the four lines. * Rules for crossing in the middle: each couple must go AROUND the other couple, don’t raise hands to let the other couple through. No bumping in the middle.

Blaydon Races In NEDM’s “Chimes of Dunkirk” book & CD.
You can see this dance on the NEDM DVD “Chimes of Dunkirk – Teaching Dance to Children“.
formation: Circle mixer
music: Blaydon Races (as recorded on the “Chimes” CD) or any jig.
A1 (16) Forward and back twice. The second time end up facing partner and holding two hands with partner.
A2 (16) All move towards center: step, together, step, together, then move back to outside: step, together, step, together. Repeat that whole sequence once.
B1 (16) All say goodbye to partner, pass right shoulders with partner, and allemande right NEW partner, then allemande left new partner. (right hand turn, then left hand turn with‘arm wrestling’ grip).
B2 (16) All promenade this new partner.
NOTES: As this is a circle mixer, we always start the walk through by having folks promenade and having the inside folks say ‘I am peanut butter’ (or any other word you come up with), ‘I am on the inside’, and the outside folks saying ‘I am jelly’, ‘I am on the outside’.  This is not a  difficult dance, but the right hand turn and left hand turns of B1 can disorient the dancers as to whether they are  supposed to promenade on the inside or outside, so it helps to remind dancers that all the “peanut butters” always promenade on the inside, etc.  At a  community dance I make the rule that, say, 2nd graders and younger all must dance with someone older, 3rd grader and up. Then, when everyone is promenading, I tell folks to put the oldest person on the inside.  Thus all the inside folks, the peanut butters, should always  be 3rd graders or older.

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Best to all of you wonderful Texas music teachers – congratulations on making music education central to children’s lives! Keep singing & dancing.

Peter (and Mary Alice)