West Hartford Music Teacher Workshop Notes

West Hartford Music Teachers * Peter and Mary Alice present *

Teaching Traditional Dance to Children

Wednesday, October 8, 2014


THANK YOU: Lisa Benson for setting this up, and for modelling great dance teaching in the music classroom.


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MEET OUR BOYS & their ladies:

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

Stefan on percussion/vocals and his wife (red head) Zara Bode with their band the Sweetback Sisters

Sam 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 listing of contra and square dancing in the greater Hartford area:


and in greater Connecticut:


Here is a great educational opportunity that is coming up soon

Pourparler   a national conference on teaching folkdance to children
founded by Sanna Longden.

which is happening in a few short weeks and still has space (Thursday – Sunday, Nov 13- 16 at Folklore Village in Dodgeville, Wisconsin).  Contact Sanna and Mars Longden at SannaMars@aol.com

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Old Bald Eagle Square

First couple sail around . . .

First couple promenade around the outside of the square and back to place.

Forward and back across the floor . . .

Take hands in circle and go forward and back twice.

You swing yours and I’ll swing mine . . .

Swing partner with right elbow, then with left elbow.


Quartz Mtn Man in the Middle

by Peter Amidon and teachers at Oklahoma Quartz Mountain workshop.

Circle mixer

Music: any reel medley

A1: Circle left, Circle Right

A2: All forward and back once.

Gents go forward (4 beats) and clap on beats 5, 6, 7 jumping on beat 7 and turning 180º in air and landing facing new partner


Women stay where they are, also clap on beats 5, 6, 7, jump TO THEIR RIGHT one place on Beat 7.

B1: Long elbow swing with new partner (or dosido into elbow swing or gypsy into elbow swing or regular swing)

B2: Promenade new partner.

The Big Enchilada moment in this dance is jumping on the clap of beat 7 in A2.  After clap #2, all wind up for the clap #3 jump by the crouching and leaning down you do to prepare for a big high jump, so that your hands are moving up as you clap, and the clap sort of “launches the rocket”.  That clap-and-jump is the first thing I practice when teaching this dance.  You jump on beat 7 and land on beat 8.


Traffic Jam p. 3 in the handout


Swing Party by Peter Amidon

A1: Walk around individually, randomly.

A2: Grab someone’s muscles and swing.

B1: Walk around individually, randomly.

B2: Grab someone else’s muscles and swing.


Accretion Reel (variation of dance by Chris Page) Scatter mixer

A1 Balance the ring (“polka” step in, turn away and all “burst” open the circle and individually and randomly walk around the hall.

A2 Gypsy and swing someone (swing can be right elbow or muscle-grab-buzz-step)

B1 Scatter promenade as couples

B2 In groups of couples, circle left and right

Note: First time through th dance, just start with the scatter promenade.


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.


Comment Ca Va p. 2 in the handout.


Solomon Levi


from NEDM’s “Sashay the Donut“. Use the “Solomon Levi” cut with Andy calling.



Lucky Seven p. 3 in handout.

Here are the different preparatory exercises we did:

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.

Larry’s Mixer

in NEDM’s “Listen to the Mockingbird

Formation: Circle of couples, gents facing out, ladies facing in.

Music: We like using Coming Dawn 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)

Gents move up to the next lady and promenade.  (8)


Form the Corn

In NEDM’s I’m Growing Upbook/CD/DVD

Form the corn, form, form the corn (you got to)

Start standing with both hands at sides. One hand slowly moves upward above head to form

one side of an ear of corn.

Form the corn, form, form the corn (you got to)

The other hand moves upward above head to form the other side of an ear of corn.

Shuck the corn, shuck, shuck the corn (you got to)

The first hand moves down in a circlular motion indicating the shucking of the corn.

Shuck the corn, shuck, shuck the corn (you got to)

Other hand does the same thing.

Pop the corn, pop, pop the corn (you got to)

In place, hop up and down vigorously!

Pop the corn, pop, pop the corn.

Continue hopping and gigling.

Notes: The other verses follow this same pattern. One hand goes up first, ‘forming’ one half of the shape. Then the other hand does the same thing. The first hand then comes down mimicing an action, ‘shucking’, ‘peeling’ or ‘slicing’. The final phrase is the ‘hook’: ‘Pop the corn’ is jumping in place. ‘Mash potato’ is a mashing motion with alternating fists. ‘Squish the squash’ is a finger motion as though squishing something a bit ‘icky’. ‘Go bananas’ is the ultimate, fingers pointing in the air, arms moving upwards in alternating jabs, and feet jumping! Remind children to respect other people’s space.


Circle Waltz Mixer p. 2 in handout


Thanks for coming; we had a great time with all of you.


Peter (and Mary Alice)
email: amidonpeter  (the usual you know what) gmail.com