Wisconsin Kodaly & Orff Workshop Notes

Saturday, October 12, 2019
Association of Wisconsin Area Kodaly Educators
Greater Milwaukee Orff Dimensions

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

Scroll Down to go to workshop notes.

First, many thanks to all of the leaders and workers in your AOSA and OAKE Chapters who collaborated to make this workshop possible. We know there was a lot of behind-the-scenes work that was less visible to us. We can thank, personally: Ally Schneier, who was our main contact before and during the workshop; Dave Moeller, who provided and helped set up the best sound system we have ever had at a workshop; and treasurer Cathy Heuer, who did a terrific job doing our sales and helping us work out the finances. Thanks to everyone else not mentioned here who did so much, and to you, all the music teachers, who gave so much back at the workshop it made the day an absolute pleasure for us.

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YOUR HOMEWORK – Go to a local contra dance, square dance and/or English country dance.  Here is a webpage that lists the contras and squares in Wisconsin.

There is also a Madison Wisconsin English Country Dance  series.

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MEET OUR BOYS & their wives:

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

Zara singing with the By the People Choir.

Stefan is the touring percussionist/singer for The Devil Makes Three

and Stefan is a wonderful singer (the tall bass)

Sam with the Australian Chamber Orchestra

Sam fiddling

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

Here is an Ode to Mary Alice I made for her on the occasion of our 40th wedding anniversary in July 2018.

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And here are the post workshop notes

Blaydon Races We used ‘Blaydon Races’ from 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.

Sun  Is In My Heart in NEDM’s I’m Growing Up book/CD/DVD
We find this to be comforting for both us and for the children.

Here’s the Little Girl We learned this from Eric Maring, a gifted musician who teaches music to “diapers to age four”.   New England Dancing Masters is publishing a collection of music and movement activities for very young children that will be published sometime in 2020.

Hunt the Cows – by Jean Ritchie – in NEDM’s Down in the Valley
Here is Jean Ritchie’s version of her song.  We brainstormed other singing games that give the children “floor time”, a term we got from dance educator Anne Green Gilbert.

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.

Come Along Everybody in NEDM’s I’m Growing Up book/CD/DVD
We know music teachers who start their music classes with this singing game as the children enter the music classroom.

Sasha – In NEDM’s Sashay the Donut
A great dance for all ages! We are not sure of the origins of this dance: one source suggested it was a novelty dance based on a Russian pop song from the 60’s.  ‘Ras, dva, tri’ is Russian for ‘ready, set, go!’

Kindergarten Reelby Peter Amidon
A great first partner-longways-dance-to-instrumental music for young children.  Send me an email <amidonpeter@gmail.com> and I will email you the mp3 for the music to Kindergarten Reel.  Of course you can play the music on anything; piano, French horn, recorder.

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 and back using the word “tiptoe”; “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 NEDM’s Chimes of Dunkirk book & CD
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).

Humpty Dump traditional
A great way to teach older elementary children nursery rhymes.

15 minute BREAK

I’m Growing Up by Mary Alice Amidon
In both Amidons’ Song in My Heart book & CD, and in NEDM’s I’m Growing Up book/CD/DVD. This is often used as an end-of-year song for K/1.


   I Live In Music – picture book to Brubeck’s Take Five

   Water Earth & I – picture book to David Darling music

   Momma Don’t Allow – echo the quotes and sing the songs in this Thatcher Hurd picture book with a New Orleans theme.

   Day is Done – picture book of Peter Yarrow’s song

Form the Corn – in NEDM’s Down in the Valley collection
Get your classroom teachers to use this as a break from academic work. Also great in an all-school sing or any all-school assembly.

Traffic Jam This scatter mixer is a great ice-breaker dance, particularly for older elementary school children and for a community dance.

Lucky Seven In NEDM’s Chimes of Dunkirk collection We used ‘The 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 marshmellow/chocolate 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. Level three: Do a right hand allemand with 7th person of the grand right and left before promenading.

Intersection Reel by Peter Amidon – In NEDM’s Sashay the Donut
Although it uses the space of a room better to do this as an X (each line oriented towards one of the rooms corners) it is easier for older elementary children to maintain the orientation of the lines if you do it as a “+” with the lines oriented perpendicularly to the walls of the rooms.

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, 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 (i.e. Jane Austen social dances).


All Night, All Day – traditional, arr. Ysaye Barnwell
This was a highlight of the workshop for me; your singing was so beautiful! Ysaye Barnwell is a founding memory of Sweet Honey in the Rock (she’s the third from the right olive-gold robe); one of the finest singing leaders on the planet.

Vote for Me – by Faya Rose Touré AKA Rose Sanders, written with Selma youth. This is in our Song in My Heart.

Brotherhood & Sisterhood by Peter Amidon
Commissioned by the Lititz Pennsylvania Elementary School to celebrate their “Celebrate the Differences” day. In the Amidons’ Song in My Heart book & CD.

Picture Books II

     Dry & Dusty – picture book with old-timey dance music by Brittany Haas

     I Miss You Every Day – the perfect companion book to the Woody Guthrie song I’m Gonna Mail Myself to You.

     We All Went on Safari – picture book learning to count in Swahili.  Great to do this with a drum, having the students echo the numbers.

     Strawberries – picture book narrated with music by Indigenous American flute player Carlos Nakai.

Accretian Reel – a great dance for older elementary – they need to be able to identify the A1, A2, B1 and B2 phrases of a dance tune in order to dance this successfully.

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, “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 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.

Wait, Which Way?
This is YOUR dance:
FORMATION: Circle Mixer
MUSIC: Any jig or reel.
A1: Allemand right partner/see saw neighbor, allemand left partner
A2: Forward and back twice. (if doing this with a double circle, the inside circle goes back and forward, then all turn around to face out, and go forward {out} and back {in}.
B1: Circle right and left. (If there is an inner circle, those dances remain facing out as they circle right, which means they are moving clockwise, opposite direction from the outside circle).
B2: Grand right and left: three changes and promenade fourth person who becomes your new partner.

Sir Gawaine Peter’s version of a traditional Arthurian legend.

Larry’s Mixer in Listen to the Mockingbird.
We used Cheris from NEDMS’s Other Side of the Tracks CD for music. This and many of the other tracks on this and on NEDM’s Any Jig or Reel CD are purposely longer than tracks in our other recordings, so that you and your students can get into the joyful groove of dancing that is more likely to happen when you dance for a long stretch.

Now It’s Time to Go – by Peter Amidon. In the Amidons’ Song in My Heart book & CD.

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. . . and a quick note about the dances and songs we did not get to at the workshop but that are on your handout:

Chiney Doll traditional, from Almeda Riddle.  In the Amidons’ Song in My Heart book & CD. Here is a beautiful picture book of this song. I often introduce the song with a story. Here is our source for the song: the traditional Ozarks singer Almeda Riddle.

Bridge of Athlone – from NEDM’s Listen to the Mockingbird book & CD. Here is a Youtube of fourth graders dancing Bridge of Athlone to the cut “Reel de Rimouski” from NEDM’s Any Jig or Reel

Quartz Mountain – a dynamic circle mixer created by music teachers we were working with in Oklahoma.

Circle Waltz Mixer – A beautiful dance to do with 3rd – 5th grade (I have even done it with 2nd grade, but replace the final partner two hand turn with a slow bow). It is in NEDM’s Sashay the Donut collection. Here are two Youtubes I made: one Teaching the Circle Waltz Mixer and on Dancing the Circle Waltz Mixer.

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Oh, Mary Alice and I had such a wonderful time; thanks again, and keep on singing and dancing, and do tell your students stories.


Peter (and Mary Alice)