Wyoming AOSA notes

Amidons Wyoming AOSA Workshop

Thursday & Friday, August 8 & 9, 2019

Scroll Down to go to workshop notes.

Thanks to Weston and Monica and Mary Ann and all who did so much work to make this workshop possible.

I could not find any area contra dances in Wyoming, so your job is to start some local public community dances and contra dances in your area.

Here is a little about Mary Alice and me and our family.

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 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 last summer.

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Post-workshop notes

Life is ever so much with me now putting me behind schedule on creating this page. I am going to start this page by simply listing everything we did in the order we did it over the two days.  I will be adding notes, tips, and links to this page over the next few days.   -PA

Thursday 8:30 – 4:30 – August 8, 2019

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.

Boy-Girl Story in NEDM’s I’m Growing Up book/CD/DVD

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.

Old Brass Wagon – in NEDM’s “d”
This can be an a cappella singing game, or, with the CD (or live music) a great early dance to instrumental music.  When Peter teaches it he walks through the figures first, and then says “Now just do whatever Mary Alice says,” and puts on the CD.

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 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).


Now It’s Time to Go
Great Big Star
Humpty Dump
         a great nursery rhyme song for older elementary.



       Brotherhood & Sisterhood
       Martin Luther King
       Vote For Me

Head & Shoulders – in our New England Dancing Masters (NEDM) collection Rise Sally Rise
We often use this dance in a school assembly program: we teach most of it with the students sitting down, then they all just stand up and do the dance in place.

Hunt the Cows – A gem of a story/singing game from Jean Ritchie that gives younger children children “floor time” (getting down on the floor and getting up again).

Kindergarten Reel
A great first partner-longways-dance-to-instrumental music for young children.  Send me an email 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.

Virginia Reel
We did a simple version of this after the Kindergarten Reel. Forward and back, one hand turn, two hand turn, dosido, top couple sashay down middle and back and then cast off around outside to the bottom.

Heel & Toe In NEDM’s Chimes of Dunkirkcollection. With younger children and at community dances we usually skip 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.

Noble Duke of York This is in NEDM’s “Alabama Gal” book/CD/DVD.  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.

Grand March – in Sashay the Donut
My version of the chorus is: Forward & back twice, Circle left, Circle right, Right hand turn around partner, Left hand turn around corner, Dosido partner, Seesaw corner, promenade partner.  Here is New England Dancing Masters’ Andy Davis leading his version of the Grand March:


Eye of the Needle – Mary Alice learned this from a picture book. Here is a transcription of Mary Alice’s telling of the story – Eye of the Needle

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).


Highland Gates 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.

Country Life In Song in My Heart book and CD. – a traditional song from the Waterson family of Yorkshire England.  This was one of our workhorse anthems at our weekly All School Sing when we were elementary school music teachers in Vermont.

Kindergarten Wall by John McCutcheon
In Song in My Heart book and CD. I introduced this with a true story about my first day in Kindergarten. 


I Have Ten Little Fingers – in I’m Growing Up

Hickory Dickory Dock – I added some hand movements and sound effects to this.

Tiny Little Mousie
Here Is the Little Girl
These are engaging, simple finger games for young children.

Bridge of Athlone – In NEDM’s Listen  to the Mockingbirdcollection.
You can do this from “Blarney Pilgrim” on the “Listen to the Mockingbird” CD.  I used, and love using “Reel de Rimouski” from NEDM’s “Andy Jig or Reel”. If you have sets of, say, 7 – 9 couples (and more space than we had) and encourage the children to skip through the cast off under the arches,. We added the “cascading two-hand swing”: every couple successively go into a wave of two-hand-swings  as the active couple moves from the top to the bottom of the dance (the gent going through the tunnel) at the end of  the sequence.

Haste to the Wedding In NEDM’s Chimes of Dunkirkcollection; our favorite first contra dance for children.

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.



Peddler’s Dream Here is an outline of this folktale that I told.

Act out Peddler’s Dream You can have an “angel moving workshop” where you have everyone move as an angel, and then have everyone do a particular movement done by one of the children, then a different movement by another child, maybe one or two more, then synthesize/combine the movements into some angel choreography.


Accretian Reel
Dancers need to be able to discern the phrasing of the music on their own (A1 to A2, A2 to B1, etc.) in order to do this dance successfully.

Old Bald Eagle Square – in Sashay the DonutAndy Davis’s brilliant version of ‘Old Bald Eagle’ is the simplest square we know: a great first square dance for young children.  Try it with the Sashay the Donut CD to Andy’s calls.

Solomon Levi in Sashay the Donut Another simple, engaging square dance, similar to (but easier than) “Simple Square” (Chimes of Dunkirk), with which it shares the 1st-couple-stand-back-to-back-and-separate-around-the-set.

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.

Cheyenaide Turnaround Your original dance
  Circle mixer
A1 Forward and back
Dosido partner
A2 Forward and back
Dosido neighbor
B1 promenade partner
B2 Ladies (outside partners) turn back
(gent can gently tug on their right hand to initiate this turn)
All pass Right Shoulders with the next dancer,
and hook right elbows with the dancer after that
and do a right elbow turn about 1.5 times around.
Gent can gently push on Lady’s right elbow to spin
her to she, also, is facing the center of the circle.


All Night, All Day

   Beatitudes 1

Circle Waltz Mixer In NEDM’s   Sashay the Donut  collection.
Teaching the Circle Waltz Mixer
Dancing the Circle Waltz Mixer
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.  In the original  dance gents are the “posts” and women are the “twirlers”, but it works perfectly fine in a non-gender community  dance with a two hand turn.  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 look at partner and say “goodbye”.
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.

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Friday 8:30 – 4:30 – August 9,

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

Little Seed – In NEDM’s I’m Growing Upbook/CD/DVD.
We love “the little wait…” in this fingerplay/song. 

Five Little Bunnies – In NEDM’s I’m Growing Upbook/CD/DVD.

I Have Ten Little Fingers – In NEDM’s I’m Growing Upbook/CD/DVD.

Here’s the Little Girl engaging simple finger play for young children.

Tree Song in NEDM’s Down in the Valley collection
Lorraine Hammond, who composed this wonderful singing game, is a songwriter and musician, and the best known  Appalachian dulcimer player in the country.  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 it with a story about Roger moving to Vermont in the 18th century, creating a farm, raising a family, and planting an apple orchard.

Form the Corn in NEDM’s Down in the Valley collection

Sleeping Bunnies in NEDM’s Down in the Valley collection
The children love being told they are loved.

Zodiac in our New England Dancing Masters (NEDM) collection Rise Sally Rise


Flying Scotsman

Auretti’s Dutch Skipper





Chimes of Dunkirk


Alabama Gal


Simple Square

First Night Quadrille


Princess Hyacinth

Tell story of an early musical experience

Sing a Song of Sixpence

Old King Glory

Willow Tree

Quartz Mountain

Nancy & Arthur


All Night All Day (again)

And When I Rise

Turn Around

From the Seed in the Ground SSAA



Act out Nyangara

Going to Alberta

Grumpy March




Sellinger’s Round

Cheyenaide Turnaround (again)

Whales (picture book with music)

At the Bottom of the Sea

Down Down Baby

Larry’s Mixer

Intersection Reel

Beatitudes II

How Could Anyone

Sicilian Vowel Dance

I’m Gonna Lift My Sister Up (song)

Now It’s Time to Go (again)

Circle Waltz Mixer (again)