I am an energetic caller who is passionate about celebrating community through dance. Whether that community is a gathering of hundreds of New Yorkers in one of the city's parks, regular dancers at a monthly contradance, or friends and family for a wedding or birthday, I help people celebrate through dance. I combine twenty years calling experience with twenty years experience as a professional educator (currently at the Dalton School), allowing me to work effectively, efficiently and patiently with dancers of all ability and experience levels.
I first encountered traditional music and dance while studying in Montreal in 1989-1990. As part of university social events, I participated in French-Canadian dance and music events. I began contradancing in 1991 to the likes of well-known New England callers Ted Sannella and Dudley Laufman, attending dances sometimes twice or three times a week. Contradances in New England at that time included not only longways contradances, but also several squares, in addition to couples dances such as schottisches, polkas, hambos, and the Gay Gordons. But the Franco-American communities in Maine also kept me connected to French dance and music traditions.
I soon moved to North Carolina where I became familiar with bluegrass and joined a performance clogging team, the Cane Creek Cloggers, with whom I danced for nearly two years, until my return to New England to teach high school in New Hampshire. During this period I began calling an increasing number of public contradances as well as private events. I kept my step dancing skills honed by using footwork while dancing figures and through occasional performances. To my delight, I was introduced to Cape Breton set dancing when Buddy MacMaster and John Campbell toured New England. They were joined in performances by Christine Morrison and Pamela Campbell, former members of Four on the Floor, a Cape Breton step dance performance group. Over the next four years I studied Cape Breton dance, attended numerous dances held by the Cape Breton community in Watertown and Woburn, MA, and even called the Boston Set for the dancers on occasion.
While not at the level necessary to perform for dances, I have studied guitar, banjo and fiddle over the years, developing a sensibility for the cooperation between caller and band, even synergy, if you will, necessary to electrify a crowd. I choose my dances both to best suit the skills and interests of the dancers and to allow the musicians to showcase their strengths while playing music that closely matches the character of the dance, thus invigorating the dancers as they go.
After moving to New York in 2005, I visited a Balkan dance event at the Hungarian House on 82nd St on the Upper East Side. I was so taken by similarities of this hall to a New England town hall that I soon founded my own dance event in the hall, the NYC Barn Dance. I bought the sound system, rented the hall, hired the bands, and got a beer and wine license for the event. Because of initial budgetary constraints, and ultimately because of the sheer enjoyment of it, I decided to call the dances myself, calling contra, square and circle dances to live bands made up of local, often young musicians. I applied for New York State Council of the Arts (NYSCA) grants for two years and received funding to bring callers, step dancers and musicians from New England, southern Appalachia, Quebec, Nova Scotia, and the New York Irish community to lead the dances. Once again we decided to return to local musicians, and recognizing that most young local musicians played southern old-time music, I learned the repertoire of the southern callers who had led our dance and began calling southern-style squares myself.
Today, therefore, I call all New England-style contras at community contradances, I call southern-style squares at barn dance events, and a mixture for other individual events, according to the tastes of the organizers and dancers and the repertoire of the musicians.
Over the years I have had the opportunity to lead and call social dances in schools and at weddings, in large gatherings that fill Bryant Park and small gatherings that can fit in a New York one-bedroom apartment living room. I have also had the opportunity to call dances from Maine to North Carolina and New York to Michigan.
At the bottom of it all is my commitment to building and celebrating community among dancers and musicians by providing a welcoming, inviting environment that entices all to participate. All my dances are dance PARTIES, not dance classes, and this is done by keeping instruction quick, simply and easy-to-follow. At the same time, I respect the talent and skill of dancers, musicians and callers who have worked hard to perfect their skills for the benefit of all by doing the same myself.
I look forward to seeing you at a dance!