“It will be, without a doubt, the most fun you’ve had in a long time.”

–Helen Whitty
August 6-13, 2022 // Plymouth, MA
Dance, sing, play, repeat: contra party in the woods!

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Program Description

Dust off your dance shoes and put some tunes on your speakers—American Week is coming, and you can start the anticipation right now!

American Dance & Music Week is a contra dance-centered program with offerings for dancers, musicians, and callers alike. This year has a special flavor that meanders between old-time and swing, with a taste of New England, too. Janine Smith is sprucing up her shiniest squares for us, and Anna Patton is finding the best swing songs for massively fun harmony. Yaya Patterson will introduce us to stories and songs highlighting African American influence on 1920s music, and Beverly Smith will take us on a tour of early country singing, from plaintive ballads to honky-tonk.

At camp, you can learn something new and share it back, each of us adding a little bit to the magic. Callers can sign up for Lisa Greenleaf’s Contra Dance Caller’s Course. Develop your waltz skills with Gaye Fifer and wow your evening dance partners! Learn Old-Time tunes for contra with master fiddler Earl White then play them at Camper´s Night for the dancers. Work up a song with Julia Friend, and debut it at Pub Night. 

The fun continues beyond the formal class blocks. If you want to immerse yourself in an instrument, there are daily parades, slow jams, and old-time jams. For singers, we have a morning song circle, several singing-themed after parties, and you can sign up for voice coaching, too. There are contras and squares all day long, waltzing too, and one rogue English dance class (go see what all the fuss is about!). If you like all of these things, well, good luck being everywhere at once!

Camp is choose-your-own-adventure and there are quiet adventures, too, like nature walks and napping. (Yes, there is a nap block on the schedule. See if you can find it.)

While you’re waiting for summer to come around, take a moment to imagine the very best parts. The long lines forward and back, the first laugh with someone you met at dinner,that special silence when a beautiful song is over and it’s not yet time to clap. 

This week is yours. Be there!

~Emily Troll, Program Director


Class Descriptions

Early Mornings
Morning Songs – Yaya Patterson

Come sing wake-up songs just post-breakfast, just outside the dining hall. Let´s start the day by greeting each other in song! Yaya will  bring some songs to share, and you can too.

Open Waltz Practice – Gaye Fifer

Come & join us to practice what you’ve learned, or just to enjoy waltzing with friends before classes for the day begin!     

Voice Coaching – Yaya Patterson

Maybe you´re looking to get more comfortable in your singing voice. Maybe you´re looking to work up a swing standard for honky-tonk night. With a warm and encouraging teaching style, Yaya will help you develop your skills and confidence. Sign up for a half hour session, one-on-one!

Period 1

Good Connection Contras – Gaye Fifer with Ethan Hazzard-Watkins and Yann Falquet

Start your contra day with a delightful mix of smooth & flowing dances, moving to awesome music. We will explore the skills of connecting, being excellent partners & community members, sharing weight, and appreciating the importance of timing.

Old Time Ensemble Playing – Beverly Smith

All instruments and levels welcome! It´s time to play together. We´ll learn by ear, get that rhythm going, and listen closely to nuances and to other players. With an assortment of great obscure tunes and well-known standards, the group will have some excellent shared repertoire to work up for Camper´s Night. Bottom line is to have fun making music!

Swing Harmony Singing – Anna Patton

Anna Patton will lead an intrepid group of vocalists in singing arrangements of songs from the swing era as well as contemporary pieces in that style. The class will work on blend and precision in close harmonies in the style of groups like the Andrews Sisters and Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross. We will also spend some time working on aural skills and playing with chord progressions. Recommended for singers who read music and/or have quick ears.

Contra Dance Callers Course – Lisa Greenleaf

By pre-registration only: Contra Dance Callers Course

Period 2

Contras, Squares, and Oddball Affairs – Janine Smith with Ethan Hazzard-Watkins, Yann Falquet and Max Newman

Come dance rollicking contras, sing along with some squares, and enjoy the quirky fun of some dances in unusual formations.

Waltz – Gaye Fifer with Anna Patton, Eric Boodman, and Aaron Marcus

We will begin with basic waltz steps, with an emphasis on the nuances of clear leading and aware following.  Throughout the week, we will add variations, so you will be able to practice your skills of giving signals and being responsive in the moment.   

Ear Training – Noah Fishman

What’s that note? What’s that interval? What’s that chord! How do you figure any of that stuff out, and how do you get better at it?!! This class will be a tune-based approach to ear training: Bring an instrument or your voice, and maybe a notebook if you’re in a note-taking mood. We’ll look at ear training and tune-learning from the ground up, one note at a time. 

Music of the Harlem Renaissance – Yaya Patterson

Here is a chance to learn about the music of Harlem and the Great Migration. The 1920’s come alive in this guitar and voice class. Learn classic songs written or performed by Fats Waller, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, and Cab Calloway just to name a few. Beginners and seasoned musicians are welcomed to join the fun. Extra credit if you dress the part! 

Contra Dance Callers Course – Lisa Greenleaf

By pre-registration only: Contra Dance Callers Course

Period 3

Square Your Sets – Janine Smith with Earl White, Beverly Smith, and Noah Fishman

Savor a deluxe assortment of Square Dances from Southern sets to 1950s classics to the works of contemporary choreographers. 

English Dance for All – Scott Higgs with Aaron Marcus, Anna Patton, and Ethan Hazzard-Watkins

Enjoy a sparkling assortment of joyful, accessible English dances. We’ll get a taste of many different styles, from elegant waltzes to boisterous romps. All danced to the inspiring music of Aaron, Anna, and Ethan.

All-Comers Ukulele Orchestra – Max Newman

Ukulele is fun for anyone! Get a uke in your hands and join the band. No experience or ukulele required. In fact, no experience preferred.

Spectacular Pub Singing Practicum – Julia Friend

I call this kind of social singing the Vocal Potluck because each person cooks their vocal dish ahead of time, and then everyone gets to taste the chorus even if they don’t know the recipe. We’ll spend most of the workshop singing songs, learning choruses, trying our own harmonies, and practicing leading songs, but we will also discuss things like: where to look for songs to learn, dealing with nervousness while singing, encouraging others and reading the energy of the room, and recognizing when lyrics don’t align with our ethics, and then figuring out how to contextualize confusing lyrics or remove offensive content.

Period 4

Contra Caller Dance Party – Lisa Greenleaf with Emily Troll, Eric Boodman, and Yann Falquet

Come get your groove on at our dance party, featuring the talents of the Caller Course participants.  These callers will energize the dance floor and get folks moving to the beat of our fabulous musicians.

Old-Time Tunes for Contra – Earl White

This class will touch on some of the many tunes in the old time genre that are perfect for contra dances without the New England flare.  All are AA/BB in structure and designed to make the most discriminating contra dancer want to move more than just their feet. Fun tunes to JAM, and to play for dances.  We be jammin!

Old Time Country Singing – Beverly Smith

From plaintive unaccompanied Appalachian ballads to honky tonk, bluegrass, and modern country, the southern mountains have made an indelible mark on American music.  We will be looking into this deep repertoire, learning both solo and harmony parts and mostly singing! The Carter Family, Blue Sky Boys, Stanley Brothers, Almeda Riddle, Lily May Ledford are just a few of the folks we’ll be listening to and learning songs from.   No experience necessary!  Just bring your voice and a spirit of curiosity and fun.

Late Afternoon 

Slow Jam – Noah Fishman

Tunes galore, slow and sweet! Gather ‘round for a friendly session at a slow and relaxed tempo. Bring suggestions, requests, and an open mind. Perhaps you’re new to playing at jams, or you’re exploring a new repertoire of tunes. Maybe you’ve been playing one instrument for a while, and you need a slower pace to work on a new instrument. Maybe you just want to play slowly! Whatever the situation, we’ll see you at the Slow Jam.

One-Shot – Earl White: Black Americans in Old Time Music (Then and Now)

This is an audio/visual presentation and open discussion about the role of black Americans and their influence on Appalachian music as we know it today. Throughout history, black Americans played a major role in the creation of old time, bluegrass, and many other genres of music and have known little recognition for their input. This discussion brings to light the contributions of just a few, out of many.

Contra Dance Callers Course

Course Leader

Lisa Greenleaf

Program Description

This course is for advanced-beginner through intermediate callers. Together we will focus on teaching skills, including topics such as

  • recognizing good choreography
  • understanding effective walk-throughs
  • inspiring confidence in your dancers
  • improving performance presence
  • building an evening dance program.

All of this takes place in a supportive environment designed to help you discover your strengths and explore new ideas, with as much flight time at the mic as we can manage!

The course takes place for a solid block in the morning, during which time we will analyze figures and transitions, practice creating efficient walk-throughs, and learn how to connect effectively with musicians. This is followed by a hands-on experience called the Contra Callers Dance Party, when mini course participants work with a live band and call dances from the stage. Each dance is followed by dancer critique using a safe and supportive feedback model. This dance party is open to dancers from the wider camp community. The rest of afternoon and evening, participants have full access to the American Dance & Music Week at Pinewoods program.