Spring Breakdown Contra Dance Weekend, March 17–19, 2017
Calling by Susan Kevra
Susan Kevra burst onto the contra dance scene in the early 1990s in New England and honed her craft at her monthly dance series in Greenfield, MA for ten years. She now makes her home in Nashville, Tennessee, where she calls and organizes English, contra and square dances. She also travels to call at dance camps across the country and occasionally, around the globe. She spent 2000 – 2001 in France and traveling throughout Western Europe teaching Anglo and American dancing – and learning French dances. She is also a professor of French and American Studies at Vanderbilt University, where she teaches a class, “American Social History through Dance.”
Susan is noted for her warmth, clear teaching and lovely voice. Dancers on both sides of the Atlantic appreciate her diverse repertoire of singing squares, Western patter calls, contras and English Country dances. She has choreographed a number of well loved contra and square dances, including “Trip to Phan Reel” and “The Hume Fogg Reel.”
Her calling and singing can be heard on the critically acclaimed CD, “Full Swing” featuring some of New England’s finest contra dance musicians. The CD contains a lengthy and entertaining booklet Susan wrote tracing the roots of New England contra dancing and a guide for new callers.
Susan will be leading a Callers’ Workshop at the ballroom on Friday. Preregistration is required.
Music by Skippin’ Cats
Musicians Mary Lea (fiddle), Mary Cay Brass (Accordion & Piano) and Sam Bartlett (Guitar, Mandolin, Banjo). Skippin’ Cats is an all-star trio with over 100 years of combined experience. They have each been involved in traditional music and contra dance for the majority of their musical careers and have served as mentors to many of the younger musicians entering the contra dance scene. Skippin’ Cats will perform a free concert at Columbia Public Library on Thursday, March 16th at 7pm.
Mary Lea is a Brattleboro-based fiddler with a worldwide reputation for playing a wide range of dance music. Performing dance music since 1978, Mary is a founding member of Bare Necessities, known here and abroad as the benchmark of English country dance music. Her musical versatility and wide ranging musical interests are reflected in the variety of bands she plays with, which include, besides Bare Necessities: Cilantrio (English Country dance and couple dance music), Trio Piquante and Crazy Quilt (contra, English, couple dance, etc.). In the past 35 years, Mary has toured extensively throughout the United States playing for concerts, dance weeks and weekend events. She has performed with Bare Necessities and other bands in England, Canada, Scotland, Czech Republic, Greece, France, Egypt and Ecuador. Besides producing 3 solo CDs of couple dance music, Mary has played on at least 30 others, including 18 by the band, Bare Necessities. Also an experienced teacher, she has run workshops for musicians, produced concerts and organized and run dance and music weeks over the years.
Mary Cay Brass began her involvement with traditional music at the age of nine when her Croatian neighbors invited her to join a children’s folk dance troupe. Later, while at the University of Minnesota she encountered numerous folk dance groups at the height of the folk revival in the 70’s. She was introduced to the contra dance musical traditions of New England and began passionately learning everything she could about the piano back up traditions to fiddle tunes as well as learning the tunes on accordion. This led to a move to southern Vermont in 1984 where she became part of a thriving traditional music scene. Forming the Greenfield Dance Band with fiddler David Kaynor and bassist, Stuart Kenney and later guitar, mandolin player, Peter Siegel, Brass began playing regularly in Greenfield and throughout the country at dances, festivals and camps. She has numerous recordings with fiddlers Rodney Miller, Sarah Blair, Becky Tracy, David Kaynor and others.
Sam Bartlett When I was 9 my mother bought me a jawharp, but I really wanted to play the drums. She bought me drum… sticks and I played the couch, the dinner table, and dented all the lampshades. I did eventually get a snare drum but by this time my parents were ready for me to move on and suggested the banjo.
Looking back now, the banjo wasn’t much of a step up. My parents liked banjo music, and I think they were scared where drumming might lead me. Amazingly, the banjo took. I taught myself how to play when I was 14, listening to Pete Seeger, the New Lost City Ramblers, the Clancy Brothers, Doug Dillard, and of course, Earl Scruggs. I knew better than to share my new musical obsession with my friends.
My high School bus driver was a musician and he took me to my first contra dance in 1977. The dance was in the basement of St. Thomas’ Church in Underhill, Vermont. It was a wild scene. I don’t know what was more exciting, dancing with girls or watching the musicians and imagining playing in a band. When I tried to learn them, the contra dance tunes didn’t fit that well on the five-string, so I dusted off my grandmother’s mandolin and impulsively purchased an unplayable tenor banjo from a window display at a department store. I learned to play them both.
I play three traditional styles of music: Irish, old-time American, and contra dance tunes. Each has a distinct form. Because I know too much, it would be easy to fuse all of these into one eclectic mess, something I consciously avoid. I do love to attempt innovation within the styles and compose tunes adhering to time-honored, unwritten rules, and also nudging them a bit. I wrote Evil Diane along these lines, and included a musical virus in the structure that makes it difficult NOT to repeat the tune once it has ended. My all-original CD of the same title was profiled on NPR’s All Thing Considered Christmas Eve 2004, and is still regularly heard on that show.