Here is a brief list of workshop sessions that I have lead at dance weekends.  If you want more information about a topic, let me know and I’ll send a more complete description.  If there is a topic that your community would benefit from and it’s not represented here, let me know and I’ll do my best to build a fun, entertaining workshop session to address your specific needs.

Style Workshop Session Topics

Lead, Follow, Communicate!
Aiming after a swing, Twirling, Silent instruction, rollaway, gentle leading

Giving Weight
Definition, application, balanced weight, dances with figures which emphasize good weight.

Transitions; Rocket Science of dance
Apogee, balanced forces, centrifugal and centripetal, gravity well.  It’s all about those magic weightless moments in a dance where you’re floating between connections.  Superb!

Contrasting music  styles and how we dance to them
Jigs, Reels, Marches, Old-time and the figures and matching dances to tune styles.

Injury-Free dancing
Twirls, Allemandes, bouncy vs. smooth style, crowded conditions, timing and smoothness

Dancing in unusual circumstances:
Crowded hall, Hot hall, Small crowd, mostly beginners or influx of beginners

Dance Workshop Sessions

Triple minor contra sets
Reintroduce the triple minor set and dance some wonderful examples.

Some contra dance chestnuts
Old favorites from years gone by.

Introduction to English Country Dance
The figures, style and music.  Similar to contras, but with different emphasis.

English Country Dance
I can prepare a session program for any level of dancers‘ experience.

Unusual figures in contra dance
Gate, Double Do-Si-Do and gypsy, Irish star, Yearn, Variations on the hey (this could be a whole fun session in itself), and others.

Back to our roots
English figures in contra dances.  Or Contra figures in English dances.  Hard to tell, sometimes.

Caller Workshop Sessions

Without Musical Support:

Teaching figures to new dancers.
Simplify, condense, clarify, demonstrate, extract essentials.

Teaching a pre-dance beginners workshop.
Pace, content, analysis, comfort

Tools, variety of dances, variety of music styles, on the fly, communication with band.

Accuracy, clarity, rhythm, how long to prompt, inflection

The Act
All those unseen details that good callers attend to while calling dances.  Also known as “Trade Secrets 101”.

With musical support:

Expect the unexpected
We’ll give callers the opportunity to react to real-life situations that commonly arise at dances.  Discussion generated regarding the best way to deal with various contingencies.

Working with Musicians
Communicating what they need to know, Communicating your needs, working together as a team

Waltz Workshop

Waltz Trick Swap
This is based on the concept of those clothing swaps that are run at some dance weekends or local events where people bring dance togs that they’ve gotten tired of and trade ‘em in for the same that other people bring.  Everyone leaves happy with “new” dance outfits.  In this case, you get to keep what you brought.

I’m often asked to lead a waltz workshop at dance weekends.  I can waltz ok, even with a few simple “moves”, but nothing flashy or particularly noteworthy.  So, what to do when leading a waltz workshop where everyone already knows pretty much how to waltz?  At this session I act as facilitator, leader, ringmaster; I keep things moving, make sure nobody takes over and dominates the show, make sure everyone that wants to gets a chance to participate.  And the participants,…?  They demonstrate their favorite waltz “trick”, teach it, offer help learning it, everyone tries it while the band plays a waltz, and we go on to someone else.  The last 10 to 15 minutes we leave for open waltzing.  A 60-minute session works well for this.

Community Events Workshops

Along with the Portland band Joyride, we produce a monthly first-Wednesday contra dance.  We’ve learned a lot in the three years of producing this monthly event, and what we’re doing is apparently working since after our third season we have cultivated a loyal following and every dance is comfortably full of experienced and committed dancers.  We learn from our mistakes and pay attention to feedback.  I’d be happy to lead a session where discussion of starting and maintaining a dance series is the topic.  One of the most valuable resources for anyone doing the same thing or even thinking about it is to share experiences and gather ideas from others.  I would hope to learn as well as share my experiences.

Sue Songer (Portland Collection Tune Books) and I together produce the annual Portland Megaband contra dance.  The band consists of 80 musicians, two conductors and one caller.  The dance is held at a very large ballroom in downtown Portland on a wide stage and huge speaker stacks which our sound engineer loves to use.  The dance typically draws 500 to 600 dancers.  One year we had over 650 dancers.  It’s a huge event.  As a workshop session I could lead a discussion of the logistics of producing large dance events based on our experience with the Portland Megaband.  We’ve been doing this for 12 (?) years and we’ve learned a lot.  Again, sharing experiences, philosophy, vision, methods etc. may be valuable for anyone interested in a similar endeavor.


I play several instruments, most notably a silver “C” concert flute and several bombardes.  I play in the Portland contra dance band called Joyride.  In our band I am often one who selects tune sets to go with the dances that the caller has programmed.  My band works together to match tunes to dance figures.  Although I believe that the hired musicians should be the ones looked to for musical workshops, I can see taking part in a “Matching tunes to dances and vice versa” workshop along with one of the hired musicians.  As a caller and a musician I may have a perspective that could be useful.

And even though I believe the hired musicians should be the ones to lead music workshops, I’d be happy to lead a slow jam or teach some tunes.  Particularly if there are other woodwind players around and the hired musicians are too busy or overworked or just don’t want to lead such a session.