The Country Dance and Song Society is pleased to announce that Bill Alkire of Wooster, Ohio is the 2018 recipient of the CDSS Lifetime Contribution Award. Bill has positively impacted the world of American traditional dance for over 70 years as a dance leader, organizer, choreographer, and mentor.
The following letter was written by Susan English, who organized Bill’s award celebration on February 25, 2018. Read on to learn more about Bill’s remarkable contributions to traditional dance throughout his life.
At age 15, Bill was leading play party dances for his Methodist Youth Fellowship in central Ohio. When they danced in the barn of Lynn Rorbaugh, Bill learned more about dance leadership. He called his first public square dances while still in high school and worked his way through Ohio State University by teaching dance throughout the Columbus area. He served on the committee of the Ohio Folk Festival for several years, serving as General Chairman in 1950, when over 3,000 people participated.
Attending Berea Christmas Dance School for the first time in 1948, Bill discovered new dance forms, including contra dance, English country dance, and Appalachian clogging, which he subsequently introduced to dance communities across Northeast Ohio and beyond. Bill returned to Berea Christmas Dance School multiple years on staff, teaching traditional squares, Appalachian clogging, beginning English, and dance leadership.
After a 1979 visit to Black Mountain, North Carolina, he founded the Cedar Valley Cloggers of Wooster, Ohio, a black-shoe traditional performance group that continues today. As artistic director, Bill adapted a broad range of traditional figure dances to clogging performances.
Bill has served on staff at Pinewoods, Mendocino, Dancing Bears of Alaska, Michigan Dance Heritage, Kentucky Summer Dance School, Cumberland Lakes, and, in 1994, the Silkeborg Festival in Denmark. From Kentucky Summer Dance School he received an appreciation award for his service from 1982-1986. Bill was the American dance leader for many years at Oglebay and Maine Folk Dance Camps, Folklore Village, and at various Recreation Leaders’ Labs–Great Lakes, Chatco, Black Hills, Northland, Laurel Highlands, and Buckeye. For his lifetime service to Buckeye Leadership Workshop, he received an Emeritus Award in 1998.
At home in Wooster, Ohio, Bill prepared a generation of youth for square dance and square dance calling competitions at the Ohio State Fair. He called contra dances starting in the 1950s, and his monthly old-time square dance ran continuously for 50 years. After 2000, Bill co-founded the intergenerational program at Terpsichore’s Holiday and performed “Minuet to Macarena,” a revue of couple dance 1800 to present, from the Wheatland Music Festival to the Atlanta Waltz Society.
As a former mental health professional, Bill sees cooperative group dance as a key to healthy relationships and vibrant communities. Over the years, aspiring dance leaders have turned to him not only for his expertise but also for his philosophy of dance. Though currently not in good health at near 90 years old, he was still passing it on to the next generation well into his 80s.
Postscript: Sadly, Bill passed away on September 12th, 2018. He was a true treasure and will be missed by all whose lives he touched.
Note: Photos on this page courtesy of Susan English.