John Dexter—morris dancer, musician, teacher, fearless leader and guiding light of New York City’s Bouwerie Boys—passed quietly from this world in May 2023, leaving behind a 50 year legacy of incalculable breadth. Thank you, John! Thank you for the legacy of your years of dancing, playing, and teaching, and for your generous legacy gift, which will help CDSS to flourish this year and well into the future.

I have just finished the somewhat surreal task of planning for my eventual demise by establishing a process by which a portion of my estate will be given to CDSS.

As do others during this process, I evaluated all the possible people and organizations to whom I might give this sort of gift. And I concluded that CDSS is the organization I feel most strongly about.

The reasons are at once myriad and simple.

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It was a beautiful Sunday morning in Gainesville, Florida. Sunlight was streaming through the windows onto the dance floor. The band Steamshovel and caller Alex Deis-Lauby were guiding us through an amazing morning of dance. I said to my partner, “Isn’t this a lovely way to spend a Sunday morning?” She replied, “BEST CHURCH EVER!”

It is a sentiment we’ve heard on dance floors across the country. Many of us consider the music and dance community to be our spiritual community or extended family. We recognize in the friendships and the transcendent experiences, an element of the holy.

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The country dance form can be thought of as an exquisite vessel, in itself beautiful in shape, yet highly abstract.
We can choose to fill this vessel with whatever meaning we like.
If we like,
we can pursue a particular friendship;
we can rejoice in a sense of community;
we can see in the music and the dance the highest of spiritual values;
we can see it as good fun.
The dance is all of these and greater than all of them.

This lovely quote is from my first dance mentor, Carl Wittman (1943-1986). It has been an inspiration for many years.

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Robin and I both grew up in families that believed in philanthropy, and it’s a core value that we brought into the marriage. We have enough. Not everyone does. We’ve worked for it, sure, but it’s mostly the result of luck and timing and privilege. We both consider it a duty, a joyful one at that, to see to it that our fortunate circumstances get used to make the kind of difference we want to see in the world.

I found the music and dance scene after college, at a stage of life when I was emotionally not in such great shape. Dancing literally gave me the first sense of belonging somewhere. The long term friendships that I’ve maintained only began then. Dancing saved me and made me more whole.

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Sure, getting dressed up for the annual Playford Ball is fun, but for over 50 years it’s been the variety of moods in the music and patterns in the dances that have kept me engaged. Not to mention the people I’ve danced them with.

Over those years, what I’ve learned is that it just doesn’t happen all by itself. People who cared kept those dances going, kept that music playing. They learned from someone and they are passing it on – like family love. But dedication and love are not enough. They also need money. So, when I no longer need it, they’re going to get some of mine.

My wife Lynne Stauff and I are planners and savers. Since we don’t have children and are in our early to mid 50s, we wanted to plan where our money would go when we are no longer here. Contra dancing was one of the first things Lynne took me to when I met her and I became addicted shortly thereafter.  So when our financial advisor asked us to create a trust and pick some beneficiaries, it was a no-brainer to include the contra dance community.

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It was definitely time for me to write my will, although I hope not to use it for a good many years. In thinking about what has been a big part of my life, it seems appropriate to designate CDSS as a major beneficiary of my assets. My first husband introduced me to contra dancing over 40 years ago, and I’ve never looked back. After 15 years of dancing, I realized that someone has to do work to keep the dances going. What a revelation! As a result, I learned and grew in taking leadership roles to sustain and nurture my community (local and beyond). This has led me to so many enriching experiences and helped me be the person I am today.

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We’ve been dancing for a combined total of about 88 years. We met at a weekly dance in New York City, and five years later morris and country dance were key elements in our wedding. We’ve gone to (at least one) CDSS week at camp every year since 1973, including English, American, English and American, Family, Campers, Buffalo Gap, and Early Music. Beverly is a leading caller and David has been involved in board work (CDSS, CDNY, PCI) for many years. Clearly dancing has been a dear part of our lives for decades.

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When I first heard about planned giving it sounded like such a great idea! A way that people who loved our traditions of dance, music and song could give a final gift to help insure that CDSS would continue to thrive.

At first I couldn’t see how I could participate in the planned giving program. I’m probably not going to need a trust or complicated estate plan as I move into the final decades of my life. What I do have are retirement accounts and those have named beneficiaries. I’ve recently changed those beneficiaries to be CDSS! This was a very easy thing to do and an easy decision to make. This isn’t a set amount that CDSS will receive, I’m planning for it to be many decades before the gift is given and I’m really happy that I could take this step into planned giving.

Could you join me and take a step today?

I can’t imagine what my life would be if it weren’t for the Country Dance and Song Society. I used to be a very shy person. Then I discovered I could perform clogging routines in front of people, which led to contra dance, English dance, and then with support from CDSS, I was able to get on stage in front of a room full of people to teach and share my love of dance! This has helped me in all areas of my life—I am comfortable being gregarious and have left that shyness behind. And I now have many friends from all over North America and Europe, a treasure I would never have thought possible.

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