CDSS News, Fall 2021

Philippe CallensPhoto by Paul Friedman.

Remembering Philippe Callens

By Graham Christian

Editor's note: The second and final paragraphs mention and briefly describe Philippe's death, which was self-inflicted.

Philippe Callens was one of the most remarkable social dance leaders of the later 20th and early 21st centuries; certainly he made an indelible impact on the world of English country dance in particular. Dance, specifically folk and social dancing, was a great part of his life from adolescence onward, and it might be said that dance found and saved and even created him. It was a frame for his intellectual interests and his precise scholarly aptitudes; it was active, encouraging, and filled with potential for the beauty he craved.

On January 8 of this year, Philippe disappeared from the streets of Belgium. After six weeks, during which his friends waited with increasing and helpless fear and apprehension, his body was found in Esneux in Wallonia, at the foot of the Roche aux Faucons. There can be very little doubt what happened. He was 58 years old.

Philippe experienced early success as a dancer and leader of dance, and that success was deserved. He was a beautiful dancer, light and agile, but filled with tensile strength and lively energy. He had a deep understanding of the structures and shapes of our pattern-driven dances; he loved the formal demands of the artful and complex dances to be found in 17th and 18th century collections, but he felt the most affectionate respect for the riches of the folk style, too. He was a careful student of the works and pedagogy of other leaders, closely attentive to their strengths and shortcomings, so as to improve his own approach.

He was a creator, writing at least 72 original English country dances and at least 40 contra or square dances, as well as creating at least 50 interpretations of historical dances, and even the occasional round dance (some in each genre, unfortunately, are lost). Some of these dances have risen to the status of modern treasure. All of them have merit, and all of them evince his respectful knowledge of the figures and dances that had come before. He belonged to a small and indeed vanishing class of dance leaders for whom social dance was far more than a hobby or a recreation: dancing well, for him, and for all of us when with him, was serious business, albeit conducted with the potential for great joy.

He was, while in some ways a gladly solitary person much of his life, a dedicated friend. His delight in the arts and in history extended well beyond the places to which his researches in dance led him; his pleasure in the crafts, fine arts, music, and architecture he enjoyed extended almost to a state of wonder. Much though he loved the dance, he was never happier than when inside a fine museum or library.

Philippe has now closed a book—his own—in such a way that we can never open it again. We cannot read those last pages to learn what took him to a rocky outcropping in the Ardennes; he has kept the final part of his story for himself. It is hard to miss the stress and loss of perspective that isolation during the pandemic has brought to all of us, but his journey, and his motives, must remain mysteries. We remain with what he gave us—his creations, his lessons, his example. For those of us who admired and loved him, they are not enough, not nearly enough—but they are all we can have, and they must make up the loss somehow. 

Marie ArmstrongPhoto by David Glick.

Remembering Marie Armstrong

By Bill and Kris Litchman

Many of us have super memories of vibrant, talented, sparkling, lovable Marie Armstrong, who lived a life full of adventures, travel, guitar-playing, singing, calling, teaching, and helping to produce the first Lloyd Shaw Fellowship dance kits—all fueled by the dances and music she loved.

Marie became involved with local community singing and dancing groups while working for the USO in Fairbanks, AK, during World War II. At a local folk dance she met a man, once a Cheyenne Mountain dancer with Lloyd Shaw, who gave her a copy of Cowboy Dances. She called her first square dance, “Red River Valley,” in Fairbanks. Music and dance were the center of her life from then on.

After the war, Marie returned to her birthplace in Oak Ridge, NC, and met Don Armstrong, who was calling squares, and Ralph Page, who was calling contras, at the 1954 Emory University dance camp in Georgia under the direction of Fred and Mary Collette. Don and Marie married three months later and began decades of sharing their love of dance across the country and around the world.

In 1960, Marie began 25 years of summer work at Peaceful Valley, a guest ranch and lodge in the Colorado Rockies. She led folk dancing and singing, trail rides, hikes, excursions, picnics, and other activities for guests. Don spent the summers calling one-night stands and doing a lot of fishing; he stopped off for Saturday nights at Peaceful Valley whenever he could.

In 1963, Don and Marie created the first radio station in New Port Richey, FL, developed properties in Costa Rica and the Cayman Islands, and began traveling the world calling and teaching dancing. Marie preferred calling contras to squares and spoke fluent Spanish by the time she was 55.

Don and Marie became involved with the annual Lloyd Shaw Fellowship in Colorado and with its program for teaching dance leaders. Marie was instrumental in developing the Lloyd Shaw Foundation’s dance leadership program for school teachers and recreation leaders. Don assumed a leadership role in the formation of the LSF Foundation in 1964.

Eventually, Marie was able to dance and teach all over the world, relying on the universal language of music and dance to reach the hearts of people everywhere. With her creative sense and understanding of the basic human needs of all of us, she was able to reach into people’s lives and bring out the universal community of humanity in us all.

We met Marie and Don around 1970 at the Lloyd Shaw Fellowship Week, where Marie specialized in leading our singing sessions. We remember the round “Pauper sum ego, Nihil habeo, Cor meum dabo” (“Poor am I, Nothing have I, I give you my heart”) as a particular favorite.

In 1986, we were able to join Marie at Peaceful Valley for nine years of wonderful fun. We loved being part of the staff with Marie and learned much from her about working with all kinds of people, making their lives happier. That is our strong memory of her still: her love and acceptance of everybody, everywhere, as she shared her delight in dance and song.

We enjoyed visits with Marie and Don when they lived in Colorado and later in Missouri, where Don died in 2000. Following his death, Marie moved back to North Carolina and several years later married an old high school friend, David Stewart, with whom she happily aged until his death in 2019. In Marie’s later years, we had opportunities to touch base with her as she continued to serve others in her wider community. She called us one day from her retirement community asking for help in obtaining music which she wanted to use to teach her fellow retirement neighbors. She said they weren’t thriving and needed some stimulation in their lives. She felt that even though she was 99 years old, she’d be able to help her neighbors be more active doing some rhythm activities, singing, and dancing together.

That was Marie all over. Vibrant, outgoing, and loving to the very last. Even in the face of the pandemic, she was determined to open new vistas to her aging neighbors. We’re glad she was able to celebrate her 100th birthday with family and friends in 2020. What a woman! Marie, we love you!

News from Canada

It’s Our 10th Anniversary!

Compiled by Bev Bernbaum and Rosemary Lach

Map of Canada with cities highlighted

The world turned upside down in March of 2020, and it’s been a very challenging time since then for dance, music, and song communities everywhere. For our tenth anniversary of great Canadian storytelling, we reached out coast to coast to check in with people. Here’s how some communities have been doing during the pandemic.

Halifax contra dancersHalifax Contra Dances, Halifax, NS. Photo by Alex Wright.

Halifax, NS

Halifax Contra Dances was full swing (pun intended!) going into our winter 2020 dance session when COVID hit and made for an abrupt cancellation of our monthly dances. We laid low for the rest of the winter-spring season, but after a summer of relatively low case counts, we held an outdoor, masked dance on the Halifax waterfront in September 2020 using modified dances. Live music was provided by our wonderful musicians, separated from the dancers with a generous buffer marked with pool noodles! It was great fun, and people really appreciated the flexibility to meet everyone’s levels of comfort. However, it was also a lot of work with pre-registration, contact tracing, a completely new venue, and totally different dances.

We resolved to take a break over the colder months and see how things with the pandemic progressed. We tentatively booked an outdoor dance for June 2021. Unfortunately, COVID cases mounted over the winter and spring, and we found ourselves in full lockdown as the June date

approached, so we cancelled it. We are hopeful we can resume some sort of dancing activity this fall, either outdoors or back at our regular indoor location. With the Delta variant on the horizon, however, it still seems too soon to be certain that things are “back to normal.”

—Kat Kitching, volunteer committee member and house caller, Halifax Contra Dances.

In Nova Scotia, Contra Time Dancers have mostly been staying home and healthy. Things are beginning to open up and we are hoping to be able to dance in the fall. There is some folk dancing on the Halifax waterfront, the musicians are practicing, I have been creating new contras with fewer swings, and the halls are asking about bookings.

—Dottie Welch, organizer and caller, Contra Time Dancers

Montreal, QC

Montreal had a few Zoom hangouts, two picnics last summer, and one Zoom concert in January, but right now not much is happening. We will need to rebuild the community. We intend to restart slowly at our smaller, less expensive hall using local bands and hope to eventually attract more people so we can go back to our bigger hall with visiting bands. However, with the rise of the Delta variant, I have no idea when that might be possible.

We stand at the ready waiting for conditions and rules to allow us to host indoor dances. We may organize a picnic before summer is out; these typically only draw six or seven people, but they are still one way to keep the community connected, so we're considering it.

—Marie, ContraMontreal

Dancers' hands form a starLord Grey’s English Country Dancing, Clarksburg, ON. Photo by Robert Burcher.

Clarksburg, ON

Lord Greys English Country Dance (LGECD) was launched in fall 2013, holding dances in the wonderful Marsh Street Centre in Clarksburg. Designed in the early 1920s as a community hall, it has fine wood floors and great acoustics. The dance season usually begins in September, dancing once or twice a month, then once a month through the winter months, with a successful ball at the end of each season. Sound equipment and a solid collection of CDSS CDs provide the music, as there are no local musicians available. We have a wonderful website with our history and lots of photos.

We have danced for seven seasons, but COVID and the closure of the hall stopped everything except for a small outdoor dance in September 2020. I’ve sent monthly emails to the dancers, usually highlighting three YouTube links to ECD dances we have done in the past or appropriate to the month, as a way of staying connected. A dance was proposed for August 22 in a wonderful large airy Apple Shed, but people seem to be hesitant. We have dates booked for September through December this year. Wish us well!

—Lorraine Sutton, caller, dancer, and organizer

Toronto, ON

Toronto English Country Dance Assembly (TECDA) was one of the first communities in North America to start dancing ECD on Zoom. TECDA has hosted online dances every Friday night since March 27, 2020. Dancers have logged in from many parts of Canada, the United States, UK, and Australia. Kudos to Cathy Campbell who called for 13 months straight! Walter Zagorski and Alan Rosenthal are now sharing the load as we continue into our 17th month. Alan also hosted his own York Regional ECD (YRECD) two to three times a month, which had a great UK following owing to the afternoon time slot. In July, TECDA cautiously started outdoor in-person ECD, masked and using pool noodles (for distancing), with Dave Berman happily resuming calling. Outdoor dancing is weather dependent, with many a rainy forecast making a suspense-filled day.

As COVID numbers are rising in Toronto, TECDA will be discussing whether to continue onwards into the fall with the Zoom dance. And when will it be safe to dance indoors? We had to postpone our annual weekend dances of 2020 and 2021 to two dances in May and October of 2022. We are looking forward to Joanna Reiner Wilkinson and Goldcrest and Brooke Friendly and Roguery with fingers crossed!

—Maxine Louie, dancer and organizer

Toronto had its first online contra dance in May 2020. As the dance grew, we realized that many communities didn’t have enough dancers wanting to dance virtually to warrant starting their own dance. So Drew Delaware spearheaded the effort to expand to create All Hands In (AHI), a virtual dance series for multiple dance communities. In September 2020, AHI united eight communities across North America. Our attendance during full lockdown was typically well above 100, but as the continent has begun opening up, attendance has waned; our July dance had fewer than 50 dancers. Most online dances are experiencing a similar drop, so we have begun conversations with some of the other major online contra dance series to consider consolidating resources while starting again this fall, perhaps taking turns keeping online dances going.

The TCD committee has begun discussions about when and how to resume in-person dancing, but given reports of infections even at some vaccinated-only social events, we doubt that will be possible before the new year. Stay safe out there!

—Becky Liddle, president, Toronto Contra Dance

Winnipeg, MB

Hello from Village Green Dancers in Winnipeg. We have fared quite well during COVID-19. We danced either outside or inside whenever public health orders allowed. The sets were six feet wide and there were six feet between dancers along the set. We wore masks and did not give hands. During the times we could not gather in person, we ran weekly Zoom dances. Some exciting transformations happened. New figures like ampersand, fan out, shuttle, roundabout, and curlicue were devised, much to our delight. Some of the new dances have become favorites and will remain in our repertoire even when COVID is a distant memory.

Our plan is to dance indoors beginning this fall. At this point, we are unsure exactly how... Expanded sets? Masks? Giving hands? The shape of the dancing will be determined by the restrictions in place and dancers’ comfort levels. However, we look forward to dancing this season and are hopeful that we will be able to enjoy our twice-delayed ball in April 2022.

—Elizabeth (Liz) Goossen, choreographer, composer, caller, dancer, and organizer and Sue Stanton, caller, organizer, dancer

Saskatoon, SK

Saskatoon, where a contra community was just getting going, has gone into a temporary hibernation… But we have every intention of starting up again once it’s safe.

—Liz James, organizer and caller

Edmonton, AB

Edmonton Contra Dance has a Facebook page and hosted a couple of events prior to COVID. A launch was being planned for September 2020 but sadly it couldn't happen. Consequently, the budding community group is in suspended animation. Meanwhile, there is a one-off Contra Day as part of the Edmonton Square and Round Dance Federation Convention. This fantastic group wants contra to be part of their annual Labor Day Convention, this year in Edmonton and next year in Lacombe.

—Lona Ani and Karen Talsma, contra enthusiasts

Kaslo, BC

We cancelled our March 2020 English country dance and have no plans to restart dancing until there have been three weeks of no new cases in BC. We are a small group in a village. We see and talk to one another regularly when we go shopping (one street), to the post office, or just out for a walk.

—David Cheatley, dance organizer and caller

Vancouver, BC

The Vancouver ECD group, like most others, has been dormant since March 2020, although a number of our members have participated in Zoom dancing out of Victoria, Toronto, Oakland, and Nashville, to list the most popular sites. Special thanks to Rosemary Lach and Cathy Campbell for keeping the Canadian scene active on a weekly basis.

We are tentatively planning a restart of in-person dancing in November and are very interested to compare notes with other groups regarding post-COVID protocols.

Additionally, our ECD Ball is scheduled for the weekend of April 9, 2022. This will feature the same wonderful caller, musicians and venue as originally planned for March 2020: Joanna Reiner Wilkinson and the Tricky Brits from Seattle, to be held at the Scottish Cultural Centre in South Vancouver. Something to really look forward to!

—Lindsay Bottomer, dancer and treasurer

Vancouver Country Dance has struck a committee to address safe opening after COVID, as organizers stay in touch online, mostly through email. Plans for a by-invitation outdoor summer dance are on hold, as BC feels the effects of the latest COVID wave. However, we feel ready, willing, and able to dance again when the time comes.

—Nelson Beavington, organizer, Vancouver Country Dance

Victoria, BC

When the pandemic changed everything last year, we didn’t stop English country dancing in Victoria. We scrambled to harness Zoom, testing the idea of dancing together-apart. This grew into our hosting weekly “zoom-dances” for dancers in British Columbia and neighboring states. Every Wednesday night we hung out, made new friends, and danced in our living rooms to music played by countless fantastic bands. In the summer we danced outside, then moved indoors as it got colder. Masked, we danced around distance markers to live music. We had endless sanitization rituals, and often bundled up against the howling wind. Along the way, we hosted two virtual balls and a virtual No-Hands-Across-the-Water event. We plan to continue dancing inside in the fall, all wearing masks.

And always, always, we dance to the tune called by our provincial Health Authority.

—Martha Burd, dance organizer and Rosemary Lach, caller and dance organizer, Victoria English Country Dance Society


Bev Bernbaum and Rosemary Lach began collecting Canadian stories about dance, music, and song in 2011 to create the “News from Canada” column. We hope you’ve enjoyed these stories as much as we have.

Collage of images of Prince RupertTop: The Great Executioner. Mezzotint by Prince Rupert of the Rhine, 1658. Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of New York.
Bottom: Prince Rupert, first Duke of Cumberland and Count Palatine of the Rhine. Painting by Gerard van Honthorst, 1642, courtesy of the Niedersächsisches Landesmuseum Hannover.

Tell Me More: Prince Rupert’s March

By Graham Christian

The first readers of John Playford’s English Dancing Master in 1651 could have turned to the 57th page (misprinted as another 55) of that pioneering volume and found a dance that playfully imitated soldiers’ marching maneuvers entitled “Prince Ruperts March.” In the second and third editions, however, they might have been dismayed to find it gone, replaced by “Lord of Carnarvan’s Jigg.” It returned in the fourth edition of 1670 and continued to the end of the series in 1728. The disappearance and reappearance of a single dance say much about the remarkable life and varied talents of an extraordinary man, Prince Rupert, Count Palatine (1619-1682).

Rupert was the fourth child of Frederick, Count Palatine of the Rhine (1596-1632) and Elizabeth Stuart (1596-1662), who was the eldest child of King James I of England (1567-1625). His parents were seen as the hope of Protestant Europe; Rupert was born a month after Frederick’s coronation as the King of Bohemia, but their joy was short-lived—less than a year later, Frederick was violently ejected from his throne, and Rupert, almost left behind in his parents’ hasty flight, was launched on his career of near-statelessness, hardship, and intermittent poverty.

In his family’s often-uncomfortable exile in The Hague, Rupert showed himself to be an able student, excelling particularly in modern languages, mathematics, and the fine arts—Gerard von Honthorst (1592-1656) was his drawing tutor. By the age of 18, he was already an experienced soldier, a veteran of the battlefields of Rheinberg and Breda, and he stood a towering six feet four inches tall. The following year, he was captured by his father’s enemy Emperor Ferdinand III and detained for three years, during which he had a love affair with his jailer’s daughter (of course), and received the gift of a white poodle he named Boy, who was to accompany him to England and the civil war raging there.

Liberated at the cost of a promise never to raise arms against Ferdinand again, Rupert hastened to England to take up the cause of his beleaguered uncle, King Charles I (1600-1649), who immediately made Rupert General of Horse. Rupert’s trained cavalry of 3,000 soon scored an impressive victory at Powick Bridge. For the next few years, Rupert dazzled the army with his courage and military skill, but among Charles’ counselors and generals, he could be tactless, sarcastic, and abrasive. When, concluding that the royal cause was lost, he surrendered Bristol to the Parliamentary forces in 1645, Charles dismissed him from service, and the two were only rather warily reconciled by 1646, when Rupert lost control of the city of Oxford and was banished from England with his brother, Maurice. The poodle Boy, a soldier to the end, had died in battle at Marston Moor in 1644.

Indefatigable, Rupert took control of the Royalist Navy from the safety of the Continent, and although his campaigns had little effect, he dabbled in piracy, and ventured as far as the Virgin Islands. He was too choleric and too controversial a figure, however, to remain long in the service of the royal court in exile; he went on to the court of his brother Charles Louis, where, after a few years, they quarreled over money (of course) and women (of course).

Somehow, Rupert found time to invent, or some say to refine and popularize, the printmaking technique of mezzotint, which, by use of a special tool called a “rocker,” allowed for the creation of far subtler tones and shades than had been possible before. It is certain, however, that Rupert introduced mezzotint to England upon his return at the restoration of his cousin Charles to that throne in 1660, and it is widely agreed that Rupert’s largest mezzotint, an interpretation of a painting by the Spaniard Jusepe de Ribera (1591-1652), is a masterpiece of the method.

Charles II, always more grateful to Rupert than his father, made his cousin Constable of Windsor Castle, and Rupert returned to military service during the Anglo-Dutch Wars, crowning a career of almost 40 years as a commander on land and sea with a victory at the battle of Texel. Rupert’s energies, however, were far from exhausted. In the later 1670s, he created a private syndicate that would eventually become the Hudson’s Bay Company, of which he was the first governor; Rupert’s Land, a vast swatch of land around Hudson Bay, was so named for him.

Prince Rupert's DropPrince Rupert’s Drop, from The Art of Glass by Antonio Neri (d. 1614), translated and enlarged by Christopher Merret (1614-1695).Rupert, long fascinated by the practical applications of science, converted some of his lodgings at Windsor Castle into laboratories, including forges, and he was the third founding member of The Royal Society. It was to this group, along with the King, that he demonstrated what became known at once as Prince Rupert’s Drop, long-tailed teardrops created by dropping molten glass into cold water; these drops have the curious property of being all but indestructible when struck at the wider end, but shattering almost to powder if the tail is touched. He was an inventor, creating a water pump, an improved torpedo, a form of grapeshot, and a new brass alloy that became a useful substitute for gold in military decorations, known as “Prince’s metal.”

During his years in England, his chief comfort was a woman who had her own claims to distinction, the beautiful Margaret (Peg) Hughes (1645-1719), who was almost certainly the first woman to act on stage in public in England (as Desdemona in Shakespeare’s Othello in 1660). She was a skilled actress as well as, according to diarist Samuel Pepys, “a mighty pretty woman”; she originated or interpreted roles in plays by the great talents of the day, including John Dryden and Aphra Behn. Her involvement with Rupert seems to have begun in the later 1660s; she bore him a daughter called Ruperta in 1673, and he supported them in fine style, indulging

Hughes’s fondness for jewels, until his death. Afterward, to settle her gambling debts, Hughes sold the grand house in Hammersmith he had left her, as well as earrings that had belonged to his unhappy mother, the “Winter Queen” of Bohemia.

So it was that the name and report of Prince Rupert can hardly have been far from the minds of John Playford’s first dancers, and it must have given them pleasure to remember his gallantry in the dance. And Playford had never disguised his allegiance to the royal cause. At the time of the first edition, however, Prince Rupert was vexing the Parliamentary Navy as he had troubled the New Model Army a few years earlier, and Playford may have been advised to keep his convictions to himself. His response was just short of provocation—instead of a dance for the living prince, why not a dance dedicated to the memory of the slain cavalier Robert Dormer, first Earl of Carnarvon (1610-1643), shifted from its spot on the 44th page of the first edition? In 1670, “Prince Rupert’s March” returned to the pages of The Dancing Master, and outlasted its namesake by another 42 years.

Prince Rupert's March musicThe English Dancing Master (first edition of The Dancing Master), 1651, complete with the now-mystifying instruction, "open and close."Prince Rupert's March musicFourth edition of The Dancing Master.

     
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