From the Director

"Let us, then, be up and doing, / With a heart for any fate / Still achieving, still pursuing / Learn to labor and to wait."

Last year I attended a webinar for arts orgs advising us to choose one of three responses to the pandemic: close for good, hibernate until you can do what you are comfortable doing, or adapt and respond to whatever lies ahead. As I listened, the song lyric here drifted through my thoughts. It is the last stanza of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem "A Psalm of Life," and it summarizes perfectly our approach to 2021. We have indeed been up and doing; still achieving and still pursuing. We have embraced new work and new challenges with openness to the possibilities. And we’ve learned to make difficult choices thoughtfully.

The Labor of Learning and Listening

In order to keep up with the rapidly shifting landscape of 2021, and to ensure we focused our work where it was needed most, we devoted time in 2021 to learning from experts and listening to our members and affiliates.

We monitored vaccine availability and accessibility, kept up with virus research and changing public health guidelines, and grappled with the legal and ethical ramifications of conducting in-person events. We consulted legal, medical, public health, and cultural equity professionals, to guide our own programming decisions and to share that expertise with you through our public communications and online programming.

We examined our role in the broader dance, music, and song community, and so reached out to learn from you what work would be most timely, relevant, and useful. We conducted surveys of both CDSS Affiliates and members and collected feedback from people attending our in-person and online programs. We used this data to direct programming decisions throughout 2021 and to shape our program plans for 2022.

We also listened to what you had to say to us directly. The CDSS staff and Board had hundreds of conversations with members, donors, organizers, and instructors, all giving us insight into the particular challenges they face and what CDSS could do to help.

Up and Doing, Putting Thought into Action

In the spring, we grappled with the decision of whether to hold in-person camps. We navigated a transfer of leadership in our Programs Department. We undertook a website redesign that will improve the clarity and functionality of our ever-growing website.

Thanks in no small part to your ongoing generous support, we launched new year-round programming to accompany our historic camp programming, presenting lower cost accessible training opportunities online. Your support also makes possible our free and on-demand offerings (listed just below) well suited for pandemic times.

  • Web Chats for Organizers, recorded focused conversations designed for organizers of dance, music, and song

  • Common Time, recorded monthly panel discussions on a variety of topics designed for dance, music, and song practitioners

  • Contra Pulse Podcast, audio series hosted by Julie Valimont, featuring 14 new episodes in 2021 exploring the world of contra dance musicians and music

  • Songs that Speak, online video series for singers hosted by Saro Lynch-Thomason featuring traditional songs, their history, and a chance to learn by ear

  • Dance it Yourself, online video series for educators and parents hosted by Robbin Marcus and featuring a number of teachers and musicians, designed to get kids moving wherever they are learning, series 2 coming soon!

  • The CDSS Resource Portal, online collection of public and crowd-sourced articles, essays, and tools for practitioners and leaders of the traditions we steward

If, like me, you are inspired by what we did this year, you’re going to love what’s coming next!

  • A new website, better organized an easier to navigate
  • The Cultural Equity Advisory Group report, the culmination of their year of work
  • More online programs, designed with Affiliate and member feedback in mind
  • A full camp seasonfingers crossed!— with exciting intensive courses
  • Expansion of scholarships
  • Improved artist and instructor compensation

From where I sit the immediate future looks complex but bright. While the pandemic isn’t over, we are getting closer to the time when we can safely be in each other’s company again. When I pause and think about how far we’ve come in just the past year—how much better we understand virus prevention and treatment, how many millions of people have been vaccinated and even boosted, how deeply we’ve thought about social and emotional health, and about all the ways we’ve changed how we move through the world—I can’t help but feel hopeful. We are indeed “up and doing, with a heart for any fate,” operating in ways that would have seemed impossible just a few short years ago.

You’ve made it possible for CDSS to adapt and meet the needs of local communities during a period when we lost 77% of our earned income. As we work to grow our new programming and prepare for post-pandemic times, your continued support will allow us to maintain focus on the broader community. Please consider making a gift to our year-end appeal today.

Katy's signature
Katy German, Executive Director

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