Rima Dael, CDSS Executive Director
I want to start this historical year with sharing my gratitude. Thank you to the founders and early supporters, the directors, committees, and governing bodies over the years; the members, donors, participants in our camps and conferences, the volunteers, and the staff, all past and present. CDSS is here today because of the hard work and passionate support of the many individuals and groups who believe deeply in the transformative nature of participatory dance, music and song. Thank you for bringing us to today!
Our Centennial this year presents us with opportunities to celebrate dance, music and song; to connect individuals and communities who have not been connected to us or each other before; and to continue to steward and preserve our living history in the coming years. 2015 will be a time to plan for our future, to fundraise, to talk together and share ideas, and to increase our resources to be adaptive and resilient for whatever that future may bring.
Our job today is to answer the question: How do traditional participatory dance, music and song communities thrive in our rapidly changing environments? Some communities need more help than others and different communities need different kinds of help. CDSS’s core programs and services have not changed, but we want to be sure too that what we offer helps communities to thrive.
Let us embrace this Centennial year by spreading joy! Let us celebrate, connect and continue to build communities through dance, music and song. Let us build a strong and resilient future together.
Welcome to our Centennial year and to our future.
David Millstone, CDSS President
CDSS is not the organization we were at our founding in 1915, and we won’t be the same organization in the future that we are now.
More than one hundred years ago, rival philosophies struggled on English battlefields, the Morris and country dance communities in the early years of a revival. One group, followers of Mary Neal, saw dance as a social activity whose function was to bring joy to participants and build community. Another group, led by Cecil Sharp, stressed the importance of dancing correctly, doing dances according to his interpretation. Founded by Sharp, it’s not surprising that CDSS for decades held fast to his vision. We maintained traditions.
In recent decades, though, we also promoted change. Our camps at Pinewoods welcomed the nascent modern square dance movement (Texas caller Raymond Smith at Pinewoods in the early 1950s), the resurgence of contras (Ralph Page at first, and then Dudley Laufman in the early 1970s), southern and western dance traditions (Jim Morrison and Sandy Bradley), and new approaches to English country dance with Pat Shaw invited in 1974. (In addition to having the temerity to argue that some of Sharp’s interpretations were incorrect, Shaw sparked today’s golden age of country dance choreography by insisting that there was a valuable place for the creation of new dances—gasp!) CDSS created American Dance [&] Music Week to cater to new interests, and family weeks to bring in new generations. Our publications and programs today help people improve skills in welcoming communities, bridging that earlier divide.
In some ways, in recent decades we have been the victim of our success. Instead of just a few CDSS hot spots, contra dances appeared throughout North America, Morris and other ritual dance teams sprang up, new camps and dance weekends mushroomed, and Playford Balls proliferated. With so much happening, dancers, musicians, and singers didn’t always appreciate the connection between these local events and the behind-the-scenes support that CDSS provided in the form of recordings, publications, master classes, grants, and logistical support. Make no mistake, though—CDSS has been the backbone supporting this growth, helping to ensure that these activities thrive in the next hundred years.
Our Centennial celebrates our rich past, to be sure, but more importantly it provides an opportunity to look forward, creating new ways to continue the traditions and link those who love them. To this end, CDSS is working to bring individual communities together into regions, to increase collaboration, to bring resources to underserved populations, and to provide support for local groups. This year, we will see an array of activities taking place, shared through an enhanced CDSS website and illustrating the diversity and commonality of our interests. Our Spread the Joy! campaign—the largest fund appeal in our history—is off to a great start. (Thank you, early donors!) It will support activities throughout this Centennial year and will provide resources to keep traditional, participatory activities vibrant into the next hundred years.
We look forward to hearing from you, affiliate groups and individual members alike, in the year ahead. The party begins now!
Brad Foster, Executive & Artistic Director Emeritus
I send my heartfelt congratulations on this momentous Centennial of our founding. This is a great opportunity to look both back to the past and forward to the future. I’ve always been fascinated by the history of CDSS, the founding and early years, the huge growth and change brought during May Gadd’s long tenure, and the great growth and further change during my own tenure. Now I watch with great interest as a new era unfolds. I love seeing how things change — new talent, new interests and adaptations, old repertoire being replaced by new, old understandings of history being supplanted with new knowledge. One of the biggest changes I've seen has been from the era of doing things the "correct" and seemingly only way of the classic Cecil Sharp English dance reconstructions, the contra and square chestnuts, and the old traditional songs — all within a very limited repertoire — to the modern era of immense and active innovation, and the explosion of wonderful new compositions. I love knowing the history behind a dance, tune or song, respecting and honoring that tradition, and I also love seeing things grow and evolve and dancing and singing the latest creations. We live in a wonderful and vibrant community now, helped along by the pioneering work of so many wonderful people before us.
CDSS has an excellent office staff, providing support, sales, information, advice and running camps and other events. And it has a great board, guiding the work of the organization. But CDSS is more than that. I remember one evening early in my tenure, when the office was still in New York City and I still felt like an outsider from the boondocks (having recently moved from California). I went to the dance in NYC and talked with someone who’d driven probably 20 miles in from New Jersey. She surprised me by saying "I’m from the boondocks," and I thought "What do you mean? You are from headquarters!" But that suddenly reminded me of comments I’d heard from people when I lived in California as well as from others I met in my travels, comments that amounted to "I’m from the boondocks" and "CDSS is somewhere else." I realized that being "from the boondocks" was a state of mind, not created by geography. If even someone 20 miles from headquarters is "from the boondocks," then we all are, but at the same time we’re all part of CDSS regardless of where we are from.
I invite you all to adopt the state of mind that we, the people all over the U.S., Canada and elsewhere, who love to dance, play music and sing, are all CDSS. We do the important local work. Some of us do the important work of organizing events. And all of us contribute mightily by our participation. CDSS wouldn’t exist without the interest and participation of so many people.
CDSS is very important to me. I’m proud to be a member, proud to have made my own financial contribution to support the anniversary fund drive, and I’ll be part of celebratory activities later this year. Please join me and participate in your own way and own time in celebration of CDSS’s Centennial.
photo of Brad Foster by Marty Stock