Welcome to the CDSS Centennial!

David Millstone, CDSS President

DHM-by-Nikki-HerbstCDSS 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!