Local Heroes

Welcome to the CDSS celebration of "Local Heroes!" These are people who quietly *make things happen* for everyone else. And we want to give every community in our dance/music/song universe the opportunity to recognize and thank them, publicly, with joyful gratitude. Scroll down to read the wonderful stories and testimonies that have been coming in from all over the place - the locations of the local heroes are shown in the map on the right. Click here for a larger version of the map

We hope you're inspired to recognize someone in your own community. Share a story about your own local hero here!

Linda and Ron NiemanLocal Heroes: Linda and Ron Nieman

Where do I start? Our Phoenix dance community would not exist without these two - and their many friends. These two established this community over 30 years ago and have been the heart and soul of the community as well as the brains behind the operations. Their influence has reached to all parts of Arizona and beyond, indefatigably fighting to keep old time dance and music alive and well in this state.

Barbara DanielLocal Hero: Barbara Daniel

Barbara began coming to the dances around 2008. Soon after she began helping at the admissions table and joined the board. Her warm smile, vivacious personality, strong work ethic, and remarkable conversation skills helped revitalize the Phoenix dance community. As a board member, her indomitable spirit and high ethics make her invaluable as treasurer (2010-present). While collecting admissions, and speaking to people in the community, Barbara's passion for supporting and growing our contradance community translates readily into new and renewed memberships, returning dancers, and an eagerness to bring one's friends to the next dance.

DC Square Dance CollectiveLocal Hero: DC Square Dance Collective

It started at a house party where they literally rolled back the rug and had a square dance. Then they decided to move it to a historic church in a rising part of downtown Washington, DC and publicize it through email and social media. Four years later, the DC Square Dance has become a legendary event. More or less kind of every month, the DC Square Dance Collective volunteers show up on a Saturday night, move a bunch of heavy wooden pews, set up recycled jar water glasses, and open up the hall to anywhere from 200 to 600 dancers, most of whom have never square danced, or at least not since middle school.

Catie Condran GeistLocal Hero: Catie Condran Geist

Catie found out about Scottish Country Dancing in 1980 and fell in love with the dancing and music. She eventually received her Teacher's Certificate from the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society (RSCDS) in 1989 and has been organizing and teaching SCD in Melbourne for 35 years!

In 1981, she found International Folk Dancing and was especially drawn to the English country dances that were part of the repertoire. She established a separate English country dance group in Melbourne that has been ongoing for 15 years and she is still the primary caller. From 2002 to 2015, Catie was an organizer and one of the callers for the monthly English dance in Saint Cloud, Florida and the annual Mayfair Ball. The Sharpes Assembly ECD weekend in Sebring, Florida has been organized by Catie since 2006.

FaeFuerstLocal Hero: Fae Fuerst

Fae Fuerst is an accomplished organizer, a super-enthusiastic dancer and a wit. She is treasured by many for her contributions and for her vast memory of dances and tunes. In experience she is, in my opinion, lightyears ahead of most dancers in many ways. She challenges us, she corrects callers at times (her wit shines) and she has a great deal of support for what she is doing, from local dancers and many others. Our ECD community finds the advanced English dance that she runs to be of the highest quality in the state, and it occasionally draws dancers from around the country.

HalBreidenbachLocal Hero: Hal Breidenbach

Hal's the high ladder man, the guy who climbs the intimidating 24 foot ladder to change light bulbs in fixtures hanging in the rarified upper air of Concourse Hall, an Ann Arbor dance space owned by Ann Arbor Community for Traditional Music and Dance. We locals reduce the sixteen tongue-twisting syllables of the group name to two syllables in the acronym AACT-MAD—"act mad" sometimes, but certainly not always a name that suits us.

Six years ago Hal made wooden clips and hung 22 quilts high on the walls of our hall, and three times each year he clambers up and down that same mighty ladder to change hall decorations from winter snowflakes, to spring/summer lanterns, to fall banners.

RobertMesserLocal Hero: Robert Messer

Robert Messer is always a kind, gracious and happy contributor to the community of country dance. In many ways he has given of himself to make the experience of dancing both sensible and fun. He has mentored many dancers and callers. He has been on the board of the Ann Arbor Community for Traditional Music and Dance (AACTMAD) and serves as the AACTMAD Membership Committee. He humorously calls himself the "Esteemed Registrar" of the annual Ann Arbor Dawn Dance Weekend.

Debby KnightLocal Hero: Debby Knight

Roaring Jelly, a "community" contra dance band that has been playing together in the Boston area since 1970, has been lucky to have Debby Knight as its musical director for longer than anyone can remember. (17 years) Debby has nurtured many new musicians, bringing her enthusiasm, encouragement and superb musicianship to the group. As a result, Roaring Jelly has greatly improved the quality of its ensemble playing and greatly expanded its repertoire. But more than that, Debby is always encouraging players to go beyond their assumed limits and work together on new and challenging tunes.

KathyFoxLocal Hero: Kathy Fox

You only have one chance to make a first impression. My first contra dance was called by Kathy Fox. I had a great time, so there was a second dance for me, a third, and more.... If it wasn't for Kathy, my wife and I would not know the joy of contra. That makes Kathy Fox my dance her. A transplanted Vermonter, she decided that with the musicians in our little Western New York village, we could support a contra dance. And in December of 2015, that little contra dance will be celebrating 20 years of community-focused dancing. It's due to Kathy's persistence and refusal to let the dance die that it's lasted 20 years. And to me, that's what it's all about: keeping the tradition alive wherever we are. So, thank you, Kathy Fox, for keeping the tradition alive in Fredonia, New York.

ChrisRicciottiLocal Hero: Chris Ricciotti

Chris has been the inspiration and a leader for the creation and running of a healthy dance community with components in a number of places in the US. In September 1988, Chris organized a gender-free dance in Jamaica Plain, MA (JP). This turned into a regular series that continues today with two dances a month. A year later he organized a weekend dance camp. This kicked off what is now Lavender Country and Folk Dancers who hold two weekend dance camps a year and work with other groups for gender-free dance series.

JohnMcIntireLocal Hero: John McIntire


John has provided instructions for new dancers and organized community dances for many years. He is welcoming to all and encourages new callers. He keeps the memories of past callers and musicians alive.

JoanHellmannLocal Hero: Joan Hellman

It would be almost impossible to reconstruct the history of folksong and contra dance in Southeastern Michigan without asking Joan Hellmann for her memories, because she has been actively involved in so much for so long—not that she would emphasize her own efforts. There she is and there she has been for more than thirty years, taking the money at Saturday contras, doing the sound for the Family Dance on Sunday afternoon (which she also organizes) and for the Scottish ball, setting up at the Michigan Dance Heritage Weekend, running the concert stage at Dancing in the Streets, putting together house concerts.

StanFowlerLocal Hero: Stan Fowler

Dancers far and wide have heard of the Glen Echo Ballroom, home to Washington, DC's massive dance scene. They might not know, however, that Glen Echo might never have happened without Stan Fowler. Stan was the one who saw the Ballroom's potential, largely unused in the early 1980's. At a time when dances were held in church basements with concrete floors and school multipurpose rooms, Stan saw the opportunity in the Ballroom for the growing DC dance scene. Stan helped the local dance organizers come together and collaborate among themselves and with the National Park Service for its use.

JamiePlattLocal Hero: Jamie Platt

1. Taught/led a weekly international folk dance class since 1983.
2. Did sound for thousands of local dances, folk festivals, dance weekends, and concerts for the past 25 years.
3. Organized World Village Music and Dance Weekend for the past 20 years.
4. Served 2 terms as Folklore Society of Greater Washington (FSGW) President, two terms as Dance Chair, and two other years on the FSGW Board.
5. Started and ran the FSGW family dance for its first ten years.
6. Organized the Dance Potpourri program at Glen Echo Park for two years.

DebComlyLocal Hero: Deb Comly

Deb organized the contra dance in Flagstaff and Cottonwood, AZ successfully for years. She also organized an annual weekend contra in Clarkdale, AZ. She is a first class, nationally known caller. We dancers owe her and her associates many kudos.

DebKarlLocal Hero: Deb Karl

Our Boston Country Dance Society has just celebrated 100 years of dancing. My mother, Marjorie Laufman, danced with Louise Chapin in 1932, and I had the pleasure of also dancing with Louise, herself an early dance leader and local hero. We have had many local heroes over the years.

Our present local hero is Deb Karl, who has been on the job for 10 years. She tells me that without her trusty, hard-working helpers – Lise Foss, Roger Cleghorn and Christine Robb – her job could not be done so wonderfully well.

Connie RobinetteLocal Hero: Connie Robinette

Connie has been a stalwart of the contra dance and folk music scene in the SC midlands for several decades. She has served as an officer and as meeting host for ContraCola (Columbia Traditional Music and Dance) for a very long time. She continues to serve ContraCola as a board member and community outreach/publicity facilitator to this day.

JeannieGilbertLocal Hero: Jeannie Gilbert

Jeannie Gilbert is a local hero in the world of English dance. She is committed to keeping both English Country Dance and Morris Dance alive in Winnipeg. Jeannie began as an English Country Dancer in the 80's and soon took up Morris dancing too. It wasn't long before she was Squire of the Morris side and she has continued as the chief dance foreman of Hell's Belles Morris, Winnipeg MB, always striving to draw out the best in us.

SusanStantonLocal Hero: Susan Stanton

Susan would not describe herself as a hero but the rest of us in Village Green know better. Since the late 1970s Susan has been an integral part of our organization. She has served in many capacities on the executive, has taught weekly classes and has spear headed many special projects. As a member of the teaching group Sue was responsible for developing an instructional video of ECD (long before the days of digital cameras) and was the driving force behind the publication of an Instructional manual.

DanPearlLocal Hero: Dan Pearl

Outside of the Boston area, Dan Pearl is known as a caller of contra and square dance. But closer to home, Dan has also served the dance community for more than 30 years, taking care of the behind-the-scenes jobs that keep several of our dance organizations thriving. His roles for the New England Folk Festival Association have ranged from chairing several of the festival committees to helping found and chair the Thursday Night Dance Committee which hosts the Boston area's most successful weekly dance. Every Thursday, Dan is still the first one to arrive, the last one to leave, often setting up and running the sound system, taking care of the finances, and dealing with sensitive issues that occasionally arise in dance communities.

CarolineMcDowellLocal Hero: Caroline McDowell

Caroline McDowell is definitely a Local Hero to the Village Green English Country Dancers here in Winnipeg. She is an Honourary Life Member of the group, and although she has moved away from Winnipeg, her influence on the group is not forgotten.

With her amazing enthusiasm, dedication and hard work in all aspects of her involvement, Caroline made an enormous contribution to Village Green. She held a number of official positions with the Board of Management for several years, and she also danced in our dem teams for many years.

PeterBakerLocal Hero: Peter Baker

Peter Baker has been a long-time organizer/chair of Ann Arbor's Dawn Dance Weekend committee. Further, he was the founder and also a long-time organizer of our annual free Dancing In the Streets event where we draw from the locals, students in this university town, as well as the vast number of international folks living here. Peter has been highly involved in our Pittsfield Grange-venue dances.

LynnNoelLocal Hero: Lynn Noel

Lynn Noel is an Instigator -- she has lit more fires under more traditional music events in the Boston area than anyone I know. She's a mentor and coach to young performers. She's a personal kickstarter and guide for older performers. I applaud her spirit of "Well, why don't we?" that she applies to every opportunity to create traditional music community.

KarenHaffnerLocal Hero: Karen Haffner

My sister Karen has been involved as a volunteer and Board Member of the South Shore Folk Music Club in Kingston, MA for over 30 years, but her involvement in community music goes much deeper than that.

For the past 26 years she has brought folk and traditional music to Rockland in an annual coffeehouse to raise money for the town food pantry -- raising at least $1200-$1500 a year for 26 years, and also bringing the music she loves to the town she loves.

Steve SuhringLocal Hero: Steve Suhring

For the past 30 years (give or take...) Steve Suhring has been the lead fiddle for the best little dance in Williamsburg, VA, known around here as the "FOAM Dance." FOAM stands for "Friends of Appalachian Music." But for almost half that time, 14+ years now, Steve has also donated his time (he refuses compensation...) to what has become known as the "Open Band eXperience," or OBeX.

DianneFredLocal Heroes: Dianne Britton and Fred Druseikis

Dianne and Fred are Directors for the ContraCola (Columbia Traditional Music and Dance) organization in Columbia, SC, and have been pillars of this community for many years. They are both accomplished musicians that bring us joy at many dances. Dianne plays several instruments including the fiddle and the dulcimer, while Fred tickles the keys on the piano. They both serve the community in various capacities including managing the group's website and helping with finances. Their experience and enthusiasm have been key in helping grow our dance group over the years.

MargueriteFrongilloLocal Hero: Marguerite Frongillo

Marguerite is the personification of the Dancing Spirit. She loves Contra dances and any type of traditional, regional dances from around the world. She is a current member of the ContraCola (Columbia Traditional Music and Dance) Board of Directors and the organizations Vice-President; she also books all bands and callers! Her enthusiasm goes beyond the regular Contra dances; during the week she holds free classes at her house to share the beauty of dancing from many countries.

KennyGreerLocal Hero: Kenny Greer

Kenny Greer is a great, fun caller that resides in Conway, SC. For some time he ran a Contra dancing organization in the Myrtle Beach area of South Carolina. He is a member of the ContraCola (Columbia Traditional Music and Dance) Board of Directors.

Kenny not only promotes Contra dancing throughout the state, but he also helps train new callers. He regularly runs caller workshops to help new callers get started, and he shares the stage whenever possible. When Kenny is calling you know the dance will be great fun! And when you need help, you can count on Kenny to be there.

VirginiaWinnLocal Hero: Virginia Winn

Virginia Winn is the heart of the Contra dancing community in Columbia, SC. She currently serves as a Director and Treasurer for ContraCola (Columbia Traditional Music and Dance). Among the many things Virginia does we can count setting up the dance hall and tearing things down at the end of each dance, collecting money, publishing a newsletter, helping with demo dances, and the list goes on and on.

Bruce BotelhoLocal Hero: Bruce Botelho

Juneau, the capital of Alaska, has a population of about 30,000.

Our latitude provides winter dark that lasts eight long months before this Land of the Midnight Sun gets its incredible summer light back. Juneau musicians and dancers don't mind. Long dark evenings have helped create an amazing dance and music scene for a town our size. We don't brood, pull the covers over our heads and hibernate until spring, no, no, no. We get together with friends and family to dance and sing and play. And I'd like to publicly applaud one Big Reason why this is so.