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!

TaraBolkerLocal Hero: Tara Bolker

Hamilton, Ontario is the lucky community that celebrates Tara Bolker, Dance Queen. She is the dedicated organizer and regular caller for Hamilton English Country Dance, booking the dance space and hiring bands every Thursday. She is an enthusiastic supporter of the Hamilton Contra Dance community as well as the capable Manager/Producer of the Hamilton Open Band. She cofounded "Wolf at the Door", molly dancers out of Cambridge, Ontario.

Elizabeth GoossenLocal Hero: Elizabeth Goossen

The Village Green English Dancers recognize our Elizabeth Goossen as a local hero. We're a group of dance devotées that dates its beginning from when we performed in the Folkways Concert in the mid 1970's. She helped build the group then and she has not stopped for 40 years – dancing, teaching, composing music, choreographing dances – she never stops!

JudyEllisLocal Hero: Judy Ellis

Judy started dancing with us when she was still living and working in Southern California as a corporate secretary. When she finally retired she moved to Cayucos permanently and became an active member of our dance community. She has served as the secretary on our Board of Directors for several years, always recording the goings on at our meetings with accuracy and humor.

JohnWetzelLocal Hero: John Wetzel

John Wetzel has been a key member of the dance community in South Carolina for many years. He has been on the ContraCola (also known as Columbia Traditional Music and Dance) Board of Directors and served as its President for many, many years.  Under his leadership the organization has grown and has become stronger. John helped us weather some heavy storms in recent years. He is an avid promoter of Contra dances in our area. Additionally, he is a talented musician and a great sound person. His experience and dedication are very much appreciated!

MarthaOwenDavidLidenLocal Heroes: Martha Owen and David Liden

Martha and David have been at the heart of Brasstown's music and dance community for longer than most of us can remember. As musicians they have played for dances (often with little or no remuneration) in many different bands including Swinging On A Gate, the Dog Branch Cats and a family band with their three children, Annie Fain, Emolyn and Lindsey.

EllenRileyLocal Hero: Ellen Riley

Ellen Riley founded the San Diego English Country Dancers (SDECD) in October 2000. She is an English country enthusiast who moved to San Diego from Philadelphia in the early 1980s. In San Diego she found the outlets for fulfilling her passion to be rather wanting; she actually practiced ECD figures by spreading towels on the floors and using them as surrogate partners! Soon enough, and eager to find like-minded, flesh-and-blood beings to dance with, Ellen founded the organization, and began holding weekly dances in a studio on Oak Knolls Road in Poway.

EricEnglesLocal Hero: Eric Engles

Trying to list all of the contributions Eric Engles has made to Sierra foothills contra dancing is exhilarating—and exhausting. Plus, it's hazardous, because it's a good bet something will be left out. Eric has been contra dancing in Northern California since the 1980s. In 2001, he and his wife, Lisa Frankel, moved to Nevada County, home of the Foothill Country Dancers, a nonprofit that organizes two contra dances a month—in Nevada City and Newcastle. Eric quickly joined the FCD board and got busy building a publicity machine.

VeronicaLaneLocal Hero: Veronica Lane

Veronica started a regular Friday English Country Dance group at her house in 2012 after she put an addition on her house to accommodate such action. That in itself is awesome. Veronica and her husband, Ted have been wonderful musicians playing for many of our dances since 2002. They continue to play for the dances at many special events. And, Veronica has moved forward to calling, teaching and keeping us inspired and challenged with her excellent choices of dances and clear teaching. She has an excellent knack with calling and teaching the dances to inspire us all to be better dancers and continue to have fun.

CarolSkarstadLocal Hero: Carol Skarstad

Carol Skarstad covers every detail and problem not otherwise assigned to someone in our contra dance group. She is the unseen fixer of problems. Carol attends meetings, gets the key, answers the phone, finds musicians, instruments, or podiums, knows the schedule, has everyone's contact information or knows who does, and generally is the go-to person in Eugene. Hats off to Carol Skarstad!

StacyRoseLocal Hero: Stacy Rose

Stacy Rose makes things happen on Oregon's South Coast. She publicizes music and dance events, plays music, calls dances, dances herself, and networks with everyone. She is definitely my hero (shero?)!

LonnaWhippleLocal Hero: Lonna Whipple

Lonna Whipple brought dance to the area 19 years ago, and she continues to organize the Newcastle/Auburn Contra dance. Her incredibly sweet, can-do attitude echoes in her local music community, as well: she plays fiddle in a fine "contra-band" called Star Thistle and is actively involved in her local music jams.

TedMarthaCoughenourLocal Heroes: Ted Alcorn & Martha Coughenour

Ted and Martha bring joy and energy to every dance they go to! These two wonderful folks always come with snacks and smiles. They are happy to help newcomers during the beginners' orientation and then dance with them throughout the evening to make sure they're having fun and getting the hang of things.

TimCasonLocal Hero: Tim Cason

Tim Cason is an avid contra dancer in the State of Maine. He's the guy who shows up early to each dance to help set everything up and stays late to help put everything away. As a contra caller, I can always rely on him to participate in beginner lessons, to welcome new dancers throughout the evening, and to help events run smoothly. Any dance community should be so lucky as to have a Tim in their midst.

RobertaAllisonLocal Hero: Roberta Allison

Roberta Allison is 93 and still participates at FOOTMAD dances in Charleston, WV. We have enjoyed her sprightly steps, bright spirit and laughing eyes over the past 35 years. Roberta loves to dance and does not let her present need for walker keep her off the floor. When she gets too tired to participate she taps her foot from a chair and tells others about the joy of dance.

David ErnstLocal Hero: David Ernst

David Ernst has been a vital part of the weekly Bloomington Contra and Square dance for more than 20 years. He has done every job there is to be done at the dance: dealing with chairs, tables, cleaning up , collecting money, writing checks, setting up and hauling sound equipment, doing excellent sound tech work. He is also an excellent musician and fantastic caller, without ever bringing attention to himself.

Erik Erhardt Stellar 15 copyLocal Hero: Erik Erhardt

Everyone knows Erik Erhardt as one of the champions of our local dance community—one of our local heroes! He selflessly, and often quietly, gives his time and energy to make this community the best that it can be. Erik is a talented caller who is especially skilled at teaching beginning dancers, a valuable gift that he graciously volunteers in service of first establishing and now maintaining free-for-all-students-staff-and-faculty monthly dances on the University of New Mexico campus. His charismatic leadership, dedicated mentorship, and ever-enthusiastic endeavors to reach out and welcome the larger community have engaged younger generations more successfully than any other efforts that New Mexico Folk Music and Dance Society (FolkMADS) has made to date.

Larry Koplik copyLocal Hero: Larry Koplik

Larry Koplik is always recruiting folks to help with the weekly contra dance for Princeton Country Dancers (PCD). And he does it with a wonderful smile. He makes the dance community keep ticking even when we hit some challenges which is to be expected over a course of many years. I am grateful for Larry's time and commitment to the PCD community.

Local Hero: Tom Siess

Tom SiessTrue North Music and Dance in London, Ontario, Canada would like to nominate Tom Siess – dancer, musician, singer and organizer – as a "Local Hero." This is a significant year for Tom reaching a milestone birthday and this recognition would be the icing on the cake!

Tom has spearheaded and participated in so many dance and music activities, the list of quite dizzying. From the early days in the 1970s of the Cuckoo's Nest Folk Club and the Forest City Morris and Sword Team (both still going strong), band leader for "New Rigged Ship," performer with the London Playford Dancers, lead organizer of the London Playford Weekends for 25 years to being the driving force behind our annual "Wassail" Christmas show, Tom has enthusiastically thrown his hat into the ring.

Local Hero: Linda Clark

Linda ClarkHats off to Linda Clark, an amazing musician and band leader! Linda has been playing for the Peterborough English Country Dancers in Peterborough Ontario for the past 15 or more years. Our house band has been playing for us on a volunteer basis for most of that time, and only recently have we been able to pay them an honorarium. Despite our early lack of funds, Linda has been a loyal band leader, scouting out other talented musicians, working with our house and guest callers, and managing our ever growing music library. In addition, Linda is also keeping traditional music alive through her leadership of two folk choirs, one in Peterborough and the other in nearby Lakefield.  Our monthly dances, and occasional other social events, would not happen without her. Thank you, Linda!!

Local Hero: Lorraine Sutton

Lorraine SuttonLorraine is a true dance ambassador. She calls for many community events and loves introducing people to the joys and musical delights of traditional dance.

Lorraine has been dancing since 1975 in Manitoba and Ontario and has been an instructor of International Folk, Contra and English Country Dance. Lorraine was a co-founder of the Toronto Country Dance in 1983 which is still going strong. She continues to be an active volunteer and caller for Fiddlefern Dance in Owen Sound, Ontario. She recently introduced English Country Dance to the greater Blue Mountain community through the newly-formed Lord Grey's ECD in Clarksburg, Ontario. 

Local Hero: Dennis Wise

Dennis Wise copy6 things that make Dennis Wise of Chicago awesome.

1. Dennis is the father figure of the Chicago contra scene. He makes sure all the new-comers (and returning ones) have a way to get home and he spends the first half making sure the newbies are taken care of. If you ask Dennis to dance in the first half of the evening, his answer is usually something like "oh no, we have to make sure all the new dancers have partners! Come, let's find new dancers."

Local Hero: Mike Head

MikeHead copyEven though Mike Head has passed on to greater dance venues, his love of music and dance still pervades the Houston dance and music communities. He was one of the original musicians for the fledgling dances begun in 1980 when a couple of New Englanders (me) missed home too much. He continued the dances single-handedly for a few years (while I was busy with small children). He was among the 5 signers of the Articles of Incorporation when the Houston Area Traditional Dance Society was founded. He played with many contra bands over time, and started Contra Dan's Pick Up Band, the jam band that spawned many other groups.

Local Hero: Cameron Stewart

CamStewart copyCameron Stewart is my local hero for welcoming me to his contra dance. As a technical caller his skill is average, but as a presence, as a warm human being, he's the best. He made so many, many people feel at home, feel they could take a chance and try contra that he almost single-handedly started contra in Vancouver, BC.

He's a family man, so he made sure that people with children could bring them and not have to hire a sitter. In fact he let kids in free. The hall he found had a place where children could play out of the way of the dancers.

Local Hero: Linda Cooper

Linda CooperLinda Cooper, a founding member of Triangle Country Dancers, has done it all in her over 30 years of contra dancing. The caller, booking committee member, mentor, former Board member and president is a longtime contra dancer as well as clogger who began ballet and tap when she was 5 years old. She danced with the Apple Chill Cloggers, based in Chapel Hill, NC, for 15 years, and performed overseas in five European and South American countries.

She is an advisor to "Contra Dances with Wolves," the student contra dance group at North Carolina State University that began in 2008. One former leader of the NCSU dance group said, " Linda Cooper is awesome. She's been really helpful. She was the caller for my first dance."

Local Hero: Katy Heine

KatyHeineMy local hero is my wife, Katy Heine. Katy has been dancing in the Ithaca area since the early 1980s and has been calling since just a few years after that. She is one of the founders of Ithaca's CDSS member Hands Four Dancers of Ithaca and she's been a primary organizer of HFDI events ever since. Many people don't know that she has also written several contra dances. In recent years her repertoire has included English Country Dancing, both as dancer and caller, and she has picked up her guitar lately too.

Local Hero: Carol Compton

CarolComptonCarol Compton is a true hero of dance music in the Upper Connecticut River Valley of New Hampshire and Vermont. Her gentle and effective leadership lies behind much of our flourishing music for both Contra and English Country dancing.

Contra Dance: Carol has played piano with Northern Spy for almost 20 years. Her knowledge of traditional dance and her highly skilled, yet gentle and diplomatic leadership are invaluable....really beyond compare. Band members consider her to be the "music director" and appreciate the inspiration and joy that she brings to the table. Her efforts with the band and behind the scenes have made a significant contribution to the Northern Spy experience for the musicians, dancers and callers. Carol can be heard with Northern Spy on the 2000 Smithsonian Folkways Recording "Choose Your Partner!".

Local Hero: Catherine Burns

CatherineBurnsOn September 6, 2014, dancers in Ottawa celebrated the beginning of our 25th contra dance season, thanks in great part to Catherine Burns' volunteer efforts which have sustained, enriched and expanded the local contra dance community. As a co-founder, board member, and tireless volunteer with the Old Sod Folk Music Society and Ottawa contra dance community, Catherine has been instrumental in building a vibrant community of musicians, singers, callers and dancers.

Local Hero: David Millstone

DMillstone copyWhy is David Millstone my local hero? Let me tell you the story. I am now a 'senior' (60+) TEFL Peace Corps volunteer in Hrazdan, Armenia. I have been here now for seven months.

Before leaving for Armenia I asked David to teach me to be a dance caller. I had been attending David's dances with Northern Spy in Norwich, Vermont for a few years. After spending some time with David talking over lunch about dances and calling, I thought, "I can be a caller". With David's coaching I called my first dance at the Ralph Page Weekend in Durham, New Hampshire. My dance was Galopede. David coached me in calling a dance at a few Spy dances in Norwich and then let me follow him to all of his summer camp dances in VT and NH last summer before I left for Peace Corps in Armenia.

Local Hero: Janine Smith

smith janine copyJanine, whom I have worked with for some years now and done jobs that involved calling to everything from demanding expert dancers to inner city kids who didn't really want to be where they were, well, Janine covers it all. She prepares for every gig no matter how small and NEVER talks down to the dancers, no matter how slow or unskilled they may be.

Local Hero: Ed Wilkinson

Ed WilkinsonEd Wilkinson has been a mainstay and stalwart member of Nashville Country Dancers (weekly Contra Dance *AND* weekly English Dance) for the past 30 years. He and his wife, Melissa, run the weekly English Dance, for which they have been callers and organizers for many years. Ed is one of the scant handful who organize the weekly Contra Dance; present early to set up the sound, calling regularly and an active dancer. Ed has served continuously on the Nashville Country Dancers Board for decades, and has served repeated terms in all the elected board positions (President, Vice President, Treasurer and Secretary).  For Nashville's two annual dance weekends, he has been a major support throughout these many years. Ed is a key organizer for the autumn Nashville Music City Masquerade and the lead organizer for the spring Nashville Playford Ball.