Category Archives: squarevolution
In 2008, my pal invited me to go to a square dance that was happening at an art gallery in Los Angeles. Michael Ismerio called the dance and Triple Chicken Foot played. I hadn’t square danced since childhood and didn’t know what Old Time music was, but by the evening’s end, I was hooked! Michael’s charisma and teaching style, along with the rip roaring tunes of the band won me over. I saw how the dancing and music could bring all types of people together in a personal way. Because of that night, I became a square dance die-hard, eventually learning to call. I met Bob Dalsemer at Dare to Be Square West in Seattle and that’s how I found out about the Folk School. And now everything has come full circle because just last week Michael came to the Folk School to teach fiddle, call a dance and play the concert.
Michael taught old time fiddle at the Folk School and capped off the week with treating us to a Friday Night Concert on March 8th 2013. What a wonderful night filled with old time tunes, ballads, and fiddlin’! Here is a sample snippet from a wonderful evening. The tune is “Chased Old Satan (Starry Crown)” with Michael on fiddle, Géraud on bass, Annie Fain on banjo, and Sandy on guitar.
Hey everyone! My visit in Los Angeles is coming to a close (sad face). It went so fast, but alas, it is time to head back to North Carolina to finish up my folk studies. Please join me for a square dance this Saturday, December 3rd at HM157 starting at 8:00pm. I would love to see you! xoxo c
Exactly one week from today I will be back in Los Angeles for the first time in 9 months!!
Come celebrate with me on Saturday night with a roaring square dance at the American Legion Hall. Susan and I are calling the dances and Triple Chicken Foot is playing the tunes. I am so excited to come back to LA and I’d love to see everybody.
Cheers…. Cory Marie
November 5th – Doors at 8pm – $10
American Legion Hall Post
206227 N. Ave. 55
Los Angeles, CA 90042
I am now going to tell you about one of the most amazing gifts I’ve ever received.
I didn’t know what marquetry was until I came to the folk school, so I will let wikipedia enlighten you as to what it is in case you are in the same state I was.
Marquetry, according to wikipedia, is “the art and craft of applying pieces of veneer to a structure to form decorative patterns, designs or pictures. The technique may be applied to case furniture or even seat furniture, to decorative small objects with smooth, veneerable surfaces or to free-standing pictorial panels appreciated in their own right.” It is basically taking pieces of different color wood, cutting them into shapes, and inlaying them into a larger piece.
Leah took a marquetry class right after we took Bob Dalsemer’s dance calling class together. She decided her project would be not one, but two, identical boxes to hold calling cards: one for me and one for her. The image she chose was a photo of the two of us swinging at a dance in the community room:
I helped her to draw us as shapes in Adobe Illustrator and she took the printout to the woodworking studio and made wood magic. She made the most incredible boxes for us to hold our blossoming dance card collections. It was one of the most touching gifts anyone has ever given me… she freaking inlayed us in wood! How cool is that?
Thank you Leah! I will cherish my box forever.
Of course I had to get creative and put on my thinking cap to do something uber special for Leah. For her going away gift I made dividers and an assortment of custom made dance card for her. Here is an example of one of the cards:
Back in April, Erin Crabb (of work study session 1) met me in Riner, Virginia for a Dare To Be Square (DTBSQ) weekend. The workshops and dances were held at a beautiful farm with a dance barn; everyone camped out by the pond. It was exciting and thrilling driving to a new state, to a new place, to people I had never met, to dance old time square dances. The DTBSQ community is amazing!
Dare To Be Square is a community of people across the nation who want to preserve old time square dancing. Anyone who has the passion to organize a DTBSQ event can; events have taken place in both the South and the Pacific Northwest. Veteran caller, Phil Jamison wrote an article in the late 80s for the Old Time Herald that explains the sentiment behind Dare To Be Square and has inspired this movement. The folk school has a DTBSQ event scheduled in November.
Dare To Be Square is what directly led me to the John C. Campbell Folk School. I went to Dare To Be Square: West! in Seattle back in December 2009. Bob Dalsemer (the folk school’s Coordinator of Music and Dance Programs) was one of the guest callers and main teacher of the event. I saw in his bio that he taught at the folk school, investigated the school, was amazed, and when I asked him about it, he encouraged me to apply for work study. And voila! Here I am! Thanks Bob for the recommendation!
Driving from Galax to Riner was so gorgeous. The sun was setting and the farms and hills were pastoral with golden light and billowy clouds. I arrived at the farm right as it was getting dark and immediately ran into Erin eating hummus and carrots in the parking lot. After our joyous initial reunion, we set up our tent by the pond and went to the dance barn where the first dance was kicking off.
The old red barn had been decorated with white lights, wreaths, and sweeping gauzy fabric; it was transformed into the perfect spring dance barn. The square dance was so wonderful, the music was jumping and the dances were so frenetic and fun! We danced from 9AM until the wee hours of the morning. There were campfires, jams, sing-a-longs, pot lucks, hammocks, good brew, clogging, and the great people. Good times!
The official callers of the weekend were Phil Jamison, Michael Ismerio, and Will Mentor. They took turns running the day time workshops and calling the evening dances. On Saturday evening we all had a sit down discussion about square dance history which evolved into a discussion about the difference between “dance communities” and “community dances.” This really struck a chord with me.
The difference is that community dances are for a community, inclusive of everyone regardless of whether or not you know how to dance. The dances are simple and fun and the night is as much about socializing as it is about dancing. It’s about bringing a community together and could even be thought of as community organizing.
Dance communities are communities that require attendees to know dances or moves; the dances might be intimidating to most newbies. These folks come together for the dancing and it can be more advanced and exclusive. The dancing brings them together, not the fact that they are part of a non-dance community.
The improv tribal bellydance community I belong to is definitely a dance community. There is a secret language that you must learn to be able to dance as a group with others. It is exclusive and troupes are like clubs. (BTW, I am referring to exclusive in the sense that you have to learn how to do the moves in order to join in, not exclusive in the sense that people are excluded based on anything other than basic knowledge. The bellydance community is of course very accepting of all types of people).
I was once talking to Amy Sigil of Unmata about square dancing. She asked me if I was ever interested in writing a formated dance vocabulary, like ITS, for square dancing. It hit me like a ton of bricks because there already exists a formated vocabulary for square dancing (Callerlab) and that is exactly what I don’t want to do.
I don’t want to have exclusive dances where you have to take classes and learn the moves to be able to go to the dances. I want to have square dances where anyone can walk in the door and dance to live music. It’s interesting that the very thing I love about belly dance, is what I dislike about square dancing. My different needs are met by the different groups. It might also have to do with the fact that belly dance is mostly performative and square dance is a social dance. As a caller, I love to bring folks together who would never normally dance. Even if it is just holding hands and walking around in a circle; to me, this is ultimately success! Connecting people in a basic face-to-face way is what thrills me about square dancing.
Here are two videos I took. This one is from Friday night. Micheal Ismerio is calling an Appalachian style scatter dance:
Here is Phil Jamison calling “Birdie in the Cage” during a workshop. Since this DTBSQ weekend I have called both this dance and the scatter dance:
Thanks to all the organizers, musicians, dancers, hosts, callers, and teachers of DTBSQ! It was truly a magical event!
I was driving down a side highway in Texas and we spotted this incredible WANDERLODGE. I love the logo and the design of the wander shuttle, so you can imagine my excitement when the outline of square dancers appeared to us in the form of a decal from the back window. Go Wanderlodge Square Dancers!
Fall is here and the weather is finally cooling off. I’ve been wearing sweaters, roasting vegetables, and my tea consumption is up; the wind is putting a lil skip in my step. I love it! In celebration of the season, I bring you two gatherings this week, one little and one big….
The more intimate of the gatherings is tonight [Thursday November 11th] at the Hyperion Tavern, a charming/rustic/elegant/old timey neighborhood bar in Silverlake which I am sure many of you have been to. The lovely Ms. Angel invited me to put together a playlist of old timey, country, & folk music to play between 10pm-12am. If you want to hang out and have some cider and listen to some good music, come on down and join me.
The Hyperion Tavern is at 1941 Hyperion Ave Silverlake, CA 90027 down the street from the Silverlake Trader Joes.
The big event is the Fall Square Dance Social at HM157 this Saturday evening [November 13th] at 8pm. Triple Chicken Foot brings you the old time tunes and I will be calling the dances. We have quite a treat: Tom Rodwell, a fabulous blues guitarist from England by way of New Zealand, will be enchanting us with a dance intermission set & fortune teller, Madame Pamita will be onhand to look into your past present and future by way of the tarot. Two very special birthdays are also happening at the dance, so come on by to wish burgeoning dance caller Julia Catfriend Wells & EPTB superstar Megan Hobza a merry birthday!
Doors are at 7:30 / Dance starts at 8pm and ends around the midnight hour.
HM157 is at 3110 N. Broadway Ave. in Lincoln Heights. Park on the street and BYOB and treats to share if you desire.
much love… xo cory marie
I was interviewed by Laura Herberg from the NPR web show, State of the Reunion, about calling square dances. The show featured a video segment about Old Time music in Los Angeles, which I will also post below.
Taking the Old Time Torch
By Laura Herberg
Our recent “Sounds of the Re:Union” episode features the old time music and square dance scene in LA. In the episode, one of the people we hear from is Susan Michaels. Susan’s been calling at LA square dances for decades. She also helps to keep the old time tradition in LA alive by teaching a new generation how to call.
One of her mentees, Cory Marie Podielski, has been calling for a little more than a year. We asked Cory some questions about how and why she participates in the LA Old Time scene. Here’s what she had to say:
SOTRU: What appealed to you about being a square dance caller?
CP: When you see live bands, especially in LA, typically no one dances. Everyone just stands in a crowd perfectly still, staring. It has always driven me CRAZY. When it comes to dancing in public, I think that many people are just shy, but they come off as “too cool for school.” It’s all about taking that first courageous plunge to start dancing first, the “I might look really stupid doing this and yes I might annoy people around me” plunge. Once someone breaks that barrier other people feel inclined to dance too – it’s like a domino effect.
Well with square dancing, you are the oddball out if you are not dancing! And the caller is there telling you it’s okay to dance: total encouragement. I like telling people that it is okay to dance. I think the only bad thing about calling is that I can’t dance.
SOTRU: How did you learn to call?
CP: The Los Angeles Old Time Social, which happens in May every year, has lots of free workshops. One of the workshops in 2008 was a calling workshop led by Susan Michaels, I decided to take it for fun. Susan and I hit if off in the workshop and she encouraged me to pursue calling. I am really lucky to have her as my mentor; Susan is a total treasure. It wasn’t until she took me under her wing that I really began to learn what it means to be a caller. After she helped me get on my feet, I found that the best way to learn is by going to the dances and listening to other callers.
[dress on Cory by Ruth Podielski]
SOTRU: What do you enjoy about calling?
CP: You tell people what to do and then they listen! If I tell everyone to jump up and down, they most likely will. The sheer power is intoxicating! Just kidding… er…. kind of. Honestly, I enjoy working with the musicians and facilitating an atmosphere for people to dance. I especially love calling dances for folks who are new to dancing or don’t know what to expect.
SOTRU: Can you tell us about some of the events that you’ve called at?
CP: Calling square dances takes me to places where I would never normally go, and I love that. I’ve called dances at harvest festivals, art galleries, bars, street fairs, hilltops, traffic islands, house parties, rodeos, wineries, drag clubs, baby showers, etc. The place that we have thrown dances most consistently is at HM157, an artist collective in Lincoln Heights dedicated to community, sustainability, & education. The spirit of what we are doing and what they are doing jives really wonderfully, so it has been the perfect place for our dance scene to take root and grow.
SOTRU: Why do you think people are getting into the Old Time scene in LA?
CP: In general, there seems to be a return to simple activities to create community in urban settings, like craft parties, organized bicycle rides, or adult kickball leagues for example. Our old time square dances are a music and dance version of this – it’s non-competitive, not driven by formality or etiquette. It’s experimental, chaotic, revolutionary! But mostly it is just a good time and lots of fun.
SOTRU: You also design some of the posters for the LA Old Time square dances. Can you tell us about some of them and why you designed them the way you did?
I love poster design, so creating graphics for the square dances gives me a space to go wild creatively. I find inspiration from letterpress, old sheet music, and circus posters, film stills, Art Noveau & Art Deco, the list goes on and on. I like mixing the new with the old, creating a fusion and an updated look on the past. Which is precisely what we are doing with the square dances, adapting an art form of the past to fit our culture in contemporary Los Angeles. We aren’t re-enacting the past, we are taking the traditions of the past and making them our own.
For more on the Los Angeles Old Time scene visit the blog, www.oldtimeisagoodtime.com. Watch our Sounds of the Re:Union episode, Old Time in Los Angeles below:
Look folks! My first iMovie project … It’s from the Summer Dance at HM157. Big thanks to Heather Shoopman, who captured all the footage. xo c