Pandemic Panaceas: Dance It Yourself
By Robbin Marcus
Dance friends know me as a contra dance caller and dance musician. In my “real-life” professional career I’m a teacher-trainer in the Kodály methodology of music education. I’ve been a CDSS Member as long as I’ve been a Kodály teacher, since the early 1980s. Music teaching is my career, but dance has always been my passion. It’s my pleasure to give back to the dance world by serving on the CDSS Board as Chair of the Education Task Group.
Early last March, just before the pandemic shut everything down, Katy German and I presented a CDSS-related session at the Organization of American Kodály Educators (OAKE) National Conference. After our session, I had lunch with a group of my graduate students. That’s a fond memory, because we really had no idea what was just around the corner. A month later we all were teaching in front of computer screens at home.
After OAKE, Katy and I were busy revising and planning other education conference presentations to advertise our upcoming music teachers’ course at Cascade of Music & Dance Week. Alas, all of these plans were not to be. The Education Task Group (ETG) was left foundering without a clear mission, and by the summer we were searching for a way forward.
In July, Amy Christianson, one of the students I was lunching with that day in March, joined a Zoom class I was teaching. Amy said she’d been wishing that there were some dance videos available for kids to do at home, by themselves. Other teachers in the class agreed and added that they wished that existing dance videos could be modified for just one or two dancers, because trying to think those modifications through on top of everything else they were trying to rework was simply too much effort. That conversation is how the “Dance it Yourself” video series was born.
I delightedly took Amy’s idea back to the ETG and the Board, and off we went on the wild ride that has been producing the Dance it Yourself videos. I’ve been so lucky to work with six fabulous callers and a larger group of incredible musicians, but much credit for the success of the series belongs to our talented video editor, Steven Bluestein. Steven’s work has made the videos come alive, as well as look professional and unified. He’s put countless hours into helping musicians and callers through the process, and then has had the task of knitting four different segments (per video) into a unified whole. It’s been my great pleasure to work alongside Steven in producing these videos.
We have reached our funded goal of six videos (plus the introductory video.) The response has been so great that we are looking for funding to do six more!
Find the videos, along with more information about the series, at cdss.org/diy.
Robbin Marcus resides in Atlanta, Georgia and is the Director Emeritus of “Kodály at George Mason University.” She teaches piano lessons to students of all ages, is an ATI certified teacher of the Alexander Technique, and is serving on the CDSS board as a Member At Large. Robbin spent twenty-five years as an elementary music specialist. She is a well-known traditional dance leader and musician, and an advocate for accurate performance styles in the music classroom.
Part of what makes the Dance it Yourself series special is its theme song, “Y’all March,” by Dave Marcus. Dave says, “I wrote this tune at Ashokan, waiting for an after-dinner slow jam to start. David Kaynor sat down and asked me what I was playing. I told him it wasn’t really a tune yet, just some noodling in E minor. He said, “Well, let’s start the jam with it,” and it turned into a march. Afterward, the jam named it after a t-shirt I was wearing from the Southern Poverty Law Center that said “Y’all Means All.”