Summer Assembly 2015June 27, 2015By Maxine LouieOn Saturday, June 27, Toronto English Country Dance Assembly sponsored the first multi English Country Dance get together in southern Ontario. Altogether there were 9 callers who came, from Spencerville in the east to Guelph in the west. The original invitation extended to London, Owen Sound and parts further south, a 2 hr driving radius from Toronto.Despite horrendously unsummer–like weather, we had a good turnout of dancers and callers. Those who came were treated to a delicious refreshment of strawberry shortcake, using Ontario strawberries in their prime, real whipped cream, and home made biscuits.The idea of the Assembly came out of seeing the international folk dancers getting together a few times a year, with several clubs getting together for a meal and dance. I had also been to dances in Rochester where several local and out of country (ie Canada) callers each called a dance. This project stemmed from my project concocted at Puttin’on the Dance in March, 2015 in Ottawa.
Marianne’s DanceApril 17, 2015Maxine LouieToronto English Country Dance Assembly (TECDA) has been dancing Friday nights over the last 3-4 years, gradually growing into a vibrant community of enthusiastic dancers. In the winter of 2014, Marianne van Ooijen, one of our dancers who is a retired but very active professional costumer, said she wanted to celebrate her 55 years in Canada with a Regency dance, and that she would sew 10 new dresses and some vests, for dancers who did not have Jane Austen style dance outfit. We thought this exceedingly generous on her part, and came up with a plan to have the recipients of the outfits to donate towards the dress up dance, as well as charging a nominal fee to cover costs.Over the next 6 months, she sewed 12 dresses and 8 vests, all individually fitted and none the same. On April 17, Marianne’s Dance was held at our dance hall at Ralph Thornton Centre, a neo classical building designed in 1913 as a post office and now a City of Toronto community centre. Marianne’s guests included family, dancers from other dance organizations who Marianne befriended prior to joining TECDA, as well as our own group. Cathy Campbell called. Live music provided by Kevin Budd and Daev Clysdale. Marianne’s ally in costumes, Sarah Boutillier, offered her photography services, Peggy W. organized the dining experience, and many other volunteers helped make the evening run smoothly.We hope to make this an annual event. If you happen to be in Toronto on a Friday night, please come dance with us.
A Tropical English Country Dance Vacation Maxine LouieFor those who are just getting into the swing of English country dancing, there are weekend dances, and there are week long dances where one can dance ECD every day 7 days in a row. On Jan. 27, 2015 I flew the very early American Airline flight to Miami, and from there to St. Croix, US Virgin Islands for a tropical dance vacation, located at Sugar Beach, just outside of Christiansted. George Marshall organizes these vacations, with contra dancing every year, and ECD every other year. About 80 dancers, mostly from the US, with me from Toronto, Mirzda from Hamilton, and Gary and Heather from London, Ontario, along with 15 support staff, attended this year. These dances started about 24 years ago, according to our roommates from the Philidelphia area , and they have come to almost all of them. I attended the ECD week 4 years ago, and was astonished to find that over 70% of dancers are repeat attendees.At Sugar Beach, a huge outdoor pavilion, with very danceable sprung wood flooring, topped with a huge blue awning . open on the sides to allow the ocean breezes to waft though, is set up by the staff a week before the dance starts.This year the callers were Bruce Hamilton and Brad Foster, with music by Bare Necessities. Daily morning ECD classes from 9 to 10:15 with lots of tips on fine tuning the dances, start the day. There are many activities to fill the rest of the day, including snorkeling at the nearby tire reef, reading on the beach or airy balconies, walking the beach and over to the Princess Estates, a visit to town to shop (and where the dancers go wild over the cool dance dresses, skirts and shirts at Island Tribe and other stores). One can also choose to visit Buck Island Underwater National Park on a snorkelling trip (with equipment and lessons), a guided bike tour on the other side of the island (not too hot as the ocean breezes make one very comfortable), guided island tours, visits to the aviary rehab centre, and even gourmet Crucan cooking lessons. There are guided kayak tours along Salt River, the site of Columbus landing in the New World in the 1490’s, as well as night time bioluminescent water tours (when not too windy).This photo is from our bike tour, at the site of a sea turtle nesting beach.There are numerous snorkelling sites on the island, Cane Bay being one that I visited this year, athough the tire reef near Sugar Beach has a great assortment of fishes, manta rays, barracudas and octopus.Dinners are included nightly, with excellent food from local restaurants, and with amazing post dance snacks (both healthy, sweet, savory and sinful). Evening dances are from 7:30 to 10:30, and never a repeated dance. It is lovely to walk up to the pavilion, lit up in the dark field. The dance culture is that partners are changed after every dance, so ample opportunity to dance with almost everyone.The vision as one walks up to the pavilion. The night skies, the temperature are all wonderful, considering the frigid temperatures and snows back home.Beginning of the evening dance.Brad Foster with Bare Necessities.There are also extracurricular activities: yoga every morning, 2 sessions of 8 couple squares, gospel sing on Sunday morning, and I led a daily Qigong (Chinese exercise routine) session .My Qigong class in assorted poses.Our accommodations were beach side, and it was very relaxing to fall asleep with the ocean sounds and breezes, and to have coffee with the palm trees just beyond the patio.My view with my morning coffee. And yes, that is a hammock just outside.All in all, a great vacation, with a good variety of activities , great dances, great dancers, great music and great calling.Regarding the dances we did, I think we will receive a list in the near future, but we did do The Introduction, Terpsichorante, Juice of Barley, Newcastle, and many more. In 2016, there will be an ECD week in Hawaii, March 8-15, and then a repeat year in 2017 with first an ECD week, followed by a contra week.About 27 of the dancers stayed for both weeks this year.
In November 2011, I went with Cathy Campbell to Rochester for Thanksgiving Contra Dance. On Sunday, we attended the Rochester ECD, which we thoroughly enjoyed. On the way back, we all lamented the fact that really, one only danced once a month in Toronto, and that we didn’t dance the level of ECD that we found elsewhere. Wouldn’t it be great if we had a weekly dance, where we could build on our dance skills.Cathy Campbell offered to do the calling, but we didn’t have a hall to dance in. Eventually, I offered my living and dining room on Friday nights starting in March 2012. Hence, our first name was Toronto Friday Night English Country Dance. It was fun having a house party, but it was not spacious enough. We danced outdoors in the summer at Withrow Park mostly, but it was always iffy weather wise.In October 2012, Bob Tarjan found and secured us a spot at Ralph Thornton Centre, where we have grown from groups of 8-10 to 20-30. We have been very fortunate to have this lovely space year round.-- Maxine