Sometimes you just have to delight when the Universe and the Internet collide.
Hugh, a gentleman from England, was seeking permission to “assemble a book of dances suitable for calling at English dance clubs,” and he wanted to include some American contras, in particular some of Gene Hubert’s dances. His Google search turned up a tidbit of information that Jenny Hubert, Gene’s widow, had posted a comment to my blog entry about Gene’s death. Hugh emailed me asking if this meant I had a contact address for Jenny.
I did not know that I had a contact email for Jenny until I checked the details of her comment. Lo and behold, there was an email address. Since I am a privacy advocate and did not want to give Jenny’s email address to a stranger, I forwarded Hugh’s request to Jenny, and she responded:
“Thanks for your email and your desire to protect my privacy as well. I believe Gene would be pleased for his dances to be used, as long as he is given credit. He never charged for his dances and I think he assembled and distributed the dizzy dances books at his own expense. He never made any money from writing contra dances and I believe he wanted people to have free access (callers and dancers) and to share the joy of calling and dancing with others.
Macon and I are doing well. We think of Gene daily and know he lives on in our hearts and in the spirit and joy of dancing everywhere in the world. I am so thankful to have known Gene and for him to have fathered my son. Macon has many of Gene’s physical features and he is growing up to be a delightful boy, turning 6 in November. Warm Regards, Jenny Hubert”
Jenny & Macon Hubert, 2007
Photo courtesy of Jenny Hubert
Then I told Jenny that I had accidentally found a great web link to a bunch of Gene Hubert dances. This happened when I was researching dances on Michael Dyck’s excellent web site, which I use constantly! She wrote back:
“I took a look at the link you sent me and had found the original document that is sited in the attic about two weeks ago. That document speaks to Gene’s wishes regarding use of his dances, in his own words, and I think that is a great link to cite for those who seek permission, as well as my comments, since I suppose his copyrighted work became my property, and people are seeking to do the right thing in getting permission to publish his dances. … I don’t have a problem with your putting my email address on your blog entry. The contra dance community has been a great source of support for me and Macon in the love they sent to us in thought and deed. My email address that is likely to go with me when I get a new computer is firstname.lastname@example.org Jenny”
Jenny, thanks for sharing Gene’s dances with the world. Gene lives on in our hearts and spirits and through our dancing feet. Part of Gene also lives on physically through Macon. Huzzah to you for teaching Macon to love music and dance! And to Al Gore, or whoever actually invented the Internet, muchas gracias.
Musician Appreciation by Dancers (MAD)
This article first appeared in the New Mexico Folk Music and Dance Society (FOLKMADS) newsletter, Vol. 9, Issue 6, November/December 2006. It was then picked up by the Country Dance and Song Society News, Issue 194, January/February 2007, page 12. It has been reprinted in various folk music and dance newsletters around the country.
Ideas for Dancers’ Consideration
By Merri Rudd, email@example.com
A very long time ago, a musician told me, “You are one of the few who think the musicians are important. You appreciate us.”
“Important?!” I exclaimed, “It is because of you that dance is possible.”
As a caller, I have spent a lot of time attending band practices and on stage, thinking about the role musicians have in driving the dance. The music energizes, inspires, and wallops the dancers’ senses, inciting movement, excitement and, with a little luck, magic.
In the early days of New Mexico’s FolkMADs dances, the Megaband always provided the music. In 1990 the organization began to pay bands, but those fees don?t amount to much. The reason you see band members on the stage is because they love the music and playing for lively dancers. The best reward for a dance musician is seeing, hearing, and feeling the dancers’ excitement, so don’t hold back.
Albuquerque and Santa Fe Megaband musicians have played for dances for more than 20 years free of charge. Their donation of services has allowed FolkMADS to save thousands of dollars to buy complete sound systems for both communities, host special events, and cover losses when some dances have low attendance.
So, as dancers, how can we express our appreciation for the rowdy dance music so willingly provided by the bands? How about:
1. Clap enthusiastically after each tune. Seasoned bands deserve your praise; newer bands need your encouragement.
2. LOOK at the musicians on stage. When you progress to the top of the dance line and stand out for 32 seconds until you become active, take this opportunity to admire the musicians on stage. Note which instruments they?re playing. Without distracting them too much, smile or tap your foot or clog or do whatever else will show you appreciate their rhythms and tunes.
3. If a particular tune revs you up, whoop and shout from the dance floor. Bands love the synergy that comes from knowing their tune fit a particular dance so well that the dancers couldn’t help but holler.
4. Bring the musicians homemade treats to help fuel them throughout the evening (no sticky buns or other items that will mess up their strings or fingers). You try maintaining a consistent energy and strong dance tempo for 3 hours without refreshment; they need fuel just like other fine machines.
5. If refreshments are served at a dance, let the musicians have first dibs. They’ve earned the right to “eat first.” Plus, they must be back on stage in just a few minutes.
6. If you see musicians milling about during the break, don’t be timid. Go up to them and thank them for their time and music. If you have especially enjoyed their tunes, let them know! Most musicians don’t bite and are flattered to hear from you.
7. Sometimes less-experienced or shy or quiet Megabanders find themselves in uncomfortable lead musician roles due to competing commitments of other musicians. They may be the only fiddler or guitarist for the first time in their lives with the great responsibility of leading the melody or rhythm for the entire dance. These musicians especially need you. If you observe a new musician face, a fearful face, or a face with visual cues that signal a need for help, give them extra support, encouragement, and appreciation at the end of each tune. (Do this for new dancers too!)
8. Whatever you do to express appreciation, do NOT rush onto the stage. We old-timers will always remember when a caller suggested someone might kiss the fiddler in the middle of a square dance and broke the fiddler’s bow in the process. Respect the musicians’ instruments and space.
9. Some bands have CDs; shell out the $15 to support these artists. Yes, they almost all have day jobs. But their music is a labor of love; they deserve your support.
10. At the end of the night, gather at the edge of the stage and clap prolongedly and fervently. Our dances are homemade fun and we should always remember how special that is. You’d surely thank your grandma for that great homemade pie; don’t forget to thank your local musicians for those great homemade tunes! Remember, it is because of these musicians that dancing is possible.
Email me with other ideas about how to express appreciation for our musicians, and I’ll post them on this blog. Thanks to Albuquerque musician Jane Phillips and Santa Fe musician Will McDonald for helping me with this post.
(c) 2006 Merri Rudd, All Rights Reserved, www.merridancing.com
I wish to acknowledge an UNSUNG HEROINE: Jane Phillips.
Usually she has a fiddle tucked under her chin, and you see her playing at dances with Megaband and Hey! She has served on the FOLKMADS Board and rotates off this December. She and mandolin-playing hubby Laurie host house concerts for folk musicians. And Jane is the tireless and talented web mistress for www.folkmads.org. More than 17,000 people have visited the web site in the past four years, and I personally know that many of us locals, as well as dancers nationwide who travel through New Mexico, rely on FOLKMADS’ web site for information. If you haven’t visited the site, you should. And next time you see Jane, say “thank you” for all her great work on behalf of folk music and dance in our state.