WHAT IS A FAMILY DANCE?
My dances are inspired by traditional American social dance. They are quintessentially American: Everyone in the dance is equally important, and the spirit of cooperation and dancing together as a community is paramount.
The dances are easy and enjoyable for all generations to dance together.
It is NOT a performance! The dancers and their interaction with each other to the live music is the focus.
All dances are done with a partner, in sets of 5 – 25 couples, in various formations, and are all “called,” or “prompted” by Henry Chapin
The dances are simple. They are chosen from a vast array of traditional and contemporary American country dances, square dances, contradances, African-American play party games, ring shouts, New Orleans-style jump, swing jazz sets, English and European traditional country dances.
Henry plans a program of dances appropriate to the group, that combines into a simple yet rich mélange.
All generations will enjoy themselves together at one of Henry Chapin’s Family Dances, with music by the Carnegie Hill Band.
THERE IS ALWAYS LIVE MUSIC
It depends how many musicians:
There has to be a fiddler, to provide melody and rhythm for dancers. This is Henry Chapin, solo, Itinerant Dance Master.
Add a pianist, to fill out rhythm and harmony.
It makes a fuller sound to add another melody instrument, such as a wind player – pennywhistle, flute, clarinet, saxophone.
How about a guitar or accordian player?
Add a bass player, to drive the dancers’ feet from the bottom.
By this time, the band is big enough to include a drummer, and then you have a real, live, dance band!
SO, if you would like to book a dance, consider the number of musicians to engage. More musicians make a fuller, more layered sound, and the dancers will have a richer experience:
ONE: Henry Chapin, solo, Itinerant Dance Master
TWO: Fiddle and piano, with Henry calling
THREE: Another melody player? Another rhythm player?
FOUR: Add bass
FIVE: Add drums
DANCERS JOIN THE DANCE IN PAIRS CALLED “PARTNERS”
Most of these social dances are done with a partner, but there are dances for three people.
In some dances, called “Mixers,” you change partners during the dance.
At Carnegie Hill Family dances you can be partners with anyone you want to – Mom, Dad, your best friend, a teacher.
Dances are modified to be as gender-free as possible
No one ever has to ask someone to dance. For example, boys never are required to pick a girl to be partners
HENRY CHAPIN TELLS THE DANCERS JUST WHAT TO DO
Dances are kept simple, and for good reason. Everyone should enjoy themselves, no one need be frustrated by overly fancy steps or dance figures. Those can come later, if desired!
Many dances are done in the “Reel” formation: two lines of dancers facing each other, with your “partner” across from you in the other line. This is the form of the Virginia Reel, or the dance in Fezziwig’s ballroom in Chares Dicken’s “A Christmas Carol.”
Other dances are done in various kinds of big circles: One great big circle with no partners, a big circle with partners, or the Circassian Circle of partners facing another pair. This is the form for the Southern style Big Circle or Running set.
Of course we do Square Dances – indeed, many people tend to refer to my dances as “Square Dances – in the Quadrille formation first found in 18th century Europe. For a group of novice dancers, who might not think they know what to do, the “Square Dance” can be, at first, overly complicated to establish, so I tend not to call squares until dancers feel comfortable with the basic ground rules of this kind of social dance.