Article Details

Bill Heyman April 27, 2002

Bob Brundage – I’d like you to meet Mr. Bill Heyman a very successful businessman and a very successful entrepreneur of square dancing and we’ll learn more about that as time goes along. So, Bill tell me, well let’s say where you were born and brought up and a little bit about life before square dancing.

 

BH – Sure. Thanks very much, Bob. I’m certainly pleased to be interviewed. Ah, born in 1940, middle-class family, Jersey City, New Jersey ah, second generation American and ah, very, very lucky to have wonderful parents who lived a long, long time they ah, my mother in fact is still alive. Ah, we were raised, as I said in Jersey City, New Jersey and relatively shortly thereafter as everybody knows the war broke out and my Dad along with millions of others volunteered to go into the Army and that began what turned out to be basically  a six year saga for everybody and during the wartime years we ah, lived first in Jersey City, then in we lived in Dothan, Alabama following my Dad -                      

 

BB – Ah ha

 

BH – then we went to Petersburg, Virginia for a brief period of time, then Dad headed to parts unknown because he wasn’t allowed to tell us where he went –

 

BB – Huh

 

BH – turned out he went to Washington State and then on to Hawaii and he became a training officer on Hawaii and actually spent, interestingly enough most of the war in Hawaii and was as with many hundreds of thousands of others an invasionary force going into Japan and he returned to us in 1946 and at that time we moved to Bloomfield, New Jersey, a very small, residential town outside of Newark, New Jersey and during the earliest years when Dad was away the way the women, mother supported us was, among other things, she was a waterfront counselor but again, the reason I mention it is it was at that camp that of course I became interested in square dancing.

 

BB – OK

 

BH – When I was three, four and five years old I was at a camp that had a relatively heavy square and folk dancing content at that time and it becomes germane because in 1952 I was twelve years old – that was the summer camp I chose to go back to and I spent the whole summer, at the age of twelve, square dancing.

 

BB – Ah ha. There you go.

 

BH – That was really – I only mention this because that’s actually how square dancing got into my blood and I’ve always been a musical kind of guy like dancing in general and that was my initial contact with square dancing and to say that summer actually changed my life is an understatement.

 

BB – Right. Well, how’s your memory, Bill? Do you have any idea who was calling that summer camp?

 

BH – No, I was really too young –

 

BB – Oh sure

 

BH – The only title of a song that I can remember  is “Road To The Isles”.

 

BB – Is that right?

 

BH – Yeah, it was one title that stuck in my mind – I had no reason why ah -

 

BB – Well, that’s a round dance of course –

 

BH – Yeah, I know but we do that in both folk and square of course.

 

BB – Well that’s great. So, following that experience then you must have been searching out other places to square dance or did that come later?

 

BH – Actually it didn’t – it’s sort of interesting because from that point when I was twelve until many, many years later when I was living in Europe I really didn’t square dance not one, not a single time.

 

BB – I see

 

BH – Graduated high school from Bloomfield, went to college, flunked out of college, worked in a factory, went into the army, etc. and I spent a year and a half in Europe and still didn’t discover square dancing – that was fifty nine and sixty one when square dancing was really big in Europe - didn’t bump into there even though I was in the military – it just sort of never happened -

 

BB – Yeah

 

BH – Then I came back, finished college, finished graduate school and then a few years later ended up being sent back to Europe for Chemical Bank, a major American bank and ah, what happened was I was in Vienna for five years, Frankfort for three, still didn’t bump into square dancing – I arrived in Zurich, Switzerland as general manager of the branch and there was an American square dance club in Zurich, Switzerland.

 

BB – OK

 

BH – And that was when – that was my reentry into the club, it was called Swiss Squares. It was taught by Walt and Vicki Cooley from Walnut Creek, California – still friends of ours and the club was basically about fifty percent ex-patriots like myself,

Americans who were working overseas, the rest were Swiss, Austrian, Dutch, a few other nationalities mixed in there.

 

BB – Right

 

BH – and I started square dancing in I believe early seventy, late seventy seven then shortly thereafter, six months later I expressed my interest in calling and coaching in calling started in seventy eight.

 

BB – Well, good. OK, and so, these folks were sort of your mentors and were responsible for your basic training so to speak.

 

BH – Those were – I started at Mainstream – it was sort of ironic – at one point the caller would announce, “You have just finished the Extended Basic List” -

 

BB – Laughs

 

BH -  and I turned to Peggy and I said, “What’s an Extended Basic?” I had no idea of the structure – I had no idea of the depth of the structure from Callerlab. It was for obvious reasons it was just like most of us square dancers in the world it’s a local club,

we were looking for social interaction, the dance was wonderful, the music was terrific, Walt and Vickie were absolutely charming and lovely –

 

BB – Yeah

 

BH – and we blended right in to that club and ah, teaching then was actually quite slow. I ended up rotating back to the states about nine months later and we described ourselves as Mainstream minus six.

 

BB – Laughs

 

BH – We hadn’t quite finished the Mainstream list.

 

BB – Yeah. Right. OK. Well, so did you start actively calling over there – get your own club or anything like that?

 

BH – Not quite. When I was in Switzerland my job was quite demanding but I really didn’t have the skill level to do it then and then in back in eighty about two months before I rotated back to the states, so that would be maybe February or March of seventy nine I was invited to call for the square dance club in Basel, Switzerland and I had to be in the United States at the time and who lived and I flew back early –

 

BB - Laughs

 

BH - came back and called my first square dance

 

BB – There you go

 

BH – It was quite picturesque. It was on the ground floor of a barn – it was absolute horrid middle of winter. It was absolutely freezing. Everybody was square dancing in parkas and I actually had to wear a glove on my mic hand so that my hand wouldn’t stick to the microphone.

 

BB - Yeah 

 

BH – Fortunately when the dance ended there was a nice warm living room to which we could retreat.

 

BB – Laughs

 

BH – But ah, that was my first calling experience. Then I came back to the states in January of Eighty and ah, in ah, I think it was August of Eighty I was at a local club in New Jersey and John Kaltenthaler

 

BB – Yeah

 

BH – who knew everybody – who was the regular caller there and I had already known John from being in the callers association at that time and he came up to me at the beginning of the dance and said,” I’m sorry, you can’t call here because this club doesn’t allow guest tips”. So I said, “Not a problem, I know – that will be fine”. About four minutes later he came to me, he said, “You’re doing the next tip -

 

BB – Laughs

 

BH - this is your audition for the class,

 

BB – Ah ha

 

BH - to teach the class”. So I called my, other than the Basel Club, this was my first tip I had called in the United States and it was through that tip that I ended up becoming the teacher and In September actually started teaching that class – that was my first Mainstream class.

 

BB – That’s great. Well, I couldn’t help think when you mentioned you had to fly back to call your first dance, you became a traveling caller before you were a caller. Laughs

 

BH – In a manner of speaking. Being a traveling caller was certainly not how I would describe myself as I evolved in calling. I would was definitely a local club what you would call a regional caller to a certain extent bit I was your classic club caller – calling a typical program and that was at that time my busiest during that period I probably called maybe one hundred thirty five dances a year. I was also very big on the one-nighter programs – social clubs, churches,

 

BB - Right

 

BH -civic associations.

 

BB – Right, right. Well. Were there any other mentors along the way that you kind of looked up to?

 

BH – There really were, certainly my first allegiance was to Walt Cooley and Vickie, his wife because they really, really imbued in me their great spirits. Every night after our regular dance class where, by the way I taught a tip at each of those classes on instruction – on specific assignment – he was particularly very helpful in that –

 

BB – Yeah

 

BH – Crazy, nervous, cottonmouth guy, hard to understand but he was very helpful so he was really my first allegiance. Second one, when I came back John Kaltenthaler who was, although he lived in Pennsylvania he was in Northern New Jersey as well -

 

BB - Sure

 

BH – John was very, very influential in setting standards ah; I went to my first caller’s college with Ralph Trout and Cal Golden.

 

BB – Ahhh

 

BH – in nineteen eighty one or eighty two I don’t remember which one because I was a member of Callerlab by then and that was a great experience. I will never forget Cal

 

BB – Laughs

 

BH – talking, he was your promotion, promotional kind of – a sort of preacher of square dancing as everyone who knows and loved him –

 

BB – Sure, right

 

BH – and ah, at one point he was talking to the whole class about motivation – you’ve got to have the spirit and all and I asked him, I said, “Cal, don’t ask me for any more motivation, I’m over motivated already –

 

BB – Laughs

 

BH – what I need is some technical skills because I really don’t know quite what I’m doing” and he certainly worked on that with me.

 

BB – Yeah

 

BH – Another story just very briefly about Cal we had, as often happens at callers schools there was sort of a gathering in one of the rooms after the evening session – eleven thirty, twelve at night and we were swapping calling stories – I was only listening not swapping and Cal got out his notebook and started flipping pages. “Hey guys, look at this routine” and ching, ching, ching and he taught you all of these things and I of course, my eyes were wide open and my jaw was well dropped hanging on the bed and ah, after the whole session was over I said, “Boy, I’d like to come back tomorrow and take some notes because there is obviously some great material that would help me”  because I knew virtually nothing at the time and he said. “I’ll do you one better. I’ll lend you the book. You can take it to the photo copy shop and copy it” -

 

BB – There you go

 

BH – and he allowed me copy the whole book.

 

BB – Unreal. Do you still have it?

 

BH – I do. I do still have it.

 

BB – That’s got to be memorialized somewhere.

 

BH – Because I see, the irony was that here was a rank beginner with very limited skills and was really one of those guys and was long on ?? with one of the icons of square dancing graciously sharing sort of his secret notes with the youngest kid on the block. I was very touched with that.

 

BB – Great. Well, then ah, somewhere along the line you developed your own clubs?

 

BH – Yeah. What I did is that the teaching sense that I had was a grouping of three Mainstream clubs with a free ?? class as with the – as with the in addition to the three there was varying support levels from the three different clubs – voice fades out –

 

BB – OK. Well tell me about any big festivals you may have attended like local or national ones.

 

BH – Sure ah, in my years in Jersey there were maybe – tape clicks and blanks out – ninety, I finished the ninety two, ninety three teaching season – no it was the ninety one, ninety two teaching season and at the end of ninety two I knew I was going out of New Jersey probably to New England and made provision not to accept the class the next year and then ??? – that wasn’t fair.

 

BB – Right

 

BH – So ah –

 

BB – What about ah, festivals and things like that did you attend any of the Nationals or Regionals?

 

BH – Yeah, but not actually as a caller. I went to our first National with ??? – I believe that was eighty four.

 

BB – festivals you may have attended – any Nationals or any of the regional ones?

 

BH – As far as local ones we had the usual callers association or dancers associations sponsored at which I called. I was one of multiple callers I never had anything by myself in that area. Had the pleasure of doing the Grand March at one of the New Jersey State Conventions. I had one hundred and twenty squares. That was, that was the largest group of people that I ever called for, was actually, was actually called an exciting moment in my life.

 

BB – All right

 

BH – I can’t tell you how pleased I was – and again, it was most incredible. As far as the National Conventions, we started with the at the Nationals in eighty four (?) – it was in Baltimore then – coughs – Excuse Me – and we were there at that time primarily as vendors but I decided that since I was already a caller and had certain skill level I certainly could call a comfortable Mainstream so I signed up to do Mainstream calling and I did, I don’t know – three four, five ah, different calls in different time zones – minor time spots usually like, twelve-thirty in the whatever room – right in the middle of lunch hour, etc. which was frankly probably for my skill level highly appropriate.

 

BB – Right

 

BH – So I certainly had no complaints. Ah, the problem that I ended up having, I think I may have called the next year – I ended up stopping calling at the National Conventions because my obligation was really to my booth and my customers and I found that customers were coming to my booth to say hello to us – we were quite well known by then –

 

BB – Right

 

BH – and just as I was starting a nice conversation with a  customer I would have to leave because of a ?? because of a tip.  I’d say, “Oh, I’ve got to go call” and on one hand it was not very professional and the other??? I kept walking out on conversations and I wouldn’t have the luxury of calling if I didn’t keep my business alive so I made the sacrifice and we have attended every single square dance convention from eighty-four to the present –

 

BB – Is that so?

 

BH – without exception and ah, partially we have to for the businesses – for the businesses if you miss any one you are out of the convention and ah, during the, pretty much the first ten years of that I was on the Executive Committee of the National Association of Square and Round Dance Suppliers, eventually became President of the Ethics Committee Chairman for four or five years also.

 

BB – OK, this I didn’t know. That’s interesting. Ah, well we certainly can’t get away without talking about Supreme Audio -

 

BH – Um hm

 

BB – So ah, how did we get into that, ah, tell us a little bit about where you’ve been going with that and what your plans are for the future.

 

BH – Sure. Ah, we, we have a maybe a classic hobby-into-a-business story here but what we did was not that unusual but specifically in nineteen eighty- two our children had become teenagers and they were beginning to move on, Peggy was ready to go back to work, she had a Masters Degree in Psychiatric Social Work but did not want to return to the profession so I said, “Well, why don’t we turn our hobby into a business and why don’t we start a caller’s supply company”. I needed a wireless microphone, I figured if I bought four, sold three, kept one that might work – actually that was the beginning. I first purchase was eight cord microphones. I remember –

 

BB – Laughs

 

BH – the ones with the twelve volt batteries. Anybody who has owned a ?? knew, knows the problem with an expensive batteries. So, we actually started with eight cord (?) microphones and then I went to a case manufacturer and designed a case for them. I was working with a box full of records – forty-five RPM records – laid them out, I had my microphones with me and I said, “I need a case that will contain all of these records” and we designed that case. That was in nineteen eighty-two and to this day we are still selling the same case and we had to do a warranty replacement which was what we designed then turned out to be a good little product and ah, Peggy was really doing that full time and then Mike ?? was our division head, in charge of the retail branch, our branch was in lower Manhattan but with Chemical Bank, it was career-wise really time for me to bail out and my career had, at best five ??. I got out and I really went full time with Peggy in nineteen eighty-five. I’ve been working full time in the business ever since then. Once again, we started off as pure caller and cuer supply house – it was caller’s corner, cuer’s corner was how we started. Then in ah, that was eighty-two started that way, in eighty-three I guess it was ah, Jean ??

ah, back with me, excuse me Bob ?? was the owner of Supreme Audio passed away very suddenly and ?? speakers ??? ended up purchasing Supreme Audio and had it driven up by truck to, to our house in New Jersey and then in nineteen eighty-seven I bought Hanhurst’s Tape and Record Service from Don and Loretta Hanhurst ah, then in Venice, Florida but have since moved and so by nineteen eighty-seven we had become the largest supplier in the square dance industry. Also during that time we had expanded into Tap. Jazz, Ballet community because we took the variable-speed ??

 

BB – Uh huh

 

BH – turntable that they would be used in dance also so we expanded into that and shortly thereafter we went into the fitness market – again because of the variable-speed CD tape decks –

 

BB – Right

 

BH – and ah, that evolved over time and now square dancing is exactly one-third of our business and Tap, Jazz, Ballet and primarily Fitness is two-thirds ?? schools of dance, University Dance Departments on the fitness side on the ?? University Fitness Facility and we ah, sell to most of the United States Military Fitness Facilities around the world. There’s a lot of ??

 

BB – I see

 

BH – There’s a lot of ?? sound systems. Let me tell you about the wireless microphones and the systems.  Who are the fitness facilities –

 

BB – All right. This I didn’t know. That’s very interesting. I know you told me the last time I saw you at your home ah, that you were doing a considerable business with Government agencies. I didn’t realize what it entailed.

 

BH – Actually, as a single segment it is actually the most important segment other that square dancing.

 

BB – Yes

 

BH – Number two behind square dancing.

 

BB – Right, so, but you’re not actually calling any more.

 

BH – No. When I moved I stopped actively calling in – I moved in May of ninety-three – we moved up to New Hampshire where you had seen us. I stopped probably at the end of that first year. I had a few dances up there that I had booked even before I moved and then realized that with the local club situation, the local club had a caller and ah, as I said, instead of going I certainly was not going to start anything that would compete with them and since I did not have a home teaching program I really wasn’t, I wasn’t  a traveling caller to begin with and never was and certainly never wanted to become one and I really felt that without a home teaching program it was not something I could depend on realistically. So, I’m an active member of the club. I probably should do more dancing there but with pressure of family and business, like everybody else we are probably going to dance enough. But, we’ve been very supportive of the club in a number of ways. Ah, I’m also a member of the Tri-State Callers Association which is basically New Hampshire, Manchester, New Hampshire based –

 

BB – Yeah

 

BH – there is a wonderful, wonderful community of callers up there. We’re pretty active in that also.

 

BB – Yeah

 

BH – Coughs

 

BB – but you are doing, I think you still do some one-night stands.

 

BH – No. I actually stopped because of that – when I stopped I really did hang up my mic –

 

BB – I see

 

BH – so basically I haven’t been calling actively now for nine years.

 

BB – OK

 

BH – They really went hand in hand. I thought the one-night stands were a wonderful way to introduce people to square dancing. I could not give you a statistic as to how many people came out of those one-night stands and joined the activity as we know it but it was always fun to do and ah, I really,  if I would ever start again I would actually probably do exclusively one-night stands and fun nights.

 

BB – Hmm. Well, that makes sense the way the activity is going.

 

BH – Um hm

 

BB – Do you have any views on ah, I should say before I pose the question – in the other interviews I’ve always asked, “Where do you think square dancing has been and where is it now and where do you think its going?”

 

BH – Well, to ah, quote my good friend, Jim Mayo actually ?? ? alone ah, one really has to be so much ?? as to where the curve or the trends of the activity are going and realistically we can’t – we don’t have the ?? interesting to do something that is totally contrary to the curve, if you will of the activity level curve of where the society ??? being pragmatic about doing that ah, the trend that we have seen between Callerlab and the current thought is I think finally in the right direction and that is really the simplified – I have been a proponent of this for years now. I felt that the risk structure, the way they are they really forces a lot of people to move on – it is human nature to, to go, quote,  higher levels and that is popular and that’s in fact what they do and as it’s human nature that will drive people out there and I think what they have to offer is the Basic program, the old Basic program as it was simply did not work. It just did not work in that structure but I think that where we are going now at least had the beginnings of ah, common sense. One of the things that I think was very supportive spiritually and frankly, financially was the whole marketing research effort that was put on by Callerlab. Many years ago I came up with the slogan, “Excellence through Education” which was actually adopted by Callerlab at one of their conventions ??? They, they used a somewhat different version of it but I’ve always felt that ah, this square dance calling really means two fundamental things – good calling starts with good heart – I think that a good person with really good feelings and good feelings toward fellow man and ah, good education because I really feel that a good education is a cornerstone of this whole thing and, for that very reason we also sometimes tend to make public pronouncements of how I feel about things. I also back that up with money. I have been giving scholarships to caller’s schools for twelve or thirteen years now. I think we began to give in nineteen fifty-eight or fifty-nine and so far Peg and I have paid out of our own pocket and there are partial scholarships especially for three or four people each year who have ?? and ah, we also have decided that we believe strongly enough in that we have to help pay for the cost of it and ?? scholarships, there are certainly other scholarships available, especially through Callerlab and many other local callers associations and the other thing that I do is when I do seminars, I do fair amount of seminars every year at callers associations ah, and I do at least three or four a year I have never accepted a fee for that although they ?? I have always said to them, “Take the hundred or two hundred you would have paid me, put it into your scholarship fund and you’ll have an extra scholarship this year” – that’s where I would rather than see money come into my pocket. I frankly rather see ??

 

BB – Ah, that’s very interesting. Ah, what’s your opinion of modern day caller’s schools ah, maybe I should tell you a little bit of my opinion. There’s so much, so much emphasis on choreography that ah, we’re getting away from teaching people how to dance, or we have gotten away from it and ah, do you have any thoughts along that line.

 

BH – Yeah, I actually do. Ah, if I can just jump back to my Mainstream class again, I think that my whole approach to teaching and then I'll try to get back to the callers school. My approach always was teaching people to dance and having fun and I taught, not huge enough but I taught a good chunk of heritage and history in my class, I taught styling in my class, I taught an occasional contra in class, I’m not suggesting it was a major component but it was in there, sometimes to the protest of the club, as a matter of fact they protested so loudly that one year that I actually modified my contract for the following year with the specific clause in there that I, and I alone have the authority to include or exclude anything to the program I was teaching, the Callerlab program that I was teaching didn’t adhere to that. Ah, my greatest experience is ah, well ?? the Cal Golden School that I mentioned before, and then in nineteen eighty-six I ah, I went to the dull people’s John Kaltenthaler - Jim Mayo School and if I can digress I’ll just tell a short story it tells how strongly I feel about it, about education. In nineteen eighty-five there was a reconstruction project to re ah, to refurbish the Statue of Liberty –

 

BB – Um hm

 

BH – and as we all know the tens of millions of dollars raised around the country our caller’s association down there had a big dance out at Liberty State Park and we had a thousand dancers, once again purely raising money, I actually sounded the whole thing for free, I had a lot of fun with the help of a friend, Bill Anderson and ah, so we raised money for that and then for the actual rededication ceremony on that day there was a three-hour ABC television broadcast on the air and the long and short of it is that I was selected to do the broadcast and I was in front of eighty million people, Bill Heyman, Liberty Square Dance Caller and so forth.

 

BB – Yeah, there you go

 

BH -  The reason I tell the story is we, that being at that dance caused me to be a day late for my caller’s college.

 

BB – Laughs

 

BH – So I went from, ??? program from a national television appearance –

 

BB – Yeah

 

BH – representing square dancing for eighty million people with two hundred twenty of my square dance friends down on the floor and a couple of them up on the stage with me, sitting on the fifty yard line at Giants Stadium, I went from that to being a day late and I tried to sneak into the caller’s college, coming in the side door and that was very unsuccessful especially where they put the whole stage, they put the whole arrangement so that the side door was right in front of where the instructors were sitting –

 

BB – Laughs

 

BH – and I said to Peggy, “Let’s try to sneak in quietly so that ?? and, needless to say as I walked in, I thought I had made it, we got half way to the back, sure, there I was – and, of course I got a standing ovation - I got a standing ovation with a little bit of crying –

 

BB – There you go

 

BH – My point of telling you this, that I went from the National chance to go to caller’s college to learn more about calling.

 

BB – Yeah

 

BH – At a point prior to that I was actually hired, Bill Peters as a one-on-one coach, we spent all day we spent six hours working and then I took him to my class that evening, I called the worst square dance of my life –

 

BB – Laughs

 

BH – it was dreadful, the class took two and a half hours, the critique took three hours.

 

BB – Yeah

 

BH – so it was really dreadful. Ah, but coming back to the key point of caller’s colleges, the one college with which I was most ?? was the Johnston-Brundage in Massachusetts which is now, as you well know run by ah, Randy Page and Mike Jacobs.

 

BB – Right

 

BH – And I’ve been presenting at that school for five years, five or six now, I’ve been in a position ?? I generally do digital music and equipment, general use of equipment and all that. Based on the curriculum at that school and I believe this is true back to it’s earlier days, that school goes toward a much wider ah, curriculum than just the just the quick jerk method, it’s clear that the choreography dominates all of the callers schools but they do include a fair amount of other things in there which had always pleased me. The other thing that they have which I know has been done every year, they have a lot of new callers coming through each year –

 

BB – Um hm

 

BH – so they have their core staff and then they have one, two or three callers which have been joining them for just a year and I always found that attractive because they have the steadiness of the people who are running the school with the freshness of other callers coming through and I think that it has brought in ?? other activities and what’s going on, different recruiting methodology and all that sort – I think my raw feeling is the school is, of the schools I’m familiar with is doing a better job probably ah, than some of the other schools ah, but we also in fact promote schools through our newsletter to our subscribers, that’s ?? service, subscribers ah, we included promotions for about six schools this year and also on dosado.com and because of that we have schools listed on there, we have a primary – we have really the only page in the world that has all of the schools with actual correct contact information and dates –

 

BB – Hmm

 

BH – it’s all on one page and there’s a link right from the very front page that people looking for callers schools, it’s right there and at the bottom the scholarship information, it’s got the Callerlab web site and their scholarship page ?? scholarship ??

 

BB – Well, I’m glad you brought up the web page because ah, that’s certainly a very ambitious and a very comprehensive ah, endeavor and I’m constantly amazed every time I click on to it I see something new and I’m sure I haven’t been through the whole thing yet but ah, it’s quite a, a very ambitious endeavor and a tremendous contribution to the activity –

 

BH – Thank you

 

BB – Ah, have you any thought s about the ah, so called CDP program, ah Community Dance Program per se. I’m talking about the ah, this is a very limited program of what, I think twenty-five basics are proposed and so forth. Do you see any future for that type of program?

 

BH – Well, as I understand it what was the Community Dance Program has, seems to have been modified, there’s a CCP now which is the Committee for Community Dance and all that and that. I think, I think one of the, I don’t want to say it’s a problem ah, the inclusion of a very heavy contra, let me put it this way a very heavy inclusion of dancing other than what we call Modern Western Square Dancing. I think actually, this is just one man’s opinion might have defused a possibility of that being successful  in our community only because the population in our community, the caller population in our community are relatively few people who have the interest and perhaps also the skills to, to professionally offer that diverse a program -

 

BB – True

 

BH – and ah, you know in a real, in a real solid manner – I know there, there are people, you know the Bob Howells and the Jerry Helts ?? we all know the names of people, Cal Campbell obviously has written a lot of the literature on it ah, but that is a very limited, I think a limited teaching population and I think we can even on the marketing side I think they have some, some, some ah, ah, issues there what, what I think where a few are headed and I believe if I understand it correctly is that it will be basically a pure square dance program, that doesn’t mean without any contras but not just not as a ah, high content as I believe has been in the past and to get people doing more fun night type squares in other words without this long, long teaching obligation and without the long term commitment to, you know, if you don’t go one week you’re going to be falling behind and you’ll never get back into dancing. That is a ah, that is ?? and then you have to comment on the multi cycle theory because I am, I am a big proponent, I’ve never done it ?? teaching ?? I attended at this last Callerlab Convention the multi cycle session, very good, there were eighty people in the room, it was a terrific session and I had a lot of promotion of that on the web site too, an article written by Nasser Shukyr and Mike Seastrom and a couple of others where, wherever this program has been seriously pursued success has happened.

 

BB – Um hm

 

BH – But I know of no serious effort at multi cycle where it failed. I know of a lot of failures including New Hampshire where they started it, tried it maybe for one session or they tried the January session where people showed up and they quit and ah, Chris Pinkam is and exception up in New Hampshire. He has a session he’s virtually ?? –

 

BB – Um hmm

 

BH – it’s just any incredible success story and I think that this kind of – I’ll call it ten-week cycle and repeated the program is very clearly emphasized at this past session at Callerlab last week was ‘Taylor it to fit your need’. It doesn’t have to be ten weeks and it’s not an absolutely firm list where you can only go from one to twenty-four or twenty-eight or thirty names on the list but rather to really challenge the needs of the area – if you’re in an agricultural area or an urban area or suburban area there are obviously different calendars which is not to mention weather issues – the availability of air conditioned halls, heated halls and so forth that those areas that have done it are being successful and it’s pretty clear to me out of those groups that not all those people are going to go on to what we now know as the club activity and that is still a terrific idea. Several of the people that are in the multi cycle room said, “ What’s happening is they are having what is like a Phase One, Phase Two, Phase Three and in this case until this closes, the people are staying in there and just continue to do that. Phase One, maybe they’ll do Phase One twice then go to Phase Two –

 

BB – Um hmm

 

BH – then they’ll move on to Phase Three but they’ll continue on, with – stay back, you know voluntarily put themselves back or recycle back and ah, it seems like they’re having more success than any other of the starting programs at this point so ah, that is where I would see the greatest progress there is for propagating the activity that we like. Once again, the Modern Western segment of it rather than the full traditional ?? I came out of the traditional side for the years from nineteen seventy-nine to probably eighty-nine or ninety. My wife and I and our three children went to Pine Woods Camp to the Country Dance and Song Society Family Weekend and danced to the ?? Dancers, contras and squares for eight or nine or ten years with our children every summer for a week –

 

BB – Um hmm

 

BH – so I probably have really more time on that dance floor, back in the fifties, back in the forties and fifties, I probably have more time in the traditional and I have great respect for both the traditional groups but I am pretty well ensconced in the ah, Modern Western side of the world.

 

BB – That’s interesting. I was on staff at Pine Woods for a few years – way back – a tremendous program of course, all live music and – do you see any future for live music?

 

BH – Ah, I really don’t. I really don’t. Ah, the only place we see it right now – coughs – excuse me, that ah, that I see live music is in the really in the pure traditional dance community. Ah, they are opposed to recorded music and ?? you know? Quite frankly, if you can afford them, a quality dance band. That’s wonderful and I, and I am ?? and I am the first one to say, “ If you can afford a dance band absolutely have it”. ?? a dance band I do remember and it’s ah, almost romantic and emotional, I remember, if you know the C Sharp Hall, it was the widest hall at Pine Woods, it was raised up on stilts maybe six or eight feet off the ground – it is probably ah, maybe one hundred and twenty feet long by maybe sixty, eighty feet –

 

BB – Um hmm

 

BH – deep, the stage is on the long side so that, so that there’s great projection in it, it’s sort of like a folded horn speaker however the sound comes out of the dance, the band shell and literally covers the dance floor –

 

BB – Right

 

BH – and, as you know that is a very sandy area and, despite the best efforts to keep sand off the dance floor, there was always some sand on it, you change your shoes coming on to the dance floor but still sand gets on it and I, when I would come to the dance a little bit late and they were already dancing the most wonderful thing is as you are  far away from – just sort of walking through the woods – as we approach, obviously the music gets louder but the most interesting, interesting thing is really was the back beat, the shuffling of the back beat because of that room –boom, chuck-a-boom, chuck-a-boom. Well, coming to that dance hall the floor acts as a percussion instrument –

 

BB – Right

 

BH – so that you have a hundred or two hundred people dancing only to the beat of the music and, I mean nobody was off beat because square dancing is the key to that kind of dancing, as we all know and it’s one of the many reasons we all love it and you have a fellow here who is dancing in slippers or dancing shoes and shh –n- shh and as they pull back on the floor the sand is a little bit gritty and it’s almost like a percussive instrument and that really is wonderful because it adds to, it’s puts sort of a ah, a little bit of a snare drum effect if you will on the band and the bands up there are really a wild event – they have trombones and clarinets and everything else – some wonderful things – the piano often was one of the driving instruments in the band which, I have no idea a piano was a dance band ?? have no casual about it ?? again, danced to Bob up in New England a couple of times and, when you have that piano of Peter Barnes, a pianist – was a friend of Bob Dalsemers, a close friend of ours and ah, when you get that kind of piano driving the music because it really is a base and a melody instrument –

 

BB – Right, right

 

BH – that is a wonderful gotta, gotta dance music and was, that was actually one of my, one of my couple of fondest memories of the, coming to the dance hall a little bit late and hearing that music coming out of the ??

 

BB – Right. Well, Pappy Shaw was a big advocate of getting people to dance with the music and that’s the way he taught it –

 

BH – Um hmm

 

BB – he’d start people dancing and lift the needle and all you’d hear was the shush -

 

BH – Yeah

 

BB – and I ah, I carried on that tradition when I started teaching classes back in Connecticut ah, but today you don’t - nobody has the time to teach square dancing that way  -

 

BH – Um hmm

 

BB – and ah, we were very repetitive – I remember when we used to – the night we taught Ladies Chain we did it as a visiting couple -

 

BH – Um hmm

 

BB – and Ladies Chain, Ladies Chain all night, Ladies Chain, Ladies Chain period and today’s dancers never, never fathom trying to get through a figure that way but, they knew how to do a Ladies Chain when they got through.

 

BH – You brought up a interesting comment because you implied in there that changing partners if you will –

 

BB – Yeah

 

BH – and it’s, it’s one of the differences between how we have embraced Modern Western Square Dancing today and the traditional standard is, at least today in traditional dancing, I don’t know if it’s always that way, I expect it was – we change partners every set of music, every tip except the first and the last when you dance with the one you brung and that’s the way I’ve always danced at dance camp, certainly that was the standard at Pinewoods – you, you were frowned upon if you hung on to your sweetheart all night – you had to share on the dance floor but, of course the calls were ??, Bob McQuillan wrote with Randy Miller on a wonderful mellow violin ah, fiddle and it was quite an emotional experience ah, you danced the first and last with the one you brung and between that you changed partners every tip and that was the standard, that was accepted. In Modern Western dancing it is, with rare exceptions ?? it is rarely well accepted. One night when I was calling in Jersey I ah, spoke to the President of the club and said I’d like to do some partner change things so, he said, “ No problem at all” and this is a very cliquey club – this is like Clique City and I just called Four Ladies Chain Three-Quarters. Heads Pass Through and find another square and half the floor just turned and looked up at me and I danced the tip that way and I almost got my head taken off – there was man, he was just hopping mad and I thought, boy, he was coming at me, I could see flames just shooting out of his nostrils and I was talking to a woman and the conversation with the woman was ?? – I continued the conversation, I asked her a question ?? and I intentionally made the guy who had the flames coming out of his nose wait and he eventually just turned around and walked away -

 

BB - Laughs

 

BH – because I actually pretended – I did not want to hear what he had to say. I knew, I knew what he had to say – the speed with which he approached me –

 

BB – Yeah

 

BH – communicated all and ah, that could never hire me back –

 

BB – Yes

 

BH - ??

 

BB – Well that’s an indication of the activity of course and perhaps it’s (garbled with Bill). Yeah, but ah, of course the - I suppose part of the reason is most of the people who are square dancing Modern Western today are older people and have been (Bill coughs) for thirty years and ah, to keep changing partners is a young peoples thing –

 

BH – Um, umm

 

BB – because the contra dancers, at least in Albuquerque ah, the contra dancers there tend to be younger -

 

BH – Oh yeah, much younger

 

BB – and ah, but well that’s, that’s very interesting you’ve ah, certainly had an interesting ah, square dancing life and ah, I’m sure you plan to continue for many, many years. I wish you plenty of success with your Supreme Audio and your web page and everything else –

 

BH – Thank you very much

 

BB – It’s been a tremendous contribution to the activity – no doubt about it. Ah, anything you’d like to add?

 

BH – I, just as anybody else who is in the circle Peggy and I have a really deep love for square dancing ah, I must say, a somewhat successful career – I don’t want to make it sound bigger than it was because it is obviously it was early eighties and careers had a lot of problems then ah, but I really did leave a high paying job to do this ah, I’ve learned to live with less money, that’s my – not been a problem for us and it’s even less now that dancing is down due to the recession, of course I have a business that was forced down quite a bit ah, but ah, we continue to do the things that are important to us ah, square dancing is certainly not our only volunteer activity we’re very involved in, Board of directors, Peggy is on the Board of the New Hampshire Dance Institute –spends a lot of time in there also we’re financially supportive there of ?? dance program for kids who might not be exposed to dance. Otherwise, we’re very involved in that and I actually just joined the Colonial Theatre Board of Directors which is the local restored antique movie theatre – a typical nineteen twenties movie theatre – typical to many, many old New England and other cities of course and ninety-nine years old now and, in fact this year we had our first ?? year so we’re very involved in their programs trying to help them – we’ve also done some fund raising for the ?? Orchestra when they had a house concert so Peggy and I are not only involved in square dancing but we’re involved in other areas in the community and I just did a web site for the Town of Marlborough and I’m their webmaster – we do a lot of volunteer things, a lot of fun things – I’m on the Conservation Commission – we have about nine different activities going that keep us happy and busy.

 

BB – You’re tuned in all around New England then.

 

BH – Yeah, I am, I’m very much – as a matter of fact because of the problems – we have one hundred and sixty-five acres of woodland ah, we are in fact a certified American ?? and we do a lot of these every three to five years we do –

 

Tape ends

 

 

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Written By: Johnny Wedge
Date Posted: 1/19/2007
Number of Views: 2407

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