BACDS American Dance and Music Week,
July 3-10, 2010
BACDS American Dance and Music Week, July 3-10, 2010

Staff Biographies

Contras and Squares

Scott Higgs (PA)

began dancing in 1975 and started teaching soon thereafter (when the knowledgeable dancers graduated!). For over 20 years he has traveled the country (25 states and 5 foreign countries) calling for contras and English Country dances. Dancers characterize Scott’s contras as “high-energy ” and “swingy.” His English dance programs span the spectrum from exuberant to elegant.

In the 1980’s, Scott joined forces with local International dancers to found a special series of Couple Dance Playshops, featuring minimal teaching and lots of dancing. More recently, Scott has composed dozens of dances, served on the CDSS National Board, and as President of the Germantown Country Dancers. His booklet of dance compositions sold out two printings in the late 1990’s. In recent years, Scott has led weeklong workshops at Pinewoods, Buffalo Gap, Mendocino, Lady of the Lake, and Mainewoods Camps, and has called at countless weekends and festivals across the country.

Over the last five years, Scott has led several weeklong workshops on dance leadership. In addition to feedback and practice in teaching and calling, participants explored a wide range of issues including: How to develop dance programs; How to teach more than the geography of a dance; and How to balance teaching with recreation.

Scott has also kept busy as a program director for CDSS, organizing Dance Weeks at Pinewoods and Buffalo Gap. These programs draw up to 140 dancers and musicians, who savor magical music and dance in a beautiful setting.

Cis Hinkle (GA)

has delighted contra and square dancers since 1985 with her skilled teaching, welcoming manner, playful enthusiasm, and masterful selection of dances. She is in great demand at music and dance festivals all over the US, England, and Denmark, and is currently coordinator for Dance Week at the Augusta Heritage Workshops in Elkins, West Virginia. When not on the road, Cis teaches T’ai Chi classes in her native Atlanta, Georgia.

Gaye Fifer (VA)

is an accomplished contra caller from Charlottesville, Virginia who calls contra dances throughout the USA and Canada. An active dancer herself, she understands the subtleties of making contra dances particularly satisfying for dancers. A teacher by profession, her instructions are clear and concise. An easy smile and delightful sense of humor are part of her relaxed, pleasant style at the microphone.

Gaye is also an enthusiastic advocate and instructor of contra-style waltz. She believes that waltzing is not just about fancy moves and twirls, but primarily about connecting with both the music and your partner. In her engaging and entertaining manner, she focuses upon the nuances of timely leading and following. Her waltz workshops are enjoyable, remarkably effective, often leaving dancers with a deeper appreciation of this graceful dance.

Couple Dancing

Matthew Duveneck (ME)

grew up dancing. He started waltzing when he was in his mother’s womb, clogging when he was eight, and Morris dancing when he was 13. As a grown-up, Matthew finds a fine balance between his latest passions for Argentine tango and his profession in forest fire ecology.

During the last ten years he has focused much of his creative energy on couple dancing. Initially finding Argentine tango in Missoula, Montana, in 2000 with Martha Jane Newby, he attended his first tango festival in Buenos Aires in 2002. Subsequently, he furthered his studies at Estudio Tango in Hadley, Massachusetts, with Kenny Hobart and continues to attend workshops and work on his dance in the greater Boston area. Matthew can be found skimming the floors at tango milongas in Maine, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Boston, Montreal, New York, and beyond.

Matthew believes that tango comes from five connections. His classes emphasize the connection to music, the connection to the floor, and the connections to partner, to self, and to community.

During the last few years he has taught dance at the Stanford Waltz Week (CA), Bates College (ME), Pinewoods Dance Camp (MA), John C. Campbell Folk School (NC), Augusta Dance Camp (WV), and Timber Ridge Dance Camp (WV). He is gladly welcomed back on staff at Mendocino for his second year.

Anna Gilbert (ME)

a professional designer for more than eleven years, lives in Portland, Maine. She believes that creativity is a kindness best shared with others. From childhood, Anna’s passion for connectedness both within herself and with others has fueled her artistic endeavors and explorations. Her “can do” spirit is highlighted in her dance instruction encouraging individuals to honor and enjoy their dance at all levels with a focus on kindness.

Teaching with dancing partner Matthew Duveneck is a pure delight and an incredible privilege. Just three years ago, her passion for Argentine Tango took her to Buenos Aires where she studied with many wonderful teachers and discovered the roots of a dance that seems to branch out into endless directions. This is what she finds so appealing! She continues to travel, to dance and attend workshops and private lessons with masters across the country–knowing that we are all beginners for life, remembering that each creative attempt colors the world around us.

The Avant Gardeners

Laura Light (VA)

has been fiddling for dances, festivals, and celebrations for 30 years. Her repertoire includes southern old time, New England, Scandinavian, Cape Breton, Quebecois, Irish, and swing tunes, as well as her own compositions.

George Paul (VA)

of the Avant Gardeners, has been playing and misplaying the piano since he was three years old. He cut his teeth in honky tonks and juke joints, dodging beer bottles and fights in country bars. He somehow learned to play straight from the heart and discovered that music is a medium of emotion absorbed through the soul. He writes the same way.

Jubal Creech (NC)

percussionist, storyteller and Avant Gardener, is a sought-after studio musician and favorite at music camps. Jubal has studied many traditional rhythms, dances and rich oral traditions of cultures from The Pan-African Diaspora. In addition to performing and recording, Jubal dedicates time to educational programs in public schools, summer camps and programs for underprivileged and at-risk youth, in both rural and urban settings. As a well-traveled, well-studied, energetic and encouraging instructor, Jubal has found the community-based drum circle network an exciting place to experience the spirit of collaboration through rhythm and has had the opportunity to work with a wide variety of people while sharing his love of the drum. In addition, Jubal is a massage therapist and energetic body worker currently exploring the healing powers of rhythm, sound, music and storytelling.

Alice and Al White (VA)

Alice grew up in Hindman Kentucky where her father was the director of the Hindman Settlement School. Folk dance was a major source of recreation on the settlement campus, thus Alice and her family were involved in dancing and playing for dancing from an early age. Alice's folklorist grandmother, Bicky McLain, was one of the founders of Berea College‘s Christmas Country Dance School, which was the first dance week in America, and Alice has been a participant and/or staff person her whole life there. As a teenager, Alice began touring with her family‘s bluegrass band, The McLain Family Band. The group performed full-time for about twenty years before ending in 1989. Alice has been a first grade school teacher since 1992. After retiring as professional musicians, Alice and Al have been focusing mostly on dance music.

Growing up in southeastern New Mexico, Al began playing mandolin and guitar at an early age. By his second year of college, he was heavily involved in bluegrass music, playing with the Big River Boys in Albuquerque. Al moved on to Louisville, Kentucky in 1975 to join the professional bluegrass band, The Bluegrass Alliance. He met Alice soon afterwards and they were married in 1977. Al joined Alice playing with The McLain Family Band and playing on staff for Christmas School that same year. They continue to play Christmas School and have been on staff at Pinewoods Dance Camp, Buffalo Gap Dance week, Kentucky Summer Dance School, Cumberland Dance Week, and Hindman Folk Week. Al began teaching “Appalachian Instruments” at Berea College in 1999, and now leads a student bluegrass band and a countrydance band there as well.

Alice and Al founded the Berea Castoffs in the early 90‘s to play for the newly formed contra dance series in Berea. The group recorded its first CD in 2000 entitled, “Folk Buddha‘s Path to Enlightenment”. The group regularly plays Berea, Lexington, Cincinnati and Louisville contra dances but has also performed in Nashville, Gatlinburg and Ann Arbor, MI. Alice and Al teamed with Charlie Pilzer to play at New Mexico‘s Folk MADness Music and Dance Camp in 2008.

The Figments

Anna Patton (VT)

Anna Patton plays dance tunes on the clarinet with great verve, clarity and harmonic whim. Besides Contra and English dance tunes, her repertoire includes Balkan dance tunes, Brazilian choros and early jazz. Based in Brattleboro, VT, she has spent much of her young life on tour around the U.S. and abroad, singing and playing for dancers, concert goers and pedestrians. Currently, she works with bands such as Elixir, the Figments, and Housetop. She also leads a swing harmony singing ensemble at the VT Jazz Center.

Ethan Hazzard-Watkins (VT)

Fiddler Ethan Hazzard-Watkins performs traditional and original music with infectious energy, passion and grace. His fiery, lyrical fiddling fuses elements of Irish, French Canadian and New England styles, along with influences from swing, blues and classical music. Based in Brattleboro, VT, Ethan tours extensively with the bands Elixir, the Figments, and others. Ethan spent much of last year working to get young people involved in dance and music as Youth Projects Intern for the Country Dance and Song Society.

Owen Morrison (VA)

a second-generation dancer and musician. His fluid guitar playing is influenced by styles as diverse as bluegrass, swing, classical and flamenco but is firmly rooted in traditional dance music. Since graduating from Guilford College in 2006 with a degree in classical guitar performance, Owen has traveled the country playing for dances, camps, festivals and concerts with groups such as Elixir, Airdance, Night Watch and The Figments.


Stuart Kenney (MA)

one of the most in-demand upright bass and banjo players on the contra dance circuit, mixes New England music with Cajun Blues. His musicianship and creativity underlie his up-close and personal teaching style.


Given Harrison (CA),

is a versatile musician (bass, guitar, mandolin) from Carlsbad, CA, who has been playing music on various stages since 1974. Currently a member of three bluegrass bands: Highway 76, The Tail Draggers, and Superstrings, he also plays in the old-time contra dance band, The Remnants, for the San Diego contra dance community. A devoted old-car nut and sailing enthusiast, he is a staunch and reliably mischievous camp instigator.


Marty Brenneis (CA)

a valued “gizmo guy,” was a rock-n-roll sound engineer in a former life. It wasn’t long after he started contra dancing that he began twiddling the knobs on the soundboards for dances … and he hasn’t stopped yet.

Simple Pleasures Catering

Tod Nysether (CA)

and wonder of ‘Simple Pleasures Catering,’ loves to cook good food and it shows. Folks have been known to engage in plate-licking, chortling and cavorting after one of his fine repasts.

A great balance of comedy, practicality and vision.

– Richard Crease, Everett, WA

The Scenic Mendocino Woodlands