The Genesee Valley Council on the Arts invites you to our Annual Round and Square Dance on Saturday, May 6, 2023, from 7:00-10:00 p.m. The dance will be held at York Central School elementary gym, 2578 Genesee St., Retsof. Music and calling will be provided by Kelly’s Old Timers and members of the Geneseo String Band led by SUNY Geneseo Professor, Jim Kimball. Admission is $5 Adults, $3 Spectators, 18 & under free—all ages are welcome at this family-friendly event.
If you’ve never been to a square dance, you can come early at 6:30 p.m. and learn the basic steps. No special clothing or prior knowledge is required—beyond knowing one’s left from one’s right! The dance is truly a fun evening for all ages, and a great opportunity to enjoy a longtime local tradition. Refreshments will be available.
We welcome a new caller to the dance this year, local musician, Elise Kelly. Elise has received a 2023 Apprenticeship grant in square dance calling from the New York State Council on the Arts, administered by the Arts Council for Wyoming County. Folk and Traditional Arts Apprenticeships comprise an area of support from the Council, where individuals can devote dedicated time to study with master folk artists from their own community. As described in the guidelines, “Folk arts traditionally are transmitted from elders to younger generations in the same distinctive ethnic, regional, occupational, or religious community. Where the chain of transmission is no longer as strong as it once was, apprenticeships can stimulate the continuity of these traditional arts.”
The Kelly family of Perry Center has long been a part of the regional music scene, providing music for dances, concerts, parties, anniversaries, and countless other public and private events for four generations. Kelly’s Old Timers was formed in 1950 by “Woody” Kelly (accordion and calling) and brother, Roger Kelly (guitar), and has been performing continuously for nearly 75 years. The band currently includes Doug Kelly (bass and calling), Eric Kelly (keyboards and vocals), Elise Kelly (bass), Guy Macaluso (trumpet and guitar), and Tom Kwiecien (drums).
Elise will study with both Doug and Eric throughout the year, gradually adding to her repertory of dances, with the goal of learning enough calls to supply an entire evening of dancing. She is getting “real time” practice at this and other dances, and a celebratory event will take place in the fall.
Elise is excited to continue as the fifth generation of her family in this community tradition, feeling that “it’s the perfect time to pick it up.” With degrees in Music and Education, she loves the idea incorporating simple instruction into dances, to help teach and show the moves. As an educator for special needs preschool children, she sees many connections with nonverbal and imitative learning that is important for that population, as well as for many age groups and abilities. Elise is looking forward to building more connections with younger generations through groups like 4-H, schools, and scouting, and utilizing social media to promote dancing and dance events.
Also a long-standing ensemble in the valley, the Geneseo String Band was formed in 1976 at SUNY Geneseo by Jim Kimball, playing traditional American fiddle, dance and vocal music. For more than 40 years the student group (and some alumni and townspeople) has played for countless on and off-campus events, performing for receptions, clubs, dances, concerts, local churches, historical societies, camps and schools. Much of their music comes from the Genesee Valley region, documented and recorded from old time players by Jim Kimball. Many of Kimball’s recordings have been recently digitized and can be viewed and heard at https://knightscholar.geneseo.edu/kimball.
This event is made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the NYS Legislature.