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Tony and Beth Parkes are both square dance callers and a contra dance callers. They enjoy calling all kinds of American folk dance events.
They're based in the Boston area. Most of their community dances, private parties, and corporate events take place in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, with occasional forays into Maine, Vermont, Connecticut, and Rhode Island.
Tony Parkes has called square and contra dances since 1964 for people of all ages and all levels of experience. Dancers in 35 states, Canada, and Europe have enjoyed his clear calling, excellent timing, and positive, reassuring teaching manner. He has beginners doing real dances within seconds, but can also keep experienced dancers entertained with an extra degree of challenge or elegance.
Born and raised in New York City, Tony learned to call and play piano for square dances at the Farm and Wilderness Camps in Vermont. He studied square and contra calling informally with many of the best-known callers in the Northeast, including Don Durlacher, Dick Kraus, and Ralph Page, and completed the Teaching Techniques Course in international folk dancing with Mary Ann Herman of Folk Dance House.
In 1973, Tony moved to the Boston area to be nearer the center of the New England contra dance revival. He completed the square dance calling course, with a focus on timing and phrasing, taught by Dick Leger for the New England Folk Festival Association (NEFFA). Tony has performed at every NEFFA Festival since 1969 and has served on the boards of NEFFA, the Country Dance Society (Boston Centre), and the Folk Arts Center of New England. He currently serves on NEFFA's Grants Committee.
Tony is known for his original dances in the traditional New England style. For over 20 years he appeared weekly with the band Yankee Ingenuity, which he co-founded; he recorded two albums with them, Kitchen Junket and Heatin' Up the Hall. He also played piano on two albums with the Canadian-American fiddler Gerry Robichaud.
Currently Tony runs a monthly dance in Belmont, Massachusetts, focusing on squares of all regions and eras. He also appears at local contra dance series throughout New England and is a frequent headliner at dance weeks and weekends across the United States and Canada. He has taught dancing and calling in Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, England, and Germany.
Tony's articles and publications include
- Contra Dance Calling: A Basic Text. Bedford, Massachusetts: Hands Four Productions, 2010. 300 pp. This is the first comprehensive entry-level book ever written on contra dance calling, newly revised and updated for the Internet age. Every aspect of the caller's work is dealt with clearly and thoroughly. Softcover.
- Shadrack's Delight: And other dances. Bedford, Massachusetts: Hands Four Productions, 1988. 46 pp. There are 43 original square, circle, and contra dances. Most routines are suitable for the average country dance group. Complete explanations show exactly how the steps fit the music. Softcover.
- Shadrack's Delight: And other dances (Tape). Bedford, Massachusetts: Hands Four Productions, 1988. On this tape, Tony calls each of the dances in his Shadrack's Delight book at least twice. We find that listening is more effective than reading when we're trying to learn new calls.
- Son of Shadrack: And other dances. Bedford, Massachusetts: Hands Four Productions, 1993. 48 pp. Here are 42 more square, circle, and contra dances, ranging from very easy to fairly difficult. Some are variations on older routines.
Dances Tony and Beth have taught include A Summer Stroll, Arkansas Chain, Ashoken Hello, Balance and Chain, Ben's Brilliance, Betsy's Dance, Betty Mac's Reel, Betty's Bears, California Contra, Casino Contra, Casino Polka, Chain on Both Corners, Concord March, Duck Through and Swing, Essex Quadrille, Essex Reel, Fiddleheads' Fancy, Fiddler's Surprise, Flirtation Reel, For Those Who Cared, Four Good Turns, Friday Night Fever, Gene's Genius, Gents Cross Over, Glen Echo Reel, Happily Ever After, Head Couples Separate, Here's to the Fiddler, Hey Fever, Hyperinflation, I Left My Partner, Inflation Reel, Interface Jig, July in Augusta, King's Quadrille, Knave's Quadrille, Ladies Star Turn, Last Minute Jig, Leap Year Jig, Left-Hand Star Breakdown, Legacy Reel, Malden Square, Master's Quadrille, May Day Mixer, Menotomy Reel, Meshach's March, Middlesex March, Monday Night Fever, My Life's Calling, Newbury Reel, North Shore Mixer, Ocean View Reel, On the Spot, Orono Special, Parisian Star, Pass Your Corner, Peekaboo, Quaker City Quadrille, Reel in C#, Rochester Reel, Rockport Reel, Root Camp Reel, Root Camp Reel, Separate and Do-si-do, Shadrack's Delight, Shadrack's Square, Six Pass Through, Solstice Special, Son of Shadrack, Southerners' Reel, Spirit of '76, Spring Fever, Squire's Quadrille, Star at the Sides, Star Breakdown, Starry Night, Swing Swang Swung, Syncromesh Square, The Flircle, The Great Escape, The Micro Melody, The Snowy Day, The Timorous Turkey, Tony's Back to Back, Tony's First Change, Traveler's Reel, Uncle Ralph's Reel, Watertown Jig, and Woods Hole Jig.