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Danny Hathaway

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Danny Hathaway


Information: Danny Hathaway, teacher of Irish dance.

Danny "Dani" Melvin Hathaway, ably assisted by Joan Hathaway (Welsh, a true coalminer's daughter, native speaker, primary teacher, and Danny's wife of many years), teaches and calls Irish and Celtic dances and has an international repertoire. This includes American and Canadian music and dance traditions, for example, "Old Time" dancing – squares, contras, Sicilians, big circle and couple dances, and Cape Breton steps and figures.

Danny was born in Oakland, California, to a Navy family. At an early age, Danny moved with his father Clifford and younger brother and sister, Michael and Ruth, to various Naval stations. Danny first fell into and in love with dance when hauled along to disk-dependant dances at military base teen clubs, though not yet a teen himself, where his parents volunteered as "chaperones." The Hathaway family always had music in the house or car, vinyl and eight track. Over time, Danny's father built several kit organs (who remembers Heathkit?) and tinkered on them often, playing popular music from the late 1940s to the early 1950s.

Feeling a need for independence, Danny eventually moved to Portland, Oregon. It was there where Danny "took every form of dance I could get my feet into," including ballet, modern, jazz, and ethnic, with some exhausting work in early dance, too. This is where international folk / ethnic music and dance took hold of him and gave him a good shaking. "From that first week of class I just couldn't get enough of it. I started borrowing the equipment and recordings to hold dances twice more a week–one afternoon, out of doors in a courtyard whenever possible and one evening a week indoors. I went from being the teacher's chosen partner to actually helping with the teaching, and later even taking the classes in her absence. He also began attending every international dance class and event happening in Portland and elsewhere, making regular trips by thumb and any other means to Seattle, Washington, for dance and workshop opportunities there, and beyond."

Wanting to broaden his folk dance horizons, he began traveling far and wide to catch workshops – anything within several hundred miles – sometimes hopping freight trains to such places as Missoula, Montana. Over the years, he not only learned dancing, he learned how to teach, how to call, how to feel intimate with the music and dance, and how to know and give music and dance context.

He learned from such teachers as Pece Atanasovski, Tony (Anthony) Barrand, Sunni Bloland, Shlomo Bachar, Glenn Bannerman, František Bonuš, Dennis Boxell, Tom Bozigian, Sandy Bradley, Dick Crum, Andor Czompo, Alexandru David, Mihai David, Nelda Drury, Jerry Duke, Elsie Dunin, Gretel Dunsing, Ada Dziewanowska, Basia Dziewanowska, Larry Edelman, Ya'akov Eden, John Filcich, George Fogg, Bora Gajicki, Michael Ginsburg, Joe Graziosi, Germain & Louise Hébert, Jerry Helt, Graham Hempel, Mary Ann Herman, Rickey Holden, Cammy Kaynor, David Kaynor, Martin Koenig, Atanas Kolarovski, Steve Kotansky, Steve Lane, Dudley Laufma, Jaap Leegwater, Noel Lillie, Dean & Nancy Linscott, Ahmet Lüleci, Jacek & Bozena Marek, Yves Moreau, Sonny Newman, Joe & Siobhan O'Donovan, Bora Özkök, Johnny Pappas, Tony Parkes, Ted Petrides, Richard Powers, Ethel Raim, Connie Ryan, Ted Sanella, Genevieve Shimer, Ingvar Sodal, Sandy Starkman, Marianne Taylor, Gordon Tracie, Theodor Vasilescu, Joe Wallin, Glenn Weber, Larry Weiner, and Ron Wixman.

Through their publications, books, magazines and correspondences, Danny's dancing also was influenced by Don Armstrong, Vytautas "Vyts" Beliajus, Ralph Page, Stew Shacklette, and Lloyd "Pappy" Shaw.

At Evergreen State College, Olympia, Washington, Danny moved closer to a valued Northwest source of music and dance, Seattle. While in Olympia, Washington, Danny ended up inheriting an old-time string and square dance band and dances when their then leader moved to the big city, with Danny becoming the new local caller of old-time squares and big circle dances for the area, after a short apprenticeship. His band was sometimes nine strong, mostly strings, but also a concertina for a spell (and they welcomed sit-ins, the start of a tradition he has continued to promote to this day). Danny did his best to keep several dances a week going, teaching for two weekly international folk groups, one he'd started on campus and another long running one in town, as well as keeping the regular square dance going with the band. He also promoted live international dance music at every opportunity, including a Balkan choir, with which he also sang. "We had the fortune of attending some workshops in Balkan singing, including several given by an excellent teacher, Ethel Raim, of Pennywhistlers fame." While all this was going on, he kept a weekly sing-song going, ran yet another small arts magazine, put together a small press publishing group, and sponsored regular literary events and readings.

Danny's passion for dance continued to grow. Danny graduated from Evergreen State College in 1978 while also being accepted on a post-graduate program of creative writing in England, based in Oxford and London. In the interim, he did a tour of all parts of the former Yugoslavia, including the food, music, and dance, by foot and thumb. Nothing going quite as planned, he eventually arrived in Oxford, England, did some dancing in and around Oxford and Headington. Filling up evenings with English dance wasn't quite enough. All this was probably in part the reason for a growing writer's block, and he eventually sought permission and hopped a train, as soon as situations allowed, and ended up in Dublin, Eire (Ireland) for a sabbatical. Later, the program moved to London. Danny again chased up every opportunity to dance, including at the Cecil Sharp House and local Israeli dance events. That was short lived. Eire was calling him back.

Once again, Danny boarded a train and crossed by ferry to Dublin town where he was based until the end of 1981. While in Dublin, Danny danced and played music nearly every night, did fieldwork "traveling all over the place, chasing up sources and stories, meeting some great folk and making friends, and getting a priceless education in life." He also was blessed with being able to work with some of Eire's finest musicians and dancers – more often in their homes than in organized national events – consuming enough tea that he feels he "should have a permanent tan." He took time to roam and travel and chase up folk in the know and attend festivals and workshops around the country.

It is at this time in Dublin that he met his lovely future wife, Joan, at Connie Ryan's regular dance classes and at weekly ceilis. Connie made a point of using Danny to dance with any difficult dancers that came along, knowing he had the patience and caring to do so. This meant that Danny didn't get to dance with Joan (she being a good dancer). Later, when Connie found out there was an interest shared between them, he gave in (in his inimitable fashion, which meant teasing and embarrassment) and would let Danny and Joan dance "maybe one figure together in an evening," which the couple greatly appreciated. Later on Joan even went along with Danny on some of his forages into the tradition in-situ, including Ulster, a painful but amazingly rich and generous place which rewarded them both with priceless experiences. He says, "At one time or another, I've had all sides show me the barrel of a gun, including the British army."

Danny also, in a sense, started the dance teaching at the Willie Clancy School. Danny secured and cleared a place and found some time between activities and put up rough hand scrawled notices, this after seeing an interest and having been asked by others to help them prepare for the regular evening ceilis and the occasional dancing in the pubs of the area (they wanted something other than the muddy camping fields in which they'd done a little dancing). He also did his best to secure some help from dancers more experienced in their own tradition than he, and generosity of that sort was not in short supply. He held classes in a small space, befitting the tradition, catering for around two sets (eight couples). This happened for the two years previous to dance classes becoming an official part of the summer school.

Returning to live in Vancouver, Washington, Danny and Joan quickly became involved in local dance and folk activities and societies, which at the time were all south of the Columbia River, in Portland, Oregon. They also were wed, "a very small affair." Danny and Joan attended several different Irish dance classes in Portland, where only ceili dances were taught. Seeing that there wasn't anything on their side of the river, in Clark County, they immediately set out to start up Irish dance classes through the community center, with the desire that whenever possible they had live music, hoping to eventually start up a once a month ceili in Vancouver as well. By some great providence, Bill Martin and his wife Nancy, guitar and fiddle, answered their call, soon became their closest friends, and were easily coaxed into being the house band, with Danny. (Bill is well known and loved as an accomplished Old-Time musician, caller, workshop leader, and promoter of the tradition – he and Nancy still live in Vancouver, Washington.) Soon after, the Hathaways and the Martins, with the help of their growing dance community, started a monthly dance and potluck with live music in the local community hall – contras, squares, and big circle with a bit of Celtic and Scandinavian influences thrown in. In the old officers' quaters at Fort Vancouver, they also started up their monthly "Second Sunday Potluck," which also had only live music, dance of course, good homemade food, and charades for the hard core who'd survived until sometime around 11:00 p.m.

The four of them, the Hathaways and the Martins, performed music, with the occasional guests and sit-ins always welcomed, for regular dances in and around the Pacific Northwest, mostly in Portland, Oregon, and Washington State. This also gave Danny and Bill the chance to practice and mature as dance callers / prompters. They all also were regular sit-ins for many of the various dances in and around the area, Playford and contra, squares, clogging and Scandinavian, including sessions with the Portland Country Dance Community, for whom both Danny and Bill were for a time board members. They were responsible for much of the policy that opened up opportunities for developing local musicians, callers, and bands, guaranteeing the larger percentage of jobs for the local talent. They made sure that those brought in from outside did more than just a dance, but offered workshops for their community to nurture the interest and talent they had there.

For a time, these four musicians and friends were Portland / Vancouver's only Scandinavian band, by accident and by interest, aware that this was an important part of the history of traditions in the Northwest. Out of respect for this, they diligently learned and practiced a load of Scandinavian dance tunes, attended workshops, and ended up playing for the regular dancing in Portland's Norse Hall. The four also ended up performing for the Northwest's annual Scandinavian Summer Fest on the Olympic Peninsula. They regularly attended Scandinavian classes and workshops in music and dance to further their understanding. Danny was the usual source for transportation, another continued tradition from the "Creamscicle Van" days, though this time it was their lovely dear and missed Volkswagon bus, bright red with a white roof, converted to a camper. Renowned Scandinavian folklorist and folk dance teacher Gordon Tracie was a friend and mentor, highly respected and very missed by all.

After founding Evergreen Folkways, based in Vancouver, Washington, the foursome started an annual music and dance camp based just west of Astoria, Oregon, called Camp Kiwanilong, where they put as much focus on the dance music as the dance (including teaching and calling), and also as much (if not more) on the food and drink. Their camp was limited to around 100, counting staff, and while it operated was by all reports the least expensive dance camp in all of North America (meaning they usually lost money!). With whatever tradition on which they were focusing, they always had a North American traditions session as well. It was hard work but they loved it and kept it going for five years, with Bill and Nancy Martin working hard to keep it going for one more year after Danny and Joan left.

Danny also regularly taught and called dances with other musicians and groups. Danny began to be recommended by others for workshops, and he was usually more than willing to pass on the traditions he'd been given, Irish or American or whatever. He and Joan started touring and traveled across North America, from Oregon to Maine, California to Alaska. This included working up the occasional recording. There was a CD of music for Irish dancing produced for the Japanese (with Dale Russ on fiddle, Mike Saunders on guitar, and Danny on whistle). Its focus was on dances from the North (Ulster). It was never commercially available, however. Other involvements included, for example, his being a featured teacher, musician and caller of Irish ceilis, teaching dance and music at The Bear Hug Mountain Festival of Traditional Old-Time Music & Dance at Flathead Lake, near Rollins, Montana, in September 1987. Danny also produced a recording for Stockton Folk Dance Camp one year with the house band, the Bicoastal Band, under the leadership of Barbara McOwen.

The following year, the Hathaways received news that Joan's mother had just died while the couple was at camp. Following several jobs on the East coast, including Maine Folk Dance Camp, Ashokan, and Buffalo Gap, the Hathaways moved to Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, for a spell, finding themselves "right smack dab in the middle of a Gaelic speaking community." The couple fell immediately in love with the place and the people they met. It gave them the opportunity to learn more about early Celtic traditions in step dancing, and they'd been attracted to the stepping of Cape Breton and French Canada because it bore such a similarity to old style ("sean nos") stepping Danny had come across in Eire/Ireland. Danny also heard Scots piping that was dance music and not "pib mor," competition thick with rhythm deadening ornamentation. As with Eire / Ireland, Danny and Joan lost their hearts to Cape Breton and still consider it one of their "homes," and several of those they grew close to as "family." Danny worked in the fishing industry for a short spell, one of a three-man crew lobster boat.

While on Cape Breton, Danny also became part of a group of folks singing old Scots Gaelic milling frolic songs, the North Shore Singers or Gaelic Choir. Danny and Joan, with the help of others, started a monthly dance down the road at the Little River Fire Hall, the first smoke-free dance on the island, which was such a shock to the status quo that they were on the news in Halifax. In order to allow families with children to attend, the dance was also alcohol-free (although some dancers and musicians fought that idea). The Hathaways attended at least two step-dancing classes a week, one in Sydney and the other in the countryside to the east (Mabou way). Whatever the weather, they drove to at least one Cape Breton square dance a week somewhere on the island, and always attended the regular monthly one down in Baddeck. Danny also taught whistle lessons (using Cape Breton music, and yes, there had been a tradition of whistle playing on the island, and melodeon / button accordion, too) and Joan taught keyboard / piano. With the help of Paul Cranford and other local musicians they started the band that provided the music for their monthly Cape Breton square dance. Concurrently, Danny also performed some with the Gaelic Choir. They performed at the Gaelic College of Celtic Arts and Crafts, St. Annes, where Danny also did some small amount of lecturing and teaching. Again, Danny and Joan traveled all over the island collecting oral history about the islander's traditions (Scots, French, Irish, Micmac, Black, and otherwise), attending dances, and looking up and speaking with source people whatever the weather or conditions.

Danny and Joan moved to Cymru / Wales, in the area of Llwyncelyn, county Dyfed, now Ceredigion, where they lived on and off for about a decade, interrupted with living in Brittany and France for half a year and in Eire / Ireland for another half a year, but always with lots of live traditional music and dancing. In Cymru, they became part of the Aberystwyth Aelwyd, the nearest Welsh Dance Society Group. As was typical, the Hathaways started a monthly dance of Celtic traditions in the nearby Llwyncelyn Village Hall, a Twmpath / Ceili, and also a weekly Celtic dance class in Aberaeron. In the main, with respect for where they were, they taught and called Welsh dances, bilingually, with a spattering of other traditions, mostly Celtic, a bit of Americana around the 4th of July, etc.

The Hathaways moved again, this time just to the north of Preston, Lancashire, in England. Joan became quite ill over the few years prior to 2003, the year Danny almost lost her. While Joan was in the hospital, Danny found out that Joan had always wanted to learn to play the guitar and to have it so she could use it in her teaching. From those seeds of motivation, Danny began reading everything he could get his hands on about building guitars, and contacted a few makers in his area who have agreed to talk and offer guidance. So, sometime down the line he's planning to make a pair of guitars, mirror-imaged, but different woods, a southpaw model for himself and a right-handed model for Joan. He's already chosen and reserved the main wood for one, and some tools for this purpose are slowly accumulating, and he's been working up designs.

Danny plays and teaches several instruments, with skill levels ranging "from pretty good to just beginning." His current repertoire includes whistles, flutes, percussion, and free reeds, with still some inkling toward the low side of things, bass, brass, and strings. Also, he is in the process of getting to terms with the violin / fiddle and does a bit on keyboard / piano. Joan currently plays whistle and piano / keyboard.

The Hathaways are trying to find a monthly local venue for a dance, to re-exercise some of their experience as well as to add and improve on it. One of their necessities for this is live music, musicians, a band. Danny and Joan still attend some festivals and workshops, though not as many as they'd like, including some local English clog classes. They currently teach Irish Country Dance classes weekly in Preston (Lancashire, England) under the auspices of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann (the aim of Comhaltas is to promote the traditional music, dance and language of Ireland). While Danny teaches the usual ceili dances (and variants), and the sets of quadrilles (generally just called "sets," and which exploded into popularity in the 1980s), he also teaches couple dances and Irish "country dances" (for want of a better term). These latter are dances that missed being collected and codified under the heading "ceili" (that official list Ár Rinnci_e Foirne: 30 Popular Figure Dances of the Irish Dance Commission). They also aren't quadrilles, though some are four-couple squares / circles. They are more akin to Playford and similar dance collections, and are of that stock of dances that were mined by the Gaelic League and the Dance Commission in order to help make their official list, along with those dances manufactured for that same purpose. Danny collected them all over the countryside of Eire. They vary from 3-hand to what could be "any number that will." These are dances that were still being danced in the late 1800s and up to the Dance Hall Act in the mid 1930s – some surviving up to World War II and beyond.

Dances Danny and Joan have taught at various camps, workshops, seminars, and conferences include:

Connemara Barndance, Donegal, Donegal Trip to the Cottage, German, Baint an Fheir, Dewis y Ffermwraig, German (long), German (short), Heel and Toe, Ionnsai na Hinnse, Jac-y-Do, Kickin' Polka, McCusker's Ideal Barndance, Rince Mhor, Saith o Ryfeddodau, Slap the Churn, Stocaire, The Armagh Lancers, The Rakes of Mallow, The South Kerry Set, Three-Hand Fling, Tyrone, and Ulster Seven-Step,

as well as

Ceili Dances. The 30 official "Irish Dance Commission" dances, including variants, regional and otherwise. Examples of some of those taught include The Dublin Kype, and The Black Town Arms Seige of Ennis (as danced at the Blacktown Arms on the Fremanagh/Omagh border, a pub that was at one time or another blown up by both sides of that long running argument).

Set Dances. These are "Sets of Quadrilles," squares, and circles, numerous two-, four-, six-, and eight-couple sets made up of from three to eight "figures," using all forms of traditional tunes. These represent an expanse both historical and geographical, from the 1800s to the present, Cork to Antrim, those with a long tradition, a questionable tradition, and out and out recent choreographies. Danny and Joan prefer the traditional sets to the "performance sets" or the "compositions," though they have danced a few of the newer fictions which they feel proved quite nice and reasonably respectful of the tradition they were attempting to emulate. "There are a few 'Frankenstein's Monsters' out there too, by accident or design," Danny says. A few examples of sets taught include The Sliabh Luachra Set, The Armagh Lancers, The Corofin Plains Set, and The Mealagh Valley Set (where Danny and Joan lived for a spell).

Couple and Three-hand Dances. The Irish have adopted or created couple dances for every type of tune played in the country, from reels and jigs to mazurkas and waltzes to Germans and Polkas. Examples of some of these dances taught include Two-hand Flings, Three-hand Flings, waltzes (like The Pride of Erin), hornpipes (like The Jacky Tar), Mazurkas, The Varsouvienne, and The Long and The Short German.

Country Dances (Four-hand and up, square, circle, and longways). These are the dances that were mined to fill much of the list of official ceili dances, with a larger number neglected because they were thought to be too English or European. There were a large stock of "body and figure" dances, many with a simple body that included stamps and claps, often sharing the same selection of figures between them. This is another reason why the drive to standardize and make official meant both selection and neglect, more neglected than accepted. (Some of these dances still survived in the memories and feet of people Danny was lucky to have visited.) One example is the longways 48-bar (3-part jig) dance called The Donegal Trip to the Cottage (a favourite of Danny's, he having learned it in a muddy cow pasture opposite a farmer in Wellies, with each of them dancing with invisible partners!). Other country dances include the square formation dances Black Betty and Hurry the Jug, and various Waltz Cotillions.

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