The Society of Folk Dance Historians (SFDH)
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Information: Mary Judson, teacher of Contra, English, Morris, and Scottish dance.
Mary Judson first encountered English Country Dance in her early teens, and is an accredited teacher of the Country Dance and Song Society of America (CDSS). She held an advanced certificate from the Society.
At college in 1938 she was dancing with, and later teaching, the first Swarthmore Folk Dance group. The following year she went to her first CDSS Pinewoods Camp dance program, and missed very few summers after that. She was on staff in 1978 and Camp Director in 1982. While still in Swarthmore, she began attending dance events in New York City where, in 1941, she received her English Folk Dance and Song Society (EFDSS) dance certificate and joined the CDSS exhibition team that danced weekly on CBS-TV.
She taught Contra dance, English Country Dance, Morris Dance, Scottish Country Dance, and Sword Dance.
Mary was a director of Westwind (South) ensemble in its suite of English traditional dance.
She taught weekly at the Museum Coffee House in Pasadena, California and was on the Mendocino Folklore Camp in 1971.
Throughout her life, Mary was active as a teacher, dancer and supporter of the CDSS on both sides of the country. She was instrumental in promoting English country and ritual dance through her extensive work in Southern California and by teaching at festivals, workshops, weekends and weeks throughout the West Coast since 1964. She was the founder and leader of the Southern California Country Dance Society (formerly the Carol Dancers). She supported the development of and served on the founding committee for Mendocino Camp and taught there for the last five years. She helped many groups start and grow, and inspired many of our current teachers and leaders.
Brad Foster, who met Mary in 1968 when she was teaching a weekly English country dance class in Pasadena in addition to teaching several performance groups, has said Mary started him on his career of teaching country dances and gave him the inspiration that carried him into the directorship of the Society.
CDSS made Mary an honorary member of the organization in 1985 and she died the following year, on June 29, 1986. She wished to be remembered by a poem she wrote in 1937, which was reprinted in the Sept-Oct 1986 issue of the CDSS News:
Life gave a ball.
She gave a ball for me;
And in my ecstasy
To find my own true partner in that hall
I tried them all.
I danced with joy -
A dainty minuet,
A graceful pirouette.
He tripped with me "far from all life's annoy,"
That charming boy.
I danced with Grief.
He stumbled on and on
In grueling marathon
Destroying all illusion, hope, belief
With no relief.
At life’s great ball
I danced with others, too.
And if you’d ask me who
Pleased me the most, I’d say, "I just recall —
I loved them all."
Dances Mary has taught include Hull's Victory, Jack's Maggot, La Russe Quadrille, Nonesuch, Picking Up Sticks, Queen Victoria Country Dance, The Rifleman, and Wiltshire Six-Hand Reel.
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