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Mendhi hands by Pushpa Jain. Photographer unknown. All rights reserved.Fish decoy. Photo by Pearl Yee Wong. All rights reserved.Embroidered dress detail. Photo by Pearl Yee Wong. All rights reserved.Cedar bird by Glen VanAntwerp. Photo by Al Kamuda. All rights reserved.
Michigan Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Awards

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Roger Simpson and Bethany Tanis
2017 master artist and apprentice
Hopkins (Allegan County) and Caledonia (Kent County)
Square dance calling

Roger Simpson (b. 1941) has been calling square dances in Allegan County, Michigan, for sixty-six years. He grew up in a musical family and went to square dances at the local grange every second and fourth Saturday. Before Roger was old enough to dance he would sit next to the piano player, Mrs. Bellenger, who encouraged him to sing along with the dance calls. He tells the story of the first time he called as follows:
  One Saturday night in March, Floyd [the dance caller] lost his voice and he was going to cancel the dance, but Mrs. Bellenger said, “I think I know someone who could call the dance with a little help.” I was eleven years old and... with no P.A. system at that time, they had me stand on a stool to call. I called the whole night and have been calling and teaching since then.

After that night, Roger’s mother went to Marshall Music in Kalamazoo and bought Henry Ford’s instruction book on dance calling, Good Morning (1926), which was then passed down through his older brothers to him. Roger calls dances that he learned from the local caller, Floyd Montgomery, from Henry Ford’s Good Morning, from other resources and callers he has come across, and has created his own dances. He is adept at both pattern (or patter) and singing calls, both are styles not often heard any more in Michigan.

Bethany Tanis (b. 1992) is a bluegrass and gospel musician and square dancer from Allegan County. She started playing music and singing with her sisters and through that world was introduced to square dancing. She is passionate about square dancing and undertook an apprenticeship with Roger so that his calls will be preserved and the tradition will continue.

-Micah Ling

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