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Home > Hire us for a contra dance event > Tony's biography

Tony Parkes – biography

tony callingTony 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, wiith 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, including Flirtation Reel, Hey Fever, and the modern classic Shadrack's Delight. He is the author of Contra Dance Calling: A Basic Text and two collections of dance material. 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.

 Photo by Doug Plummer