Northwest Passage Dance Camp
Labor Day Weekend, September 3 to 6, 2021


Alchemy brings together three dynamic players steeped in traditional English Country Dance and Contra Dance music. Individually, they have performed across the United States, Canada, and Europe. As a trio, their improvisatory style brings a contemporary and innovative feel to both traditional and newly composed tunes and songs. From driving Scottish Reels to French Mazurkas and everything in between, "Alchemy" delights the listener with heartfelt performances with a touch of whimsy.

Rachel Bell is an accordion player, tunesmith, and music teacher from Brattleboro, Vermont. She is in demand throughout the United States and beyond for concerts, contra dances, English country dances, French dances, and workshops. Over a decade of musical travel has landed her smack-dab in the middle of some of her most exciting projects ever. A vibrant and versatile collaboration with Karen Axelrod, exquisite violin and viola sounds from Eric Martin, a rich and energetic contra dance band called Seaglass, and a slew of French-focused music and dance adventures with Susan Kevra are just the tip of the iceberg. A recent addition has been a joyful musical partnership with Becky Tracy, and other combinations often round out the mix.

Equally at home on violin (fiddle) and viola, Eric Martin is a traditional dance and folk musician with a background in classical music and music education. Eric enjoys the freedom and improvisation inherent in traditional music and has played for English country dances, contra dances, festivals, balls, and concerts with numerous groups including Bottom of the Bucket, The Flying Garbanzos, Coincidance, Common Thread, and Alchemy. Eric has been staff member at CDSS (Country Dance and Song Society) and FAC (Folk Arts Center New England) camps at Pinewoods and will be on staff at Ashokan northern week this summer teaching English Country Dance fiddling. Eric holds performance degrees from Ithaca College and the University of Limerick, Ireland and along with his family, lives and works at Gould Farm, a therapeutic farming community in the Berkshires.

Karen Axelrod left the world of classical music over 25 years ago, and has found her home in the folk world. She is highly regarded for her creative piano playing at English, American and Scottish dance events around the country (including Pinewoods Dance Camps, Ogontz, Buffalo Gap, Berea Christmas Country Dance Week, The John C. Campbell Folk School, and BACDS events) and abroad. Her improvisational playing is lyrical, yet is touched with humor and whimsy. Karen is a member of the band Foxfire, with Daron Douglas. She also plays accordion for the renowned longsword team, Orion. In addition to her life as a musician, Karen is a dog walker. She is trying to complete a marathon in every state and not come in last. Karen used to perform comedy improv with The Villa Jidiots, and loves to teach improv to adults, children, and her canine clients.

The Whoots play a blend of English Country, Irish, Scottish, French Canadian, Old Time music, and contra dance tunes.

Multi-instrumentalist Shira Kammen has spent well over half her life exploring early and other intriguing styles of music. A member for many years of countless early music ensembles, she also is the founder of Class V Music, a group dedicated to providing music on river rafting trips. Shira performs now with several groups, among them English Country/Contra dance bands including Roguery and The Whoots, and collaborates with performers such as storyteller/harpist Patrick Ball, poets Jane Hirshfield and Kay Ryan, clown Jeff Raz, and in many theatrical and dance productions, including the California Revels and the Oregon, California and San Francisco Shakespeare Festivals. The strangest place Shira has played is in the elephant pit of the Jerusalem Zoo.

Jim Oakden went to college on a music scholarship, but ended up in grad school as a marine biologist. However, he continued to avidly pursue music, first via Early Music, and then as a dance musician. He continues to perform with many bands in a host of genres on an absurd array of instruments. He is very dedicated to passing on his knowledge at symposia, workshops, and dance and music camps from the East Coast (Pinewoods, etc) to Fairbanks, Alaska, to Santiago de Compostela, Spain—and many places in between. He runs community bands, camp bands, does individual and small group instruction, and has been an instructor at Lark Camp for many years. He appears on 20 or so CDs. Plus, he loves to dance, in many different styles.

Jonathan Jensen is an inspired pianist in a wealth of musical styles from contra to English Country to ragtime and jazz. A composer of brilliant English country dance tunes and waltzes, Jonathan performs at dance events and camps around the country and is a bassist with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, which has performed many of his orchestral arrangements. In recent years he has become increasingly active as a songwriter and lyricist.

Susan Kevra is noted for her warmth, clear teaching, and lovely voice. Dancers on both sides of the Atlantic appreciate her diverse repertoire of singing squares, Western patter calls, contras and English Country dances, all delivered in dulcet tones and without pretension. She has choreographed a number of well-loved contra, square and English Country dances.

Susan has taught English Country dancing since the mid 1990s when she was living in New England. Her experience as an English country dance clarinetist gives her a keen appreciation of the link between the music and the dance figures, something she brings to her teaching. It is also key to her ability to create pleasing dance programs, arranged not just for the dance figures but the musical moods evoked by the tunes. Inspired by tunes by her band mate, Rachel Bell, she has choreographed a dozen English dances and counting, including “Trip to Provence” and “Moonflower” which are making their way onto dance floors and ball programs in the US and England.

Melissa Running discovered she could take folk dance for PE credit in college in the early ’90s, and hasn’t looked back since. A few years later she started playing for dances and then calling English in the Philadelphia area. She now lives in Silver Spring, MD, calls nationally, plays piano for English and Scottish country dancing, and plays the nyckelharpa for pleasure and for Swedish dancing (and a little Norwegian, and sometimes English). In the last several years she's taken to writing tunes and often composing dances to go with them. Aside from music and dance activities, she works at linguistic precision as a technical writer and editor, and knits with the zeal of the newly converted.

Highly regarded by dancers, musicians, and callers for his high-quality sound work, John Oorthuys has handled the board for many dances, balls, camps, and special events for PCDC and surrounding Pacific Northwest communities. He has been the camp sound engineer for years and years, and his wizardry makes the sound fantastic.