Long before Tom Amessé discovered English Country Dance, he pursued several other interests, including American History, and Acting. He was able to explore both of these hobbies at The Richmond Town Restoration on Staten Island, where he was an enthusiastic volunteer and participated in numerous events with themes ranging from Colonial America through the US Civil War era. He took on the role of Sheriff of Richmond County and immersed himself in enlightening visitors about the local history.
Two or three times year, Richmond Town held country dances in the courthouse. Tom was intrigued by the beautiful music and the intricate patterns of the dance. If only he could pursue this on a more regular basis. This wish came true a few years later when he and his wife Susan found Country Dance New York in Greenwich Village. Tom and Susan became an active members of CDNY. They attend Tuesday night dances and Tom became an apprentice caller in 2001, graduating from the program two years later.
Tom also began calling dances for the North Jersey English Country Dancers in Ridgewood, NJ where he continues to teach on a regular basis. He is the emcee of the North Jersey ECD Play-ful Ball each June, sharing the stage with The Flying Romanos. He has called English Country Dancing in many venues throughout the northeastern US, and has also called contra and traditional square dances.
Tom has emcee’d many formal English Country Dances and balls including: the Country Dancers of Rochester’s Jane Austin ball weekend, The Binghamton ball, New Haven’s Elm City Assembly, and CDNY’s own New York Playford Ball. He’s also taught workshops at the 92nd St Y — Harknass Dance Center and was leader, for several years, of the annual George Washington Birthday Ball at the Mount Vernon Hotel & Museum in Manhattan. His dance composition “Susan” can be found on The Flying Romanos Take-Off CD, which he co-produced with Susan.
In 2005, Tom and Susan brought back English Country dancing to Historic Richmond Town. Together, they started a regular Wednesday evening dance which still goes on today. Tom had also emcee’d Richmond Town’s Annual Twelfth Night Assembly which was held in an 1837 court house.
In May 2002, Tom organized and led a troupe to Wales where they performed Playford style English Country dances composed by American choreographers at the Tredegar House Folk Festival. This was the first time that American dancers had been invited to participate and the troupe received a warm and friendly welcome, including a special luncheon in their honor hosted by the Mayor. If Tom seems a natural on stage, some of the credit goes to his having acted in local community theater. Tom appeared in numerous roles from from plays by William Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde, Tennessee Williams, Neil Simon and Eugene O’Neil. He met his wife during a production of Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town.” He is also a popular storyteller, especially around Halloween, as he is quite skillful at spinning spooky tales. He even won an international storytelling contest during his trip to Wales.
You might also catch Tom on stage or at a dance workshop playing the fiddle. He enjoys joining in at traditional Irish sessions wherever they are held.