New Hampshire Old-Time Country Dance Web Site

Dancing in New Hampshire Now & In Earlier Times


The Dance Website Home Page

When I was young my grandparents and great aunts and uncles would talk about how different things used to be, sometimes to the point of being nearly unbelievable. Well, that was a long time ago, and now I find myself in the same position. In this website we will look at New England contra and square dancing and how it's changed through stories, history and discussion. I will approach this through a mixture of mostly informal history, stories, philosophy and occasionally random thoughts.

About the Website

This is the Dance section of the New Hampshire Country Dance website. There is also a Music section which contains sheet music for a few hundred tunes and commentary about various aspects of learning and playing fiddle music.

The Dance section focuses on dancing in New Hampshire, with particular emphasis on the New England dance traditions and history.

In This Section & On This Page

This section introduces the material for this website, and why I think it might be of interest. Many pages have tabbed sections; be sure to click on the tabs to see their contents. On a phone you may need to click on a tab header to get a menu of available tabs. Here's what's in this section.

  • New Hampshire Old-Time Country Dance Home. That's this page. Here's what's in the tabs on this page.

    • The Dance Website. This tab, an introduction to the website.
    • Website News. That should be self-explanatory.
    • Website Overview. This box gives an overview of the different sections of website, with links to the Introductory page of each section. That page will have links to each page in the section.
  • The Next Section. After this section there is a Dance Overview which introduces the traditional music and dance of New England along with some history and some things that might be useful for any dancer or prospective dancer to know.
The Dance Website

New Hampshire Country Dance: The Dance Website

A first-class stamp for 3¢? Gas for 16¢/gallon, with the sign saying "Gas 6¢ | Tax 10¢ | Total 16¢"?

How ridiculous! But I remember it clearly. Postage was 3¢ for long enough that when it went up to 4¢ I was shocked; I didn't realize such things could change. It was sort of like the climate: it only changed over time measured in geological eras. Well, the postage rate increase occurred on August 1, 1958. I figured out about climate change in the early 1960s. [How did I figure out about climate change so long before most other people? If you're interested, here's how it happened.] After a while I got used to the idea that things just keep changing, and that my older relatives weren't exaggerating when they talked about how much life had changed.

In To The Center!

Dover dance, In to the Center! Sarah Mason calling, 11-5-15.

I don't know about you, but I find stories about when and how things were different to be fascinating, especially when they concern things of interest to me.

When assembling material for these pages I discovered on my computer a large body of stories, short articles, photos, and other manifestations of how the music and dance traditions of New England have changed over the years. I've collected them from a variety of sources and people. 

  • Some of the stories and articles are from my experience. Many of these were originally published in the Seacoast Country Dance Newsletter. Some of it came from an earlier incarnation of this website. I have revised, edited and updated much of this material as needed.

  • Some came from various Internet lists that used to flourish: the Fiddle List (fiddle-l) and rec.folk-dancing in particular. Some were from email communications involving one to several other people. These I include if I have permission, or if I feel that I can cite them as sources. 

  • In addition much of the material I have written specifically for this website.

  • Look for material representing the traditions of New England, English and French Canada, the British Isles and the Scandinavian countries, as they are represented in this country. The emphasis will be on New England contra and square dancing.

About Contradancing, Square Dancing and the Music

The next section of the website presents a quick overview of New England traditional music and dance. If you want more detail there are a number of good sources available on the Internet. The Country Dance & Song Society (CDSS) has a page of links that you should find useful.

Website News

Website News & Updates

Here is the latest website news and a look at what's to come.

  • Jan. 2, 2021. I've finished going through the website page by page, spell checking each page, looking for aspects that don't look as they should, looking for obvious errors, adding on here and there where it seemed desirable, etc. If you see any errors - factual, layout problems, spelling, grammatical or otherwise - feel free to let me know. My contact information is in the footer of this and every other page.
  • Dec. 27. I'm continuing to proofread and spell check the website; about 2/3 done now. In the process I've added in a few new sections. I moved the schedule of the Lamprey River Band First Thursday dance (suspended indefinitely) to a new page, and changed the mechanism for getting a list of dates from a spreadsheet into the website as the old one was unreliable. The Ralph Page Weekend section now goes through 2004.
  • Dec. 24. I added a section for the Ralph Page Weekend. So far it has introductory material and covers the first 13 weekends; I will bring it up to date soon. I'm also doing spell checking throughout as my software doesn't do it automatically, and I made a number of modifications based on some very helpful comments from David Millstone.
  • Oct. 17 #2. I reorganized the pages in the Home Page submenu to be a separate section (Dance Overview).
  • Oct. 17. I moved the section on Phil Johnson to the Seacoast NH Dance section. I added a page about how I came to figure out global warming as a pre-teen in the early 1960s (although I may eventually move it to a different website if I have a chance to create it). I finally got started on a section on Ralph Page and the Ralph Page Dance Legacy Weekend; it's still in progress.
  • Aug. 24. I added a section on dance programs and repertoire of several old-time square/contradance callers including Duke Miller, Frank Fortune and George Hodgson. These sections include listings of dances called at a few dances, compilations of repertoire across a few dances and with other sources when available, and some analysis. I also converted all tables of dance calls from a proprietary format to html. This gives me greater flexibility and reliability.
  • July 11. I added a couple pages to the Home section. One is on social and dance interactions, looking at how we interact with others at dances. Hopefully it will be of some use to new dancers and to experienced dancers who may not have thought about these issues. The other is on generational changes at dances and looks at how dancing has changed when new generations of dancers join the dance community.
  • June 29. I added a page in the Home section on Dancing to the Music, intended to help both new and experienced dancers to understand phrasing of the music and how it relates to dancing the figures of the dance.
  • June 17. The section on Change and Preservation of the New England Tradition has been developed considerably, and a new page on Evolving Chestnuts was added, with transcriptions of several versions each of some of the chestnut contras and related discussion. The website is still far from done but it's more complete than it was, and more presentable in appearance.
  • May 5. The section on Living Tradition & History has a goodly amount of material added. I went through each page and got the introductory material in order and up to date. The website is becoming presentable!
  • April 12. The Lamprey River section is largely done. I've been working on a section on Phil Johnson, square dance caller from Lebanon ME, and gradually cleaning up things and improving my use of the software.
  • April 2. I've got a pretty much complete first draft of the Lamprey River Band portion of the web site. Things aren't perfect but I'm going to upload the site to the public address. Feedback is of course welcome.
  • March 30. I continue updating and improving both what I'm doing and how I do it; still lots left to go. I'm now able to publish to a test location before it's ready to go (known as a sandbox) which helps. The Lamprey River Bad portion of the site is nearly done.
  • Feb. 24. More updating and underlying improvements. I converted pages from accordion to tabbed text for greater clarity.
  • Feb. 14. I'm going through and correcting some construction errors and improving the way certain things are done. This won't be overly visible but should make a big difference over time.
  • Feb. 12. I'm working on a section for the Lamprey River Band; it should be up soon.
  • Feb. 8, 2020. I just finished a page about Dancing in Maine, with a focus on Old Grey Goose, the Maine Country Dance Orchestra and the origins of some aspects of Maine dance style.
Website Overview

Website Overview

This is a look at the sections of the website. As noted, some of it doesn't exist yet. Material takes the form of stories and articles about specific dances or events, more general articles often with a historical perspective, and sometimes discussions of philosophical and social issues related to traditional dance.Please note that I am not a historian and won’t pretend to be. When I can I do careful research on topics I’m presenting, but generally the presentation will be more informal.

  • NH Country Dance. There are two nearly independent parts to the website. This is the Dance website, and it looks at traditional New Hampshire and New England dance: contras, squares, waltzes, polkas, etc. There is also a Music website which presents well over 300 fiddle tunes as well as discussing various topics like learning by ear vs. learning from written music. The NH Country Dance page unites them and has links to the major sections of both.
  • New Hampshire Old-Time Country Dance Home. That's this page. It contaains an introduction to the website, website news and this overview.
  • A New England Dance Overview. A general overview of contra and square dancing, including a brief New England dance history and some information likely to be of use to both beginning and experienced dancers.
  • The Lamprey River Band. That's my band. Besides the fact that it needs a web site, it's a part of many other stories and articles so I decided to put it at the beginning.
  • New Hampshire Country Dance History. This is the beginning of a secton on the recent history of dancing in New Hampshire, especially the Seacoast Area. There is a substantial page on the Seacoast Country Dance Newsletter, with discussion of some of the topics and historical events covered by the Newsletter. I intend to expand this section further.
  • Dancing in the Seacoast Region of New Hampshire. Next we look at dancing in the Seacoast region of New Hampshire, where I have lived for nearly 50 years. I use the stories of how I started dancing and how I learned to call dances to make a number of points about dancing. There is also a section about Phil Johnson who used to call squares in the area, and from whom I learned a lot about a variety of topics.
  • Dancing in New Hampshire & New England. Here we look at dancing in the remainder of New Hampshire and to some extent the rest of New England. We look at the Bradford dance, dancing in Maine, and a variety of other topics.
  • Ralph Page Dance Legacy Weekend. Ralph Page, the Ralph Page Collection at the University of New Hampshire Library, and an extensive coverage of the Ralph Page Dance Legacy Weekend.
  • Passing On Our Living Tradition. This is an extensive section. It looks at how some aspects of the tradition are passed on nearly unchanged whereas others change fairly rapidly, and considers possible reasons. It looks further at how traditions are passed on, and a look at the possible similarities and differences between modern urban contradancing and Western square dancing. There is a section about some of the chestnuts that have evolved in various ways, including a number of dance transcriptions.
  • Dance Programs. This section presents and discusses dance programs and repertoire for several excellent callers.

There is more to come, probably including a few additional sections. More on that as it develops!

About the NH Country Dance Website

There are two major sections to this website: the Music and the Dance sections. This is the Dance section. Both are described below.

The Website. The New Hampshire Country Dance website is divided into the Music and Dance sections. The Dance section presents stories, history, philosophical and analytical articles. Topics include how dances and dancing evolve, and the repertoire and calling patterns of several callers The Music section presents a few hundred tunes in abc and PDF format as well as discussion of topics like learning by ear vs. from written music.

Musical Instruments

Edited & Published by Peter Yarensky. I am a dancer, caller and dance musician from the Seacoast region of New Hampshire. I play fiddle, piano and hammered dulcimer as well as several instruments that I play not very well. I call contras and squares with the Lamprey River Band and am available to call with others. I particularly enjoy calling for beginners due to the wonderful enthusiasm they exhibit.

Contact Information

Please feel free to contact me if you have questions related to any website material, if you find any errors, typos, omissions, or if you want to know about music and/or dance in the Seacoast region of New Hampshire.

Peter Yarensky
email: peter dot yarensky at unh dot edu or
peterynh at icloud dot com
usual substitutions apply
web: or or


Website Photos

All photos were taken by Peter Yarensky (website editor and writer of most of the contents) unless otherwise noted. All photos are used with permission.

There are a number of items, used by permission, from the Milne Special Collections and Archives, University of New Hampshire Library, Durham, NH, USA. These include:

  • Photos taken by Patrick Stevens. These are now part of the Patrick Stevens Collection, 1992-2018, MC 331.
  • Dance program booklet, West Swanzey NH, Dec. 23, 1898. Brownlow and Dorothea Thompson Collection, 1802-1994, MC 294.

Patrick was very supportive of my website efforts, and gave me a substantial collection of his dance photos explicitly to use on the website. After he died, Penny very generously donated his entire collection of dance photos and recordings to the New Hampshire Library of Traditional Music & Dance at University of New Hampshire.

Other Graphics

All sources of graphics allow usage on a noncommercial website.

Sources not mentioned here are acknowledged fully where used.

Aridi Computer Graphics Vector Clip Art Collection, Vol. 1–5. Aridi Computer Graphics, Inc., Dallas, TX, 1992–1994. Available for download as part of a larger collection at the Internet Archive.

Jury, David. The little book of typographic ornament, London, Laurence King Publishing Ltd., 2015. Downloadable as a set of 720 TIFF files.

Underground Grammarian, Printers' Devices & Clip Art collection. Early 1990s; no more information available, although there's a lot on the Internet about the Underground Grammarian.

Visual Delights collection of graphics, SunShine, Austin TX, 1991. Although that was too early to mention the web, the description of allowed usage says the graphics "may be incorporated in any products you sell or give away, provided you aren't primarily selling or giving away the images themselves." This usage would seem well within that definition.

Useful Classes from Site Styles

Other Useful Information

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Relative URLs

  • Sample Directory
    • Home
      • RPDLW
      • Living Trad
        • Passing On
        • Evolving

Relative URL assumes the first part of the URL is the same as the current location so only put path or URL relative to where you are in the folder structure

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