New Hampshire Old-Time Country Dance Web Site

Dancing in New Hampshire Now & In Earlier Times

Rule

Approached Through Stories, Informal History & Random Thoughts

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.

On this page.This page introduces the website, and contains links to pages in this section and the maiin pages for the other sections. Important Note: Click on the titles to see each section below.


NHCD-Dance Home Page

Here is a summary of what's on this page. Important note: So far the easiest way for me to see if a page is working right is to publish it online. As this web site is very much in progress, newer pages will often be incomplete and contain obvious formatting errors, and even older pages may change in their appearance. I will do my best to minimize any inconvenience.

There are four tabs below. Click on a tab to see its contents.

Here's a brief description of each tab. (1) On This Page: About what it says. (2) Website News: Likewise. I'll include news relating to both content and structure of the website. (3) Website Overview with Links: Brief descriptions of what to find in each section of the website with links. (4) In This Section with links: Same for this section of the website.

On This Page

Here's what you can expect to find on this page.

  • 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.
  • Section & Page Overview. An overview of the section and page, with links to other pages in the section.

Website News

Here is the latest website news and a look at what's to come. Please pardon some amount of experimentation; I have to publish the site to be sure of how things look.

  • 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

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. The section contains a page giving a general overview of contra and square dancing, and another with a brief New England dance history.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

There will also be a section on philosophical and social issues in the dance, including the role of tradition and change, the role of community, and others. I will also look at some very specific topics such as the sequences of dances used by various callers over the course of the evening. These sections don't exist yet.

Contra & Square Dancing & the Dance Music

This section introduces the material for this website, and why I think it might be of interest. I then present an overview of New England traditional music and dance and some of its history. 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.

  • New Hampshire Old-Time Country Dance Home. That's this page. Below I discuss the nature of the material on this website and why I think it should be of interest. I also describe the sources of that material.
  • An Introduction to Traditional New England Music & Dancing. This page gives a fairly quick overview of New England dancing, including contras and squares, and a look at the music and playing for a dance.
  • Historical Look at Traditional New England Music & Dancing. This page looks at the dancing from a more historical perspective, from the prevalence of contradancing in New England to the increased popularity of squares in the middle part of the last century, to the contradance revival of the 1970s and the spread of contradancing to the rest of the country.

|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 this website we look in particular at the traditional music and dance of New Hampshire and New England. In the process we look at some of the influences from surrounding areas, especially adjascent portions of Canada. Many of our musicians camed down from there to work in the mills in Manchester, Somersworth, Newmarket and other parts of the state, and they had a profound effecrt on the music of New England and a somewhat smaller effect on the dance.

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. Many were written during the period of the mid 1980s to about 2010, in itself a period of great change in the music and dance. 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 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 to material representing the traditions of New England and both English and French Canada, there is some consideration of influences from 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.

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