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.

Tabbed Pages. I make frequent use of tabbed panels such as you see below. Click on a tab to see its contents.

On This Page

Here's what you can expect to find 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.
  • Section & Page Overview. An overview of the section and page, with links to other pages in the section.
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 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. 

  • 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 remainder of the Home 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.

I've divided this section into two pages: one about the dance and music, and the other a quick history of contra and square dancing with a focus on the New England dance.

Website News

Website News

Here is the latest website news and a look at what's to come. Although I'm still learning how to use the software, it's gradually becoming more presentable.

  • 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 transcriptoins 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. 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Passing On Our Living Tradition. This is an extensive section. It starts by looking at Phil Johnson who used to call squares in the area, and from whom I learned a lot about a variety of topics. Then it looks at how some aspects of the tradition are passed on nearly unchanged whereas others change fairly rapidly, and considers possible reasons. There is a section about some of the chestnuts that have evolved in various ways, including a number of dance transcriptions. It ends with a further look 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 more to come, probably including a few additional sections. More on that as it develops!

In This Section

In This Section: 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.