The Maine Contradance Revival
The Influences of Otto Soper & Dudley Laufman
In Maine the older tradition was to do contradancing; squares weren’t generally part of the Maine tradition. As in so many other places, traditional music and dance had largely died out by the 1960s and 1970s. There were a few isolated small local dances here and there, and there were a number of old-time musicians around who either had stopped playing or were more likely playing in bars and at contests.
The members of Old Grey Goose have been playing together in various configurations for over 30 years. When they started, like so many people in the folk revival movement, they were playing music from the southern Appalachians. Two things happened to change that.
The first was their friendship with Otto Soper, an old-time Maine musician who had been playing for dances since the very early 1900’s. He played fiddle and saxophone, but he was an excellent piano player. He encouraged the younger musicians to play the music of Maine, an idea which immediately made sense to them. They began searching out 0ld-time Maine musicians and learning from them, which they continue to do to this day. He also taught them a lot about playing, both repertoire and style; Doug’s piano style is very heavily influence by Otto Soper.
The other major influence was that Dudley did some dances in Maine, at least one of which, around 1975, was attended by Doug and Elaine (who were married at the time), Greg and John. I believe I’ve heard Dudley mention the scruffy-looking hippies that started showing up at his dances, possibly even taking notes; I’m sure that was an accurate description!
Independently Doug and Elaine, and Greg and John realized how much fun the dancing was and thought about how much fun it would be to start calling and playing for dances themselves. This was the beginning of the revival of traditional music and dance in Maine. Although major changes have happened since then, it’s still going strong.
2020 note: In addition to taking notes, they recorded the dance. A couple years ago I got a copy of the recording and I can see why the dance made them so enthusiastic.
Photo Credit: Photo of Dudley from the Patrick Stevens Collection, 1992-2018, MC 331, Milne Special Collections and Archives, University of New Hampshire Library, Durham, NH, USA. Used by permission.
Dudley Laufman, Ralph Page Dance Legacy Weekend, 2007. Credits at bottom.