Ralph Page Dance Legacy Weekend, 2005
The 2005 Weekend was one of the best. Don Roy played Friday night. Tony Parkes and Mary DesRosiers were the weekend calling staff. One band featured Bob McQuillen, Randy Miller and Sarah Bauhan; the other was Frank Ferrel, Peter Barnes (now Kate Barnes) and David Surette. For calling and music I don't think it gets much better. And the Retrospective featured George Hodgson; it was only the second time we featured someone who was still alive.
In the February Seacoast Country Dance Newsletter I wrote, "It started off on Friday night with music by the Don Roy Trio from Maine. Don and Cindy Roy are outstanding musicians, and having Jay Young join them playing bass was very nice. The music was some of the best music I’ve ever danced to: it was exciting, solid, rhythmic, including some of my favorite Canadian jigs, reels and marches." One of the tunes they played that night was Muise's March for Steve Muise, a fellow Maine Fiddle Camp instructor. It's a march in Bb that Don wrote, and is an excellent tune in the Québécois tradition of 6/8 marches. This is a class of tunes that's largely absent from the New England tradition but that works very well for New England style dance.
"After the break on Saturday evening Mary DesRosiers called Money Musk, which has traditionally been called at that time during the dance. Everyone was really enjoying it, and the music [Frank, Peter & David] just kept getting more and more amazing as we kept dancing. Someone said that we danced Money Musk for eighteen minutes before Mary ended it. She could have kept it going for at least another ten minutes and I doubt that anyone would have complained!"
The article finished: "The other highlight was the Retrospective honoring George Hodgson. George is an excellent caller of squares and an occasional contra, and he’s also a fun person, so it was great fun to feature him at this year’s Weekend. He told some good stories, and we danced some fun dances with first class music provided by Sarah, Randy and Bob. One of the tunes he uses for non-singing squares is called Golden Boy, and this was the best rendition of it I’ve ever heard!"
Over the course of the weekend George called many of the outstanding squares of the middle of the last century. He called You Call Everybody Darling, Nelly Bly, Red River Valley, Little Old Log Cabin in the Lane, Mountain Music Madness, It’s a Long Way to Tipperary, Rod's Right & Left, Smoke on the Water, and more. Mary called some excellent squares from Duke Miller's repertoire such as Buffalo Quadrille and Just Because. And Tony called some good squares, including the Deer Park Lancers which is one of my favorites.
There were also excellent contras over the weekend such as Hull's Victory, Money Musk, Chorus Jig, British Sorrow, Queen Victoria and others.
Altogether it was one of the best weekends of dancing I can remember.
2006 & 2007
Ralph Page Dance Legacy Weekend, 2006 & 2007
2006 Weekend. The best thing about the 2006 Weekend was that we got Tod Whittemore to come out from Arizona which was a rare treat. As I wrote in the February 2006 Seacoast Country Dance Newsletter, "We don’t get Tod Whittemore to come from Arizona to call for the Weekend every year. To those of us who used to enjoy his Francestown dances so much (or for some people perhaps his Thursday night dances in Cambridge), it was a treat to see him again and to dance to his calling. We got to dance many, although not all, of the old favorite dances. Tod was obviously having a great time, which made it that much more fun for everyone. And in between it was nice to get to visit with him."
Lisa Greenleaf was the other staff caller, and she's alway fun to dance to. Old New England was one of the bands, and the other was Rodney Miller, Peter Barnes and Marko Packard. The Retrospective featured Ted Sannella who probably did more than anyone else to start the Ralph Page Weekend and to keep it going. Once more it was an excellent dance weekend.
As Good As It Gets! Here's a quotation from the February 2007 Seacoast Country Dance Newsletter: "Can the Ralph Page Dance Legacy Weekend really get better every year? At the committee’s wrap-up meeting after the Weekend we sometimes ask ourselves that question because it often seems that way; and it most definitely did this year!" Looking back, I'd say the Weekend was reaching a definite peak around that time. A number of things came together to cause that. We still had several committee members who had danced to Ralph Page and/or who knew and cared a lot about the tradition, but we also had younger/newer dancers who were in touch with modern trends. There were still a number callers and musicians around who played for Ralph Page and/or who cared about the tradition. People like Rodney Miller and Peter Barnes were playing in a much more modern style, but they knew and could play in a much more traditional style but with some excitement drawn from modern innovations as well. It was an excellent time for the Ralph Page Weekend!
2007 Weekend. This was one of my favorites of all the excellent Weekends. Here's what came next in the February Newsletter. Given that Old Grey Goose is one of my all-time favorite bands as well as being good friends, the fact that they only get brief mention in the last paragraph says a lot about how good it was.
It started out on Friday night with a reunion of the Canterbury Country Dance Orchestra. While some of the key members aren’t around any more, and some weren’t there for various reasons, the band still had the old CCDO sound, and it was great to dance to them. It was also fun to hear all the old favorite tunes that aren’t played much any more. Better yet, since many of the Orchestra members were around for the weekend, we heard them all throughout the weekend: Coleraine, Prince William, Mistwold, the Earl of Mansfield, and many others.
On Saturday we had the pleasure of viewing a film that David Millstone had assembled about Dudley, who was being featured at the Retrospective. While you might wonder about showing a more than hour-and-a-half film at a dance event, the hall was packed, and I’d guess that for nearly everyone there it was one of the major highlights of the weekend.
It’s hard even to list the parts of the film I enjoyed. We got to see the Canterbury Orchestra at the Newport Folk Festival, which I’ve heard about for years. We got to see some of the members who aren’t around any more, like Pete and April whom a number of local dancers should remember; and to see many others quite a bit younger — including Dudley looking remarkably young! Even Dudley hadn’t seen all of the clips that were in the film. We saw clips of people dancing going back to the 1960’s and earlier, including some of Ralph Page’s Orchestra. Altogether it was fun, interesting, at times sad and very moving.
The Retrospective for Dudley was a good time of course, with good stories and dancing. So many people know Dudley that it brought out an amazing variety of people, with lots of great surprises throughout the weekend. Many of the other sessions were also lots of fun. Of course it was fun to dance to the music of Old Grey Goose, and it was fun to visit with them as well; I even got to play piano for them at one session because Doug had been accidentally booked to play a silent movie Saturday morning.
As always the dancing was excellent, the music was excellent, it was nice to see many friends, and it was nice to have a chance to socialize with them as part of the weekend.
The Canterbury Country Dance Orchestra had one of its rare reunions on Friday night. Despite some people not being around any more, some just not there, and a few new members, the Canterbury Orchestra always somehow manages to sound like itself. Photo by Doug Plummer, used by permission.
The earlier version of this website had the following description of Doug: "Doug is a dancer and professional photographer from Seattle who did a dance tour of New England timed to include the Ralph Page Weekend and the Snow Ball." Since then he has returned to the Ralph Page Weekend and done lots of other interesting things. Doug is a contradace musician; he plays Irish Bouzouki, and his most recent instrument is piano.
He has photos on his Facebook page and on Instagram. He has posted photos daily for 16 years in his Today I Saw series. He also has a Blog that isn't actively being kept up, but that has a lot of interesting material on it.
Ralph Page Dance Legacy Weekend, 2008
This was the fourth Weekend at which we honored someone who was still alive. Unrelated, it featured somewhat more modern music than usual. Here's the description from the February 2008 Seacoast Country Dance Newsletter.
This year we honored Ralph Sweet at the Retrospective, and David Millstone put together a video about him, part of which was shown at the Weekend. It was at times amusing and at times quite fascinating to learn more about Ralph’s background and about earlier days of square dancing. I can’t wait until I have some free time to watch the entire video!
Of course, honoring Ralph meant that we had more singing squares at the weekend, which was fine with me; and apparently with most everyone else, because they seemed to go over very well. We also had some of the finest musicians and callers; this time overall with a somewhat more modern orientation than usual for the Ralph Page Weekend with Nils Fredland and Beth Parkes as the staff callers and Rod & Elvie Miller with Bob McQuillen and Crowfoot as the weekend bands and Calliope as the Friday night band. *[2021 Note:* I should add that Ralph called the second half of the dance Friday night.] We got expressions of skepticism before the weekend about Nils and about Crowfoot from some people, but the committee generally is fairly careful in its choices, and I don’t think there was any significant complaining to be heard by the end.
There was a very sad aspect to the Weekend. Patrick Stevens, who had chaired the Committee for several years and was a major part of the Seacoast dance community died suddenly about a month before the Weekend. And the previous February, George Hodgson who was at nearly every Weekend since the beginning and had called at least a couple dances at most died very suddenly.
The Gradual End of the Newsletter. In August of 2007 my father suffered a fairly serious injury and remained in bad shape until he died ten months later. I ended up being very unprepared for teaching in September 2007, having started major changes to both my classes for the Fall and gotten far enough along that I couldn't turn back but equally far from being ready. That was around the time that we were expected to have computer based assignments for both classes and the software changed constantly so on top of everything else I never was able to get truly caught up. The Newsletter was a casualty of all that. It became more and more intermittent, and I had to cut out the time consuming parts like writing articles. As a result, after 2008 my notes on the Ralph Page Weekend are very incomplete and I have to rely on the Syllabi for most information. This is reflected in my coverage of later Weekends here.
2009 & 2010
Ralph Page Dance Legacy Weekend, 2009 & 2010
2009 Weekend. The 2009 Weekend featured French Canadian influences on New England music and dance traditions. The influences have been huge, especially with respect to the music. There have been many excellent New England French musicians (e.g. Marcel Robidas and Wilson Langlois in New Hampshire, Don Roy and Simon St. Pierre in Maine) and they have had a major influence on our style and repertoire. The dancing has been much less influenced, perhaps because much Québécois dancing is done to the beat of the music rather than to the phrase of the music as is the case with most New England dancing.
Raz-de-marée (Tidal Wave, Sabin Jacques, Rachel Aucoin, Stuart Kenney & Éric Favreau) was the band from Québec; the other band was George Wilson, Deanna Stiles and Bob McQuillen. George plays a fair amount of music from Québec, and he plays it quite well. Tony Parkes led the Retrospective which was appropriate as he is quite knowledgeable about the music and dance. He started out with La Bastringue, a circle dance that is probably danced more in New England than in Québec. I was on stage at the time and I remember Tony asking if they played La Bastringue. The answer was yes, but it won't sound like what you're expecting! Tony agreed to it, but I think he was a bit surprised. The version they played is related to the one that Omer Marcoux in Concord used to play, and is quite crooked. Tony took it pretty well, and did a good job calling to an unexpected tune.
Overall it was a very good weekend, with excellent music provided by both bands. In addition, David Smukler and David Millstone had just published Cracking Chestnuts, a very good book with considerable detail about a number of chestnut contras, their history, variations, dance style and more. They did a session on Sunday morning by that name at which we danced a number of chestnut contras, mostly going beyond the ones well known to the group.
2010 Weekend. Marianne Taylor died in August 2008, and this was the year to honor her at the Weekend. She was an important member of the organizing committee, an important part of the Seacoast dance community, and had been involved in many aspects of the Boston area dance community for years, especially in the International Folk Dance community. She played piano for the Lamprey River Band for a number of years, and was both fun and an excellent piano player. At the Retrospective in her honor, Marcie Van Cleave described her as "the woman with the perpetual smile and boundless enthusiasm". I can't think of a better way to describe her except to say that she had the varied interests and skills to match the boundless enthusiasm.
There were of course other sessions at the Weekend. Tony Parkes did a session of "Dances I Learned From Ralph" which was excellent, including dances like British Sorrow and Sackett's Harbor. That was one of the highlights of the Weekend. And of course it was always a treat to have Old New England playing at the Weekend.
Marianne Taylor and Becky Ashenden having fun playing piano at the 2004 Ralph Page Weekend. Marianne always had a very cheerful presence at the Weekend and this is just one example of her having a good time there. Photo by Patrick Stevens; see page footer for details..
2011 & 2012
Ralph Page Dance Legacy Weekend, 2011 & 2012
2011 Weekend. The Weekend got off to a good start with Dudley Laufman and weekend staff callers Tod Whittemore and Lynn Ackerson calling to the music of the Sugar River Band. We started out with Lady Walpole's Reel, and danced a number of chestnuts. Dudley called The Mozart, a dance he wrote a number of years ago for five-couple sets radiating out from the center of the room like spokes of a wheel. Lines pass through to the next each time through the dance until eventually everyone ends up back with their original partner in their original lines.
It was nice to have Tod back again. He did a great session of Singing Squares, which included Trail of the Lonesome Pine, Chime Bells, the Big Three — Maple Sugar Gal, Smoke on the Water and Just Because — and a few other favorites. Often when he does the Big Three even at a regular dance, by the time he gets to Just Because everyone pretty much knows what they're doing so he does it without a walk-through.
The Retrospective was The Ralph Page Legacy. It included lots of stories, dancing to Ralph's dances and dances he called, and was based in part on the thought that if it weren't for Ralph Page and his legacy, we probably wouldn't be dancing. We even danced Honest John to a recording of Ralph Page calling.
From the Syllabus, Tony Parkes quoted something Ralph Page used to say that sounds like good advice: "Don’t hate a dance just because it is new, and don’t love a dance just because it’s old. It takes something more than age to make a dance good or bad."
2012 Weekend. We held the 25th Ralph Page Dance Legacy Weekend in 2012. For the Retrospective we decided to honor the Nelson NH dance, the oldest continuously running dance around. It's had periods of greater and lesser continuity, but for the most part its' been going for quite a long time, and it has a long history and an important role in New England country dance. On more than one occasion the Nelson dance has been one of the few places where dancing was still being done and it got us through until the dancing spread to other places again.
It was appropriate to have Steve Zakon-Anderson and Mary DesRosiers call for the weekend that year. They both got started calling at the Monday night dance in the early 1980s, and from there became widely known as callers. Mary carries on the tradition of Duke Miller. Both were fairly young when they got started, and Nelson remains a good place for younger callers and musicians to get started.
On Friday night we danced Honest John, Queen Victoria, Lamplighter's Hornpipe and Road to the Isles. At the Nelson Retrospective we danced many classics: Golden Slippers, Hinky Dinky Parlez-Vous, both from the older Nelson Tradition; Lady Walpole's Reel, Rory O'More, Hull's Victory, Chorus Jig and Money Musk, all long-term favorites, and a few newer dances like Steve's Trip to Lambertville. At the Grand Dance, in addition to a few classics we danced some that I'd consider modern classics: the Grand Square Contra, the New Floor's Revenge and Hillsboro Jig.