New Hampshire Old-Time Country Dance Web Site

Dancing in the Seacoast Region of New Hampshire


When the Caller is Unnecessary

The caller keeps the dance organized, chooses the dances, teaches them, calls them for the dancers, and.often sets the whole feel of the dance. Here are a couple stories that I wrote after a particularly good Deerfield dance about times when the caller became unnecessary, and some thoughts about why that was important. At the same time there are portions in which the importance of the caller and the musicians is made very clear.

Peter Yarensky, Seacoast Country Dance Newsletter, March 2012 & Nov. 2006; Introduction 1/7/20.

A Spontaneous Petronella in Deerfield

It was advertised to include workshops in the afternoon, a pot luck supper, and then a dance. The workshops included a music workshop led by Sylvia Miskoe, and a dance calling workshop led by Chris Ricciotti who was calling the evening dance. We didn’t make it to the workshops but we did make it only slightly late to the pot luck supper. We arrived and there were lots of cars. Once inside we saw there was a good-sized crowd and an excellent pot luck supper. It was an enjoyable social occasion, and featured lots of good food.

We wondered why one of the dynamic, more modern dance callers wanted to come over a thousand miles to New Hampshire just for a party!

As the time for the dance approached we considered going upstairs. At some point I wandered up to the second floor, and as I arrived the band started playing. They were playing Petronella as a warmup tune and for the sound check. The band consisted of Sylvia Miskoe (accordion), Vince O’Donnell (fiddle) and Justine Paul (piano) with Paul Lizotte and a few others as sit-ins. Needless to say the music sounded great! Well, after one or two times through the dance there was a long set of people dancing Petronella.

Dancing Money Musk at Dudley's 50 Years of Calling Party

A number of years ago Dudley had a party celebrating 50 years of calling. Carol Ormand, who I believe was living in Minnesota at the time, came out for the party and stayed over with us. There’s a story related to the Deerfield dance that came out of it. I wrote it down at the time and here’s an excerpt (from the Seacoast Country Dance Newsletter, Nov. 2006):

“We wondered why one of the dynamic, more modern dance callers wanted to come over a thousand miles to New Hampshire just for a party! The answer was to see something that was perfectly normal to us, but that just couldn’t happen where she comes from. It was a great party, with many of the best musicians and callers from New England and beyond having shown up as well as many excellent dancers.

"And that was what Carol had come for: to see and experience the situation in which everyone just knew the dances and after the break Money Musk would just automatically happen without anyone telling people to line up or teaching it. It was so normal to us, and worth a trip across the country to her!”

When everyone in Deerfield started spontaneously dancing Petronella without calling, with music played by a band that’s played Petronella an uncountable number of times and knows what it’s supposed to sound like, it reminded me of that party. What a great way to start the dance!

The Rest of the Deerfield Dance

Chris is a marvelous caller, and although he doesn’t get to do it often, he loves calling the old square dances. He grew up with those dances, and learned to call them at a fairly young age. He was obviously happy to be calling for a group that appreciated his squares and appreciated the chestnut contras he called. We danced “Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight”, “On the Trail of the Lonesome Pine”, “Mary Anne” and “Dip and Dive” to the tune Redwing for squares. After Petronella we also danced “Hull’s Victory” and “Rory O’More”, as well as some more modern contras. For one of the last contras the band played a marvelous set of “Scotland the Brave” into “Meeting of the Waters”. I don’t know that I’ve ever heard those tunes sound a whole lot better! The last waltz was a marvelous tune written by George Wilson from upstate New York called “Sweet Journeys”.

Between the excellent music and calling, the choice of dances, and the nice group of dancers present, it was overall one of the best dances I’ve attended in a long time.

Dancing in Deerfield
Dancing in the Deerfield Town Hall. It's one of the very nice halls to dance in.
The Spiral Staircase
The spiral staircase. It's one of the nicest ones I've seen. It used to have all the footprints of those who danced there, but they redid it. Now it's quite wonderful in a different way.