New Hampshire Old-Time Country Dance Web Site

Dancing in the Seacoast Region of New Hampshire


Learning to Dance: My Story

We all started sometime, and chances are we were pretty confused the first couple dances we attended. Here is the story of how I first started to dance. In 1994, Tom and Val Medve, editors of the Dance Gypsy, asked readers for stories about their first dance experiences. They were published in the September and October 1994 issues. The following is based on what I sent in, which was published in the October issue.

The First Dance

|My first dance was sometime in Fall of 1978. At that time I believe Dudley and Tod were alternating doing dances at the Durham, NH Grange, so there were dances most weeks. My friends Lori and Louise had been after Paula and me to go to a dance for quite some time, but we were both skeptical. I knew quite well I couldn’t dance; I was too uncoordinated for such things. But I loved the music; I listened to my Canterbury Country Dance Orchestra and Fennig’s All-Stars records quite frequently.

Eventually, though, we were convinced and went to a dance at the Grange with our friend Arnie. The week we went it happened that Tod was doing the dance with great music. I’m not sure who was playing, but around that time people like Janey McBride (Orzechowski) and Rod & Randy Miller were playing for the dances. I arrived and discovered to my surprise that I knew about half the dancers; they were all in my food coop. My first dance was a square. Phil and Jane were in it and helped us through. The dance was probably Smoke on the Water; I can’t imagine why else a grand right and left would be so hopelessly confusing. I was not one of those beginners who caught on quickly! But I had a good time anyway, people were friendly (they were my friends after all), and the music was great.

Coming Back & Learning to Dance

Lots of people come to a dance, do at least as well as I did, and have a good time; but many never or rarely come back. In fact, I didn’t dance again for several months. The next summer the coop decided to do a benefit dance. Steve Hundert volunteered to call. We asked if he knew how and he said “No, but I’ll learn”. So he had dances at his house every Tuesday night that summer (his housemates were musicians which made it easy). I started going, and as he learned to call, I learned to dance. Afterwards we’d go swimming in the bay behind his house.

The benefit dance was in Putnam Pavillion where they had animal shows at UNH. The floor was dirt, and we had to call in the fire department to hose it down due to the low visibility after the first couple dances. But we had a great time and by then I was starting to figure out how to dance. Steve went on to call many of the local dances until he moved away. Typically at that time an evening of dancing would include a few sets of squares, the Virginia Reel, a grand march, and at least two or three of the chestnuts including Money Musk, Hulls Victory, Chorus Jig, Petronella and Lady of the Lake. We rarely did Rory O’More; it was too hard. Rumor had it they did that one further west (Amherst, that is).

|And that’s the story of how I learned to dance. Not too long thereafter the Last Chance String Band started a dance in Newmarket with Steve Hundert calling, and I became a regular; and there were other dances in and around Durham that I attended.

My Image
Jane Orzechowski (middle) playing with Old New England, Deerfield, 12-2-06. (Left: Deanna Styles; right: Bob McQuillen)
My Image