Friday, October 23, 2015

Live Free and Dance Blog Salon Week 3: Milford, NH Contra Dance

Milford, NH Contra dance
Researched and written by Elizabeth Faiella, July 2015

Location: Milford Town Hall 3rd Floor Auditorium, 52 Main Street, Milford, NH
Schedule: 8-11 p.m., fourth Friday of every month year round
Website: None
Cost: $7, $3.50 ages 6-12, free ages 5 and under
Current organizer: Frank Woodward (retiring in 2015)
Contact information: (603) 487-2480,

Frank Woodward, the current organizer of the Milford contra dance, says that contra dancing is a family tradition for him. “My dad was a caller, my grandfather owned a dance hall, so technically I’m third generation doing this,” he says.
The Milford dance began in December of 1989, founded by David Bateman. It took place monthly year round in the Milford Town Hall, where it remains to this day. At the time, the town was restoring the Town Hall’s auditorium, which had fallen into disrepair. A portion of the money that came in each month from the dance was donated to the Town Hall restoration efforts.
Dance organizers David Bateman and John Redemski ran the dance from when it began until September 2001, when Woodward became the sole organizer.
            The dance quickly became a favorite for beginners. “They’re great fun and have a lot of energy and enthusiasm,” says Woodward. “People have to start someplace, and this is a great place for it.” Families and homeschool groups have been regulars at the dance over the years, and the dance is friendly to all ages, from the very young to seniors. The dance typically draws up to 30 people, and occasionally more.

At the start, the dance organizers hired musicians, but after a while they developed a “house band” of regular sit-in musicians. “You never knew who was going to show up,” says Woodward. He says the dance often averages 10-12 musicians per night. The musicians started out using the New England Fiddler’s Repertoire, a collection of traditional New England contradance tunes edited by fiddler Randy Miller. Since then they have added the Portland Collections. The band typically plays a mix of traditional Canadian, Celtic, and New England music on a variety of instruments including the fiddle, accordion, banjo, guitar, and bodhran.
Dances called in Milford tend to be traditional. Woodward often begins the evening with simpler dances, and calls more difficult ones as the evening goes on. Woodward often calls dances with singing calls later in the evening, and he sometimes calls Gay Gordons, a Scottish circle dance. There is a waltz to introduce the break, and a waltz to end the evening.
While Woodward is the primary caller at the Milford dance, “sit-in” callers are also welcome. Some locally in-demand callers have called their first dances at the Milford contradance, including musician and caller Sandy Lafleur. “We give everyone an opportunity,” says Woodward. “If it’s a beginning musician or caller, they’re welcome to join in.”
Until recently, the dance had an annual tradition of a “Mad Hatter’s Ball” every March. Dancers were encouraged to wear “their fine hats or their funny hats.” A prize (raspberry preserves) was awarded to the dancer with the best hat.
            Proceeds from the dance go to the Milford Recreation Committee, which sponsors the dance and provides custodial services. The hall has air conditioning for the hot summer months.
            “It’s pretty simple, it’s pretty straightforward, and it’s pretty fun,” says Woodward.

Source: Frank Woodward, interview by Elizabeth Faiella, April 2015
The Live Free and Dance Blog Salon is published weekly from October 12- November 25, 2015. Each week a different NH Traditional Dance will be highlighted. The Blog Salon is in conjunction with the exhibit: Traditional Dance in New Hampshire 1750-present, at the NH State Library.  To read more about traditional dances across the state, visit the NH Folklife website.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Ann Winterling Awarded 2015 Governor's Arts Award for Folk Arts

The New Hampshire State Council on the Arts is pleased to announce Ann Winterling as the recipient of the 2015 Governor’s Arts Award in Folk Arts. 

Ann Winterling is a master of the traditional art of New England rug hooking, a craft that dates to the early 1800s. A history of the craft shares the efforts of ordinary women to bring beauty, comfort, and warmth into their homes. 

Ann has been hooking rugs for over 40 years beginning as a young mother when she took classes from the late Hallie Hall. She hooked with Hallie, who had learned from her own grandmother, for over twenty years. In reflecting on her years with Hallie, Ann recalled that, “It was so inspiring and uplifting to go there for class . . . After a while we had all learned to hook but we just couldn’t stop meeting together and doing things together.” Ann also studied with other well known traditional fiber artists including Mary Sheppard Buron, and Mary Anne Wise. She in turn has generously shared her cumulative knowledge with countless others throughout New England and the east coast.

Today, Ann's work is well respected throughout New Hampshire, New England, and nationally.  Her fine craftsmanship is noted for her ability to create personal, yet iconic, images of the New England life. Her work has been included in shows at the Museum of Folk Art in New York City, the Cahoon Museum of Folk Art in Massachusetts, the Worcester Center for Craft, the League of NH Craftsmen, and she was one of three featured traditional artists at a recent exhibit at the Shelburne Museum in Vermont.  Ann has been featured for her artistry and leadership in New Hampshire Magazine, Rug Hooking Magazine, the newsletter for the Association of Traditional Hooking Artists (ATHA), as well as numerous articles and publications featuring the tradition of hooked rugs.

A total of 6 awards will be presented by Governor Maggie Hassan at a celebration on October 21 from 5-7pm at the New Hampshire Institute of Art in Manchester.
  • Arts Education Award: Calvin Herst, Concord and Anna Nuttall, Portsmouth
  • Distinguished Arts Leadership Award: Melissa Richmond, Director, West Claremont Center for Music and the Arts
  • Folk Heritage Award: Ann Winterling, Concord
  • Individual Arts Patron Award: Meri Goyette, Nashua
  • Lotte Jacobi Living Treasure Award: Jere Osgood, Wilton

Monday, October 19, 2015

Live Free & Dance Blog Salon Week 2: Ossipee, NH GALA Contra Dance

Written and researched by Elizabeth Faiella

Location: Ossipee Town Hall Gym, 55 Main St.
Schedule: 7pm, monthly January-April or May
Cost: $7, $5 students and seniors, $3 under age 12
Current organizer: Josh Arnold,              GALA
Contact information:
For Josh Arnold, organizer of the Ossipee contra dance, community social dance is an environmentally sustainable tradition. “I think this kind of dance, cultivating that sense of place and sense of community, is really what the sustainability movement is all about: community resilience. Strengthening relationships, so we know our neighbors and build trust with them. We know who needs what—equipment, time, knowledge, and skills—and we create a space where those things can be exchanged in a fun, recreational atmosphere.”

The Ossipee contra dance is put together by Global Awareness Local Action, or GALA, an environmentally-focused, Ossipee-based nonprofit, whose mission is based on building sustainable community. Other GALA programs include homesteading workshops and sustainable home and yard makeovers, also known as “Sustain-A-Raisers.” “We’re coming to find that the work is as much, if not more, about strengthening community, and relationships in that community, as it is about protecting watershed,” says Arnold, one of the organization’s founders.
Contradances fit in well with that goal. A former GALA board member, Mike Haeger, was a contradancer, who had attended the Tamworth contradances in summer and winter, and suggested that GALA sponsor one to fill in some of the months when there were no Tamworth dances.  “At first there was a bit of confusion—is this mission drift?” says Arnold. “But when we started it, we saw how it brought the community together. It was an intergenerational crowd and a wholesome and healthy activity. People would bring eggs that they’d exchange, and they’d be meeting new people.”
            The first dance was held in 2011. The dance started out at the Todaro Center in Tuftonboro, but soon moved to the Ossipee Town Hall, where it’s been held ever since. Dances are held monthly, January through April or May.
            The dance has a different caller and band each month, mostly drawn from the local area. Bands have included the Fiddling Thomsons, String Equinox, and Puckerbrush. A house band called Briar Hill, that GALA co-founder Michael Haeger plays in, always opens the season and donates the proceeds back to GALA. Arnold says that having a different band each month helps build interest. “And for people who come just to watch the band, that keeps it new,” he says.
            The music played at the dance is usually traditional New England contradance fiddle tunes. There is usually a break with potluck refreshments about midway through the evening, and the dance always ends with a waltz.
            About 35 people attend the dance on average, though the range is 20-60 dancers. The dance is geared toward beginners—and includes a beginners’ session from 7:00-7:30pm—though a few dedicated, experienced dancers come. “It’s great, because the experienced dancers are interspersed on the dance floor, to help others who are getting the moves down, which is always really helpful—to have a mix of experience on the dance floor,” says Arnold. Dancers of all ages attend, including some families with children. “Some of these young kids know the moves in and out,” he says. Dancers come from the local community and from farther afield; Arnold says that some Ossipee residents walk to the dance, while others drive up from the Seacoast Area of New Hampshire.
            Every year, GALA’s annual seed swap is held right before the dance. The community is invited to come and bring any seeds they want to share. Many people who come for the seed swap stay for the dance.
            One of the benefits of having the dance organized by GALA, says Arnold, is that the infrastructure for publicizing it is already there, in the form of GALA’s organizing committee, mailing list, and existing presence in the community and online. The dance relies solely on what comes in at the door for funding.
            Though he didn’t grow up contradancing, Arnold says that organizing these dances has really gotten him hooked. “Now I love it, and I seek other dances,” he says.

Source: Josh Arnold, interview by Elizabeth Faiella, July 2015.
The Live Free and Dance Blog Salon is published weekly from October 12- November 25, 2015. Each week a different NH Traditional Dance will be highlighted. The Blog Salon is in conjunction with the exhibit: Traditional Dance in New Hampshire 1750-present, at the NH State Library.  To read more about traditional dances across the state, visit the NH Folklife website. 

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Live Free and Dance Blog Salon Week 1: Concord, NH Contra Dance

Researched and written by Elizabeth Faiella, July 2015

Location: East Concord Community Center, 18 Eastman Street, Concord, NH

Schedule: 8-11 p.m., third Saturday of each month except July and August


Cost: $7, $5 ages 15-25, free under age 15

Current organizer: David Harris

Contact information: (603) 225-4917,

 David Harris, organizer of the Concord contra dance, took on his role at a difficult time—in September of 2001. In the wake of the events of September 11, he wasn’t sure whether they should hold the first dance of the season. “I got in my rowboat,” he recalls, “and went out and did some thinking, and decided, ‘We have this tradition that goes back a couple of hundred years, and I don’t want anybody to destroy that…. We had the dance and carried on the tradition in spite of what was going on in the rest of the world.” Since Harris began organizing the dance, only one dance has been cancelled.
The Concord contra dance began as a monthly series in West Concord, New Hampshire with its first dance on September 24, 1988 at the West Concord Community Center. The hall had a sprung wooden floor and had been built by Scandinavian immigrants who had moved to the area to work in the nearby quarries. “And they knew how to build a dance floor!” says David Harris.

Dance founder and organizer Eve Kitchen did the calling each month, bringing in a guest caller from time to time. The house band, the Hotcakes, consisted of a fiddler, mandolin player, and keyboard player. Two members of the Hotcakes, Mark Doughty and Bob Shanahan, still make occasional appearances at the dance. The dance was a favorite for local families.
Eve Kitchen ran the Concord dance from September 1988 to January 1994. By then, she was living in Massachusetts, so the dance took a several month hiatus before dancer Chris Derby (then Chris Glover), who missed the dance, took the reins and brought it back in November 1994.

Just a few months after the dance had resumed, the City of Concord closed down the West Concord Community Center for financial reasons. The dance moved to the East Concord Community Center in April 1995, where it has remained ever since.

Chris Derby continued to run the dance from November 1994 until June 2001. She met her husband, Jim Derby, at the dance. “She was sitting at the desk collecting money,” said David Harris, “and he walked in the door. She said, ‘I’m going to get that guy!’” 

In September 2001, David Harris became the organizer of the dance. The September dance inaugurated a new tradition: the monthly sing-along. At the end of the evening, the band began to play America the Beautiful, and the dancers sang along. A few months later, in December, caller and fiddler Dudley Laufman led another sing-along. The idea stuck, and today the sing-along takes place at the end of the mid-evening break. “There are some parallels between the singing and the dancing,” says Harris. “You’re in a group, and you’re all striving to make this thing work. Everybody does their little part to make it happen.”

Another monthly tradition in Concord is the dancing of Chorus Jig. This “chestnut” (as historic contra dances are sometimes called) has a history that dates back over 200 years.

In the dance’s earlier years, dancer Donna Maglin attended regularly. Maglin, who was blind, was an excellent dancer, Harris recalls.

Pianist and contra dance legend Bob McQuillen played at the Concord contradance several times. Harris remembers one night when McQuillen, well into his 80s, hefted his keyboard onto his shoulder and climbed up the stairs to the hall. “He scared me so much,” Harris says. “I didn’t want him to meet his end at our contra dance.”

The crowd at the Concord contra dance is diverse in age and experience level. In addition to long-time dancers, the dance has recently begun to draw a young adult demographic, including high school students, college students, and twenty-somethings. Harris says that the environment at the dance is relaxed and fun. Contra dancing in Concord is not a “competitive sport.”

The dance brings in a different band and caller each month. All dances are taught. Most dances called in Concord are contra dances, with some circle dances and square dances. All kinds of contradances are called, from traditional dances to modern dances, and the music is diverse as well. As is traditional at many New England contra dances, there is a waltz before the break and at the end of the evening.

Dancers of all ages and levels of experience are welcome. “I always tell people, ‘Don’t just sit and watch. Get in there and do it. As long as you can walk, you can do this,’” says Harris.

Source: David Harris, interview by Elizabeth Faiella, April 2015.

The Live Free and Dance Blog Salon is published weekly from October 12- November 25, 2015. Each week a different NH Traditional Dance will be highlighted. The Blog Salon is in conjunction with the exhibit: Traditional Dance in New Hampshire 1750-present, at the NH State Library.  A public reception is being held Wednesday, October 14 5:3-6:30pm. To read more about traditional dances across the state, visit the NH Folklife website.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Traditional Music & Dance Exhibit at NH State Library; Blog Salon kick-off

Traditional Dance and Music in New Hampshire: 1750-today
October 14- November 25, 2015 | Free and open to the public | NH State Library Map Gallery
20 Park St., Concord, NH 03301 | Library Hours: 8am-4:30pm M-F

Public Reception: Wednesday, October 14, 5:30-6:30pm, live fiddling by Perin Ellsworth-Helle

Blog Salon: Each week through the end of November we will be highlighting a local New Hampshire dance in the blog.

For more information about Traditional Dances in NH including Contra, Square, Folk, and English Country, visit the NH Folklife website.

The New Hampshire State Council on the Arts, in partnership with the Monadnock Folklore Society and the Monadnock Center for History and Culture, present an exhibit about the Granite State’s tradition of social dancing at the New Hampshire State Library from Oct. 14-Nov. 25.
The exhibit traces the long history of traditional dance and music in New Hampshire, especially in the Monadnock region from Colonial times to the present. These dances were primarily contra and square dances, done to traditional Celtic and English music performed on fiddle and piano. The Monadnock region of New Hampshire is one of the few places in the country where these dances have been done continuously since the mid-1700s.The exhibit features artifacts, documents, instruments, photographs and audio recordings. 

This exhibit was researched and produced by the Monadnock Folklore Society and the Monadnock Center for History Culture and has received additional support from the Department of Cultural Resoures, the NH State Council on the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

This traveling exhibit was on view:
January-May 2015 - Monadnock Center for History and Culture
October-November 2015 - New Hampshire State Library
January-March 2016- University of New Hampshire Diamond Library