Gordon Peery describes the history of New England contras and pays a tribute—with musical help from several dozen others—to Bob McQuillen. Recorded July, 2012, in Peterborough, NH.
Rita Hayworth meets the BeeGees!
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Country Dance and Song Society ("Continuing the traditions. Linking those who love them.") promotes English and Anglo-American music, dance, and song. Celebrating its centennial in 2015, CDSS offers dance camps, publications, scholarships, grants for special programs, and much more.
Lloyd Shaw Foundation ("To recall, restore, and teach the folk rhythms of the American People") honors the legacy of the dynamic leader from Colorado who did much to popularize traditional American dance. Dance instructions, recordings, kits for elementary and high school teachers.
The New Hampshire Library of Traditional Music and Dance at UNH is home of Ralph Page's papers and recordings, along with valuable material from Ted Sannella, Country Dance and Song Society, and many others. UNH also make available online a complete set of Page's Northern Junket magazine.
NEFFA (the New England Folk Festival Association) is best known for the wonderful festival it produces each year in April, in Mansfield, MA. It's a full weekend with four dance venues and numerous workshop spaces, filled with contras and squares, English country dance, international folk dance, concerts, workshops, performances, and jam sessions galore.
The Ralph Page Dance Legacy Weekend, held annually during Martin Luther King weekend in January at the University of New Hampshire at Durham, brings together dancers, callers, and musicians for a weekend of dance, music, and discussions. In addition to showcasing new dances, versatile callers, and top-notch musicians, more attention is paid to contra dance history and traditions at this event than at any other I know.
The Dance Flurry in Saratoga Springs, NY, celebrates 25 years of producing a jam-packed February weekend of music and dance: contra, swing, Latin, English country, squares, Cajun, zydeco, Irish, Scandi, Middle Eastern, international folk, vintage, clogging, singing, too!
Folkstreams offers a great collection of documentary films.
Break dancing- check out the guy in the orange shirt at :40
How to be a hip, cool dancer Created by a musician, based on what he's observed from the stage
If you wish the dancing in your home
community were more precise, you might enjoy this:
Top Secret Drum Corps, Basel
No instruments? No problem! International Body Music Festival
Bobby McFerrin and audience singing Ave Maria
Time Gentlemen Please Street dance meets morris, longsword, rapper
Feeling depressed by the state of
just might cheer you up.
Flamenco at 5:15 This short film is an impressionistic record of a flamenco dance class given to senior students of the National Ballet School of Canada by two great teachers from Spain, Susana and Antonio Robledo. Beautiful photographed, it's thrilling to watch these young dancers explore another dance language.
Contra Dance with Northern Spy video
Some 250 people showed up to help the band celebrate its 31st anniversary in November. (See blog post on the subject for more info.) This video shows some of the dances from that night.
Square Dance videos
This is a collection of one hundred—yes, 100!—videos documenting Dare To Be Square, a squares-only dance weekend featuring six prominent callers. It was held at the historic John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, NC, with additional support from Country Dance and Song Society. The same videos are available on a new YouTube channel. The documentation and the weekend are part of the Square Dance History Project that David Millstone is coordinating; more information is available at that site.
Crac! This extraordinary portrait (1981) of life in Québec by the noted Canadian animation artist Frédéric Back is told solely through images and music, including a spectacular evocation of traditional dance. A DVD collection of his films is available here for sale. It includes Crac!, The Man Who Planted Trees, The Mighty River, a film about the St. Lawrence, and six others.
Helpful Resources for New Dancers
One classic resource was created in the mid-1970s, when "contra dance" was gaining an identity as a separate genre but before evenings became as contra-centric as many are today. Larry Jennings was an enthusiastic dancer, caller, choreographer, organizer, and dance philosopher active in the Boston area scene; he created a handout describing Almost All You Need to Know to Enjoy a New England Style Dance. It's still a useful introduction.
As contras have spread across the country in the past 40 years from their New England roots, local groups elsewhere have created a large literature to explain the dance form to newcomers.
The Mid-Missouri Traditional Dancers have a well-written Tips for Beginners on their website.
Gary Shapiro answers "What Is Contra Dance?" in some interesting ways.
The Chattahoochee Country Dancers in Atlanta have produced Contra Dance Basics, a series of instructional videos available on YouTube that explain contra dance figures.
From Wisconsin, some answers to Contradance FAQs.
Hamilton, Ontario, offers up A Contra Dance Primer.
Greg Rohde, a dancer in St. Louis, published an entertaining and informative essay, Hands Four, about the delights of contra dance.
The Mid-Missouri Traditional Dancers offer Tips for Experienced Dancers.
Cynthia Van Ness has a thoughtful essay encouraging folks to appreciate your local callers.
The syllabus created for the Ralph Page Dance Legacy Weekend each year is an extremely valuable resource for callers, one of the finest collections of dances to be found online. The weekend includes examples of classic contras and squares along with contemporary dances. (It's the only dance event where evaluations might include the comment, "Not enough triple minors.") Here's a Wordle showing dances often on the program at the weekend.
Fiddler Alan Jabbour's pilgrimage to Monymusk
Caller Resources prepared by dancers in St. Louis
Thomas Green's website of dances appropriate for family dances and one night stands
Index of audio clips from live recordings of modern western square dance calling from the 1950s and 1960s. These examples include superb dance calling; with just a few exceptions, the calls and choreography would be enjoyed by dancers today.
Dancing in the Seats: Essay about the separation of music and dance in our culture
Marika Partridge produced a lively audio piece for National Public Radio about the attraction of contras for young people. (David is heard in the piece, but that's George Marshall calling at the start, despite what the transcription reads.)
English country dance
Most readers who have made it to this page know about the pivotal contribution made by Cecil Sharp. Copies of Sharp's Country Dance Books are available. Less well known is the vital role played by his Sharp's contemporary, Mary Neal.
This handy site lets you tap your finger on your computer and will tell you how many beats per minute that is. Ever so useful if you're trying to make a record of the tempo!
John Chambers created this detailed
index to tunes
in ABC notation. Once you have the ABC
notation, copy it and paste it here
and a few seconds later you can be printing out a nice PDF to hand
Dorothea Lange's Ireland The great photographer, best known for her images from the US in the Depression years, visited Ireland in 1954. This collection of evocative photographs from County Clare is backed by a lovely collection of tunes played on accordion by Tony MacMahon.
Class with Barbara Cook:
This video shows the singer working (for two engaging hours) to
loosen up some younger talent, helping them shed their classical
training in order to sing popular songs in a more appropriate style.
Absolutely no music or dance or song content whatsoever
"Letters to Warner Brothers" by Groucho Marx
How I Met My Wife, by Jeff Winter (from The New Yorker, July 25, 1994)