Washington, D.C. – Dudley Laufman, a musician and barn dance caller from Canterbury, N.H., has been awarded the nation’s highest honor in the folk and traditional arts, the National Heritage Fellowship. The National Endowment for the Arts, which bestows the fellowships, announced this year’s 11 winners today.
Laufman is the third New Hampshire resident to receive the award. Contra dance musician and composer Bob McQuillen of Peterborough earned a National Heritage Fellowship in 2002, and Littleton basketmaker Newt Washburn was selected in 1987.
“I really didn’t believe it at first,” Laufman says of the honor, which comes with a $25,000 honorarium and will be celebrated with ceremonies and performances in Washington, D.C., September 21-24, with the public performance on Thursday, September 24.
At 78, Laufman has been involved in the contra dance and barn dance community in New Hampshire for over 60 years. He called his first dance in 1948 and soon started his own musical group for the dances, which later became the Canterbury Country Dance Orchestra. During the 1970s, the orchestra made a number of recordings, and Laufman traveled throughout the region, performing and teaching dance, averaging 300 or more engagements each year.
As longtime members of the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts’ Traditional Arts and Folklife Listing, Laufman and his partner Jacqueline Laufman – the two perform together in the group Two Fiddles — are sought after to conduct barn dance residencies in schools and at community centers.
Laufman has been the subject of a documentary film, The Other Way Back: Dancing with Dudley, and he and Jacqueline recently published “Traditional Barn Dances with Calls & Fiddling,” an instruction book that includes two music CDs and a DVD, through Human Kinetics press.
Ernest Thompson, New Hampshire resident and author of On Golden Pond, succinctly conveys Laufman’s contributions to New England dance: “I think Dudley Laufman belongs in the pantheon of genuine American artists. He belongs in Franconia Notch, the real Old Man of the Mountain.”
The other winners of the 2009 NEA National Heritage Fellowships are: the Birmingham Sunlights, an a cappella gospel group from Birmingham, Ala.; Chitresh Das, a Kathak dancer and choreographer from San Francisco; LeRoy Graber, a German-Russian willow basketmaker from Freeman, S.D.; “Queen” Ida Guillory, a zydeco musician from Dale City, Calif.; Amma D. McKen, a Yoruba Orisha singer from Brooklyn, N.Y.; Joel Nelso, a cowboy poet from Alpine, Texas; Teri Rofkar, a Tlingit weaver and basketmaker from Sitka, Alaska; Sophiline Cheam, a Cambodian classical dancer and choreographer from Long Beach, Calif.; Edwin Colón, a cuatro player from Orocovis, Puerto Rico; and Mike Seeger, a musician, cultural scholar, and advocate from Lexington, Va., who won the Bess Lomax Hawes Award for his significant contribution to the preservation and awareness of cultural heritage.