Jan 132010
 

The Monadnock Folklore Society has been approved for an FY2010 New Hampshire State Council on the Arts Mini Grant to support performances at the upcoming Ralph Page Dance Legacy Weekend. With its motto of “The Spirit of the Past, with a Vision for the Future,” the Ralph Page Dance Legacy Weekend was founded 23 years ago by the New England Folk Festival Association in collaboration with the Center for the Humanities at the University of New Hampshire. This weekend is named in honor of Ralph Page, who was pivotal in sustaining and reviving traditional contra and square dancing in New England.

Ralph started calling more than 70 years ago in Nelson, NH, the Monadnock area town that has had contra and square dancing continuously in its town hall for two centuries. Ralph was a popular caller in New Hampshire and in the Boston area. During various periods in which contra and square dancing were at low points in popularity, he was nearly the only person to keep the tradition alive.

Ralph Page became not only a caller but also a scholar of contra dancing. He published The Northern Junket newsletter monthly for many years. He wrote many excellent dances, and he researched and reconstructed many old dances. In 1977, Ralph Page received the Granite State Award given to outstanding citizens of New Hampshire. This award acknowledged not only his talents as a dance teacher, caller, and musician, but also his contributions to community life as a selectman for Nelson, NH from 1932-1938 and as president of the Cheshire County Historical Society for 15 years. When Ralph Page died in the early 1980’s, a committee was set up to keep his legacy alive; that eventually led to the Ralph Page Dance Weekend which has occurred annually since 1988.

From the beginning the emphasis of the Weekend has been on preserving the smoother style of dancing that Ralph favored. However, that doesn’t mean it’s a style of dancing only old people or old-fashioned dancers would enjoy. Contra and square dancing involve teamwork, and it never shows up better than at the Ralph Page weekend. Interested dancers are welcome to attend the entire weekend or any part, including the Friday or Saturday night dances. The Dance Legacy Weekend takes place from Friday, January 15 through Sunday, January 17th at the Memorial Union Building at the University of New Hampshire, Durham.

The 2010 Weekend Staff:

* Callers: Lisa Greenleaf & Tony Parkes
* Latter Day Lizards: Dave Langford, Bill Tomczak & Peter Barnes
* Old New England: Jane Orzechowski, Deanna Stiles & Bob McQuillen
* White Cockade: Vince O’Donnell, Ralph Jones, Sylvia Miskoe, Cal Howard, RP Hale & Allan Chertok
* Retrospective dance session: Marcie Van Cleave & Sylvia Miskoe will lead a celebration of the truly inspirational and varied life of Marianne Taylor.

More information about the Ralph Page Dance Legacy Weekend at http://www.nhcountrydance.com/music/rpdlw.html
More information about Ralph Page at
http://www.library.unh.edu/special/index.php/ralph-page
NH Council on the Arts Logo
The Weekend is honored to be supported in part by a grant from the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Sep 012008
 

The Rhythm Rollers are a west coast band, but with a special attachment to New England contra dance music, and  notably (pun intended) for the “piano playing of Bob McQuillen, the tunes he has written, his relentless encouragement, and his jokes.”

Their new recording, Grand Right and Left, features none other than the man himself on the ivories, Cathie Whitesides on fiddle, Laurie Andres, accordion, and WB Reid on banjo-guitar (that would be a guitar in a banjo body), regular guitar, and fiddle.

Joy Abounds! Of course it’s impossible to hear McQuillen playing the piano without cracking a smile that invokes awareness of some higher power. But two additional components stand out on this recording. Laurie’s accordion playing gets right to the point. Continue reading »

Jul 012008
 

As I set out to write this month’s Folknotes, there is a convergence of information about some members of the music and dance community who are bravely facing health problems. Though it is a more solemn topic than we generally address here, I hope that this will help to focus energy and prayerful thoughts in the lives of these individuals.

Marianne Taylor has been a central figure on the New England contra dance scene for decades. Her recent struggle with cancer has not diminished her spirits, but she is no longer able to be active. Her dear friend Sylvia Miskoe has written the following words about her:

I first met Marianne in 1955 at a dance workshop in Exeter, NH. I don’t remember if it was Scottish Country Dance or square/contra. She was 24, married to Conny Taylor (Cornell), and pregnant with their first child. A beautiful dancer, a confident woman, just the perfect role model for me, a college junior. Continue reading »