Feb 3, 2014 8:56 AM
"The Essence of the Past Driving the Spirit of the Future"
There were over 20 jam sessions, history presentations, and specialized workshops for contra dancers, musicians, and callers led by the weekend’s “faculty”. One of the official callers for the weekend was another figure synonymous with contra dancing, Dudley Laufman. A National Heritage Fellowship recipient, Laufman told stories in between calling dances of playing music with Ralph Page and his contributions to the musical tradition.
The Montreal band Maivish led a workshop on the nuances of playing music for a dance as opposed to performing for only a listening audience. Maivish’s Jaige Trudel on fiddle, Adam Broome on guitar, and Matthew Olwell on blackwood flute and clogging “foot percussion” led workshop participants through exploring variations in harmonic, rhythmic, and melodic choices depending on the type of dance being called. Gathered in a circle musicians picked up the song by ear, a fiddler slowly plucked notes with her fingers, a woman bent closely over her concertina, and a young flautist eagerly performed phrases stating, “I’ve never actually played for a dance before.” Maivish encouraged participants to take cues from the caller and dancers on the tempo, how much intonation or staccato should be articulated, and when to open up and elaborate within a melody or harmony.
The Ralph Page weekend happens annually on Martin Luther King Jr. weekend, and is open to contra and square dance enthusiasts and those who just want to find out what all the fun is about.
For more information about contra and square dancing in New England visit the following resources: