Ralph Page Dance Legacy Weekend ~ Informational Articles
Articles by Other Contributors II: John McIntire & Jeremy Korr

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DEFFA Editorial, February, 2001

John McIntire

This is fair warning; I’m making a departure here from my usual musings outside of the folk music scene to share my thoughts and reflections on the New England Dance Legacy Weekend [as the RPDLW was named for that one year - PY]. To put it succinctly, I had a ball at the weekend! It was more than just the great music, the concise calling, and the renewal of friendships and meeting new people. Those factors alone would have made the weekend worth attending. There is something else present at this particular weekend. I’ll try to express to you what I felt.

   Contra dancing was formed in New England. A curious but logical mix of English, Scottish, Irish, and French traditions meeting with the unlimited opportunities of a new world, contra dancing has continued to evolve as a living folk tradition. The constant in all of this is the way that all the individuals involved are connected. For me, dancing in time to the music, passing smoothly and regularly from one person to the next, and acknowledging the presence of the other dancers are the actions and attitudes that I experience at the NEDLW. That is what makes it so much fun for me. The coming together of a group of individuals to enjoy performing a group activity is what dancing is all about and for me, contra dancing is the epitome of this.

    I get to experience this periodically at our local dances. Maine dancers exhibit an exuberance about contra dancing that is probably more in line with its roots than the more reserved style often experienced in the urban areas. I love that willingness to demonstrate the joy of the dance. But I like it even better when exuberance and the music all come together. I’d love to see that more often. I can’t help but equate contra dancing with raising a barn or a timber frame. It all has to happen together, on cue, in order for the event to have a satisfying conclusion for all.

About the Contributors.

Jeremy Korr is from the west coast. He came all the way out to New Hampshire to go to the RPDLW on a calling scholarship; his letter is part of what we request as part of receiving a scholarship, and it’s one of the best we’ve received. He has become a regular at the weekend, and I believe is now a regular caller back home.

John McIntire lives in Unity Maine right near the MOFGA Fairgrounds, where the Common Ground Country Fair is held. Some things like that are coincidental but others are not! He’s been calling and dancing for a number of years and is on the committee of the RPDLW as well as being the editor of the DEFFA Newsletter.

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Jeremy Korr’s Scholarship Letter (Excerpt):

Here's some of what made it special: watching the connection and the slight but deliberate tension between arms as the dancers circled in their minor sets; the smiles and grins on the dancers' faces; the almost imperceptible glance between partners as they crossed each other during a half figure eight; Mary Cay's eyes closed and her body fully immersed in making her music; Rodney's foot tap-tap-tapping along with the rhythm. I felt a kind of pleasure I don't even know how to describe—and a feeling of gratefulness for the privilege of being able to be there and call. Linda's extensive and constructive critique after my slot was very helpful, and I learned immediately from both the positive and negative feedback she shared.

For much of the weekend, I was a dancer just as much as an aspiring caller, and I appreciated the weekend in that role too. The RPDLW has a special feel to it that hasn't been at any other dance weekend or festival I've attended, not even NEFFA. I spent much of the flight home trying to identify why it felt so unique. Some factors I recognized are that the participants at the Ralph Page weekend share a strong and conscious respect for tradition and its preservation; strong sense of connection during dances (in the spirit of Ted Sannella); respect of dancers for each other more so than elsewhere; respect of dancers for the dances themselves more than elsewhere; very little booking ahead; few complaints by women and by smaller dancers about being "manhandled" and otherwise treated rudely by other dancers (though of course I may have missed this happening); and the direct connection to an earlier era in the special collection in the library.

But my favorite moment to sum it all up came while dancing "Money Musk." Everything else aside, I can't think of a more appropriate venue, group of musicians, or group of dancers with whom to dance "Money Musk." But it went beyond that. As I progressed down the line, enjoying the elegance so many dancers were displaying, I paid more and more attention to the full rights and lefts at the end of each time through the dance. Repeatedly—not every time, but enough—the other gent and I spontaneously did a "no-hands" courtesy turn with only eye contact and a tiny nod. Tony Saletan had not explicitly shared this very traditional option during his walkthrough, but with this group of dancers it happened anyway, and was it ever satisfying—the most powerful courtesy turns I had ever experienced.

[Note: although the rest of Jeremy’s letter is interesting and well written, much of it was directed toward the RPDLW Committee, so I’m not reprinting the full text here. I think this portion communicates the aspects of greatest interest to most dancers very effectively.]

Here are the articles by John and Jeremy. Each  gives a different perspective on the weekend.  Interesting how for so many people dancing Money Musk at the RPDLW seems to  be an event of such significance.

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The Canterbury Country Dance Orchestra played in 2007. it doesn’t get much better than that! Photo by Patrick Stevens, used with permission.