Star Hampshire Traditional Music & Dance ~ About the Weekend
About the Music  & Dance Weekend ~ About Star Island

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About the Weekend and Star Island

Photos: The Hotel, Staff Concert in the Lobby, and the Pavilion at Sunset - Star Island is a place of much and varied beauty!

Star Island & The Music & Dance Program

Star Island: Star Island is part of the Isles of Shoals, several miles off the coast of New Hampshire. As our coastline is only 18 miles long it’s not hard to find. Transportation is by boat. Starting in 2010 we’re back to Portsmouth Harbor traveling on the Thomas Laighton. It’s surrounded by the ocean, and home of a turn of the (last) century resort hotel with a large porch on three sides looking out over the ocean and with many comfortable rocking chairs. Thus, if you’re not dancing or engaged in other activities, you can hang out in a rocking chair and socialize and watch and listen to the ocean.

What Happens: Star Hampshire is a relatively small weekend of music and dancing, with a  relaxed schedule and a friendly social atmosphere. There’s lots of good dancing, but there’s also time to walk around, explore, socialize, hang out on the rocking chairs, and take advantage of the other possibilities associated with the island.
  1. Music & Dance. The staff is chosen for its ability to present an excellent, varied program. The emphasis is on New England contras and squares. Depending on the skills and interests of the staff, we have included a variety of additional programming such as singing, English country dance and Balkan dancing.

  2. The Program. The weekend features evening dance parties, daytime workshops, staff concerts, and more depending on the staff. Sometimes we can take advantage of activities of other conferences (e.g. singing, yoga) and sometimes they join us for dancing; all by permission of course. There are jam sessions, workshops, and there’s a waltz session before breakfast.

  3. Dancing! Did I mention that already? There are generally between 50 and the maximum of 80 dancers each year. The dancing is fun, tending to be on the traditional side but with some modern dancing, and some unusual dances thrown in since it’s possible to get away with that with people who have been dancing all weekend! The final dance on Sunday is on the hotel porch; what a nice place for a final dance party! We do sometimes have members of other conferences join us; and we invite the Pelicans (Star staff) to join us for the evening dance. What they lack in polish the more than make up for with enthusiasm!

  4. Nondance events include the chapel, singing sessions, jam sessions, social hour, staff concerts and more. Here’s a description of the chapel from David Millstone; many consider it to be one of the highlights of the weekend. “You can participate in a memorable camper-organized non-denominational chapel service by climbing in silence to the historic stone meeting house and sitting in candle lantern light as dancers and musicians share tunes, songs, stories, and poems.” And of course don’t forget hanging out on the wonderful porch in a rocking chair by the ocean as one of the more enjoyable experiences in life.

  5. The Unexpected! Since it’s on an island interesting things can happen. Major storms have blown up causing people to have to be very careful, go indoors, etc. Hurricanes have forced cancellation of some or all of the weekend or at least worry about whether it would occur on more than one occasion. On the other hand, it’s hard to beat seeing the Northern Lights from Star Island, and watching the waves; especially during a storm. It’s a great place to hang out, which is why there’s more free time built in to the schedule than in most other music and dance weekends and why no one complains about it.

A Brief History

Star Hampshire was started and run pretty much completely by Patrick Stevens for its first 16 years. That would have been a remarkable enough accomplishment in itself, but along with that Patrick was the chair of the Ralph Page Dance Legacy Weekend Committee for several years, organizer of the Kittery Dance during the earlier period, photographer, swimmer, father, husband, even managed to work full time on top of all that, and who knows what else he did! He did everything with an amazing amount of energy and enthusiasm. He always was coming up with ideas for Star Hampshire and for the Ralph Page Weekend. Of course not every single one was good, but a large proportion of them were.

The Star Hampshire Weekend, like the Ralph Page Weekend, has always had a more traditional feel to it than most dance weekends and festivals - and when I say that I mean it in the very best way. It has a relaxed, friendly atmosphere (how could it not in such a wonderful place?), excellent music on the traditional side but always exciting, and the same with the calling and the style of dancing.

Perhaps it’s the location; how can you not have a sense of history and tradition when you’re completely surrounded by it? It was also partly because Patrick encouraged that sort of atmosphere in a variety of ways, and because so many of us who attend the weekend lean in that direction.

Certainly we do modern dances; and when we have people like Rod Miller as musicians no one could complain that the music is old-fashioned or anything! But out on that island how could you not have a sense of historical perspective? Take a look at the photo pages and you’ll see what I mean!

Sadly Patrick’s heart wasn’t as strong as the rest of him, and he died of a heart attack in December 2007. We had a small gathering on Star Island in his honor the folllowing year (2008) on the usual weekend, and there was discussion of the idea of reviving the weekend.

It was with great joy that under new leadership we returned for a real, full weekend in September 2009, knowing that the Star Hampshire Traditional Music & Dance Weekend really would continue; although it was impossible not to notice Patrick’s absence. But I have’t the slightest doubt that Patrick would have been glad to know that we’d be out there the next year and it now looks like we’ll be dancing on Star Island for many years to come.