It's Fun To Hunt
Northern Junket links
Those who do not understand history are doomed to repeat it. From 1949 to 1984 one person chronicled contra dance in a magazine called "Northern Junket," now in an online archive. Edited by Ralph Page (and if you don't know who he was and why you should, reading this will fix that) it gives the developments of contra dance from an in-the-trenches perspective. One option to absorb this wealth of material is by reading it cover-to-cover. But that's a major project of some 10,000 pages in 165 issues. And it's not till Volume 6 that you get the first sporadic tables of contents. For those that wish to test the waters first, you can check the on-site index , which lists many of the more important articles. Or samples some of the articles listed below. These are the pieces I found the most personally interesting, and maybe they'll convince you to look much, much further.
The favorites of my favorites
Those that should get you reading the rest.
Dance history, pre-20th century
Contra and english country dance has gone through many historical waves of popularity, leaving old manuscripts in their wake. Ralph Page was very interested in their history, and many of the best articles research this.
- Mar 1951 Writings on the history of different dances and formations. While the end of the article claims "to be continued," it apparently never was.
- Jul 1952 George Washington danced here: an interesting bit of history trivia.
- Sep 1952 The re-introduction of "Sackett's Harbor."
- Oct 1952 Dec 1952 Feb 1953 On the history of contras, their influences, and the 18th and 19th centuries. Starts out a little slow but gets very interesting.
- Feb 1957 A detailed analysis of a number of 19th century contra texts. All the more interesting because now some are online here .
- Oct 1957 Dec 1957 A follow-up to the previous article, this time with a very detailed bibliography.
- Oct 1963 Feb 1964 May 1964 Dec 1964 May 1967 Jul 1967 A detailed series on the Lancers, a more complex and very popular form of Quadrille from the mid-nineteenth century.
- Jul 1971 Excerpts from writings in the mid 1700's about American dance.
- Jan 1973 Recollections of contra dancing in the 1880s and 1890s, with details on the "Tempest" and "Portland Fancy."
- Apr 1974 Comparing the history of contra and scottish country dances.
- Mar 1976 A history of the details of contra dancing in the Monadock region of New Hampshire. (That's Ralph Page's home.)
- Jan 1977 A short blurb about dance 200 years ago.
- Feb 1979 May 1979 Historical academic paper on traditional dances in Quebec. Gets down to the fine details. For instance, page 8 talks about the early (1588ish) origins of the hey. The first part of the series is less interesting.
- Dec 1980 Mar 1981 Jun 1981 Sep 1981 Dec 1981 More history of dance, by Ralph Page, focusing on his home region. Though after the first two parts, it becomes a series of newspaper clippings about dances in the late 1800's.
- Jun 1982 Bibliography of selected contra dance books from the 1700s and 1800s.
- Jun 1983 Another summary of the Lancers. Includes bibliography.
Dance history, 1900-1950 (roughly)
There's a period of time when contra dance pretty much went extinct, having been brutally crushed by the waltz. Except in the remote northern bunkers of New England. These are articles about dance in those times, often from the people who lived them.
- Apr 1949 May 1949 Jun 1949 Jul 1949 A Ralph Page first-person reminiscence of a kitchen junket -- a New England dance party from the early 1900's.
- Apr 1949 Some personal speculation on why contra/square dancing survived in New England.
- Aug 1949 Changes in contra dance and the contra dance culture in the previous few decades.
- Feb 1950 Band compositions of that period. (Halfway down the page.)
- May 1955 A first-person recounting of a dance attended back in the 1910's.
- Feb 1960 May 1960 A story of the first dance Ralph Page called in 1930, and what happened soon after. Sadly, never finished, but still a good read.
- Feb 1970 Apr 1970 On kitchen junkets. How dances were done in New England back then.
- Apr 1974 Square dances in bars during that time.
- May 1975 Reminiscing of dancing in the early 1900's.
Current events become history, and over thirty-five years a lot builds up. Here's some favorites, reported as they happened.
- Feb 1950 A traditional square dance evening in Montreal.
- Jun 1950 Early Dudley Laufman reference. (halfway down the page)
- Oct 1955 Advocating modernizing contra dance sequences by making them more all-active. (I suspect the author Shannon Keyes is a pseudonym for Ed Moody, both due to writing style and this . Article starts at the bottom of the page.)
- Feb 1956 Differences between American, English and Scottish longways dances.
- Feb 1957 Ralph Page's story of teaching contra dances in Japan.
- Oct 1957 A contra dance wedding.
- Mar 1958 A big square dance (any number of couples on a side) from Prince Edward Island. (This Junket issue has a number of dances from that region of Canada.)
- Dec 1959 Youth square dancing in New York City.
- Oct 1963 Southern square/big circle dance evenings.
- Oct 1959 "Becket Reel" and Herbie Gaudreau.
- May 1971 Review of Herbie Gaudreau's book, "Modern Contra Dancing." And about introducing non-traditional figures.
- Mar 1973 A reference to 'Dudley Dances' and the popularization of contra in the early 1970's.
- Oct 1977 Ted Sannella's report on calling contras at the MWSD national convention.
- Oct 1977 A collection of what Ralph Page felt were good easier contra dances. It's a nice snapshot of the popular choreography of that time. The note at the bottom of page 30 is also interesting. Also, see the errata.
The publication time frame of Northern Junket closely matches the rise and development of modern square dance (roughly 1950-1975). Ralph Page was very much against it, and his magazine often collected the contrary viewpoints decrying where most everyone else was going. The ones below are but a small sampling of the most interesting and passionate editorials of people fighting what was happening at that moment, without knowing what lay ahead. Expect some bias in this section.
- Mar 1951 An early salvo.
- Dec 1956 A diatribe by Ed Durlacher.
- Feb 1958 A newspaper article about increasing complexity, motivating critiques by two critiques by Ed Moody and Rod Linnell.
- Jan 1961 Ed Durlacher pointing out high attrition rates.
- Feb 1964 Four brief editorials, plus Ralph Page's take .
- Dec 1968 A somewhat biased take by Ed Moody, under his "Pat Pending" pen name.
- Jun 1970 An insider's analysis, by Dick Leger. (And look 25 years later .)
- Feb 1972 The dangers of complexity.
- Dec 1974 Ralph Page's thoughts on tradition versus change. (Bottom of the page.)
- Feb 1978 The development of club square dancing in the early 1950's in New England.
Calling advice and issues
These are the ones I found most helpful or interesting.
- Jan 1950 A patter contra? Words used by Ralph Page to call "Lady Walpole's Reel."
- Mar 1952 Why contras are difficult. (As opposed to squares.) No, seriously. Look at what we take for granted.
- Mar 1953 Lots of good advice on being a caller, by Ralph Page.
- Jul 1958 Advice bullet points.
- Feb 1964 On one-night-stand dances.
- Apr 1968 How to introduce contras to square dancers.
- May 1971 Of a caller's responsibilities, with an especially important tag line.
- Jun 1980 Challenge versus variety.
- Jun 1982 Programming and running one-night-stands.
- Oct 1982 Ralph Page on the proliferation of new contra dance sequences.
A favorite category of mine.
It's not bad just because it's different.
- May 1951 Sep 1951 Oct 1951 Nov 1951 A detailed series on forming a square/contra dance band. Discusses instruments and their combinations, and the needs of square dance music. The last article is about working together as an ensemble. (First article starts at the bottom of the page.)
- Mar 1955 Once upon a time there were many different ways to balance. This lists fifty.
- Aug 1968 Etiquette for experienced dancers.
- Aug 1968 Various dance quotations.
- Jan 1971 Lyrics for "Lord of the Dance."
- Dec 1975 General advice on how to dance.
- Feb 1980 One person's contra dance conversion.
- Feb 1980 On communities and changes. Not all the Northern Junket was dance material -- Ralph Page was also interested in folklore and daily life. And recipes.
- Feb 1983 Ralph Page on (and against) flourishes.