Nelson Contra Dance on NH Crossroads

This video is from an episode of New Hampshire Crossroads, a New Hampshire Public Television program, aired in 1983. In it Gordon Peery is heard talking about the age of the hall and the longevity of the dancing in Nelson. At the time the Town Hall had the date 1787 above the door. Naturally this caused Gordon and many others to assume that the hall had been there all that time. It turns out the original meeting house was built where the village was first established, up the hill (by the cemetery) in that year. When it was dismantled in 1846,  some salvaged material was used in the 1846 construction — the chestnut joists are still visible today under the Town Hall floor.

Nevertheless the enthusiasm that is narrated throughout this video indicates the passion with which dancers and musicians have nurtured (if not embellished) the reputation of the hall.

A view of the old timbers during the 2015 renovation of the hall, during which it was temporarily raised several feet.

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Contra Dance – Byron O’Brien

Listen carefully, these are the symptoms: increased heartbeat, memory loss, neuromuscular discoordination, heightened respiration, profuse sweating, confusion and fatigue. The above symptoms are exhibited by all greenhorns, newcomers and beginners at a Nelson Contra Dance. I speak from recent experience.

Dancing Forever

Not too long ago a piano tuner submitted a bill for work done on the piano in the Nelson Town Hall. With his invoice he included the following comment: “Because of the age of this piano and long abandoned construction practices, it is impossible to give this piano a highly accurate tuning. It has numerous false beats, inharmonicity, and heavy wear. Surprisingly, the overall tone is superior and the action is still fast and responsive. I suspect the piano is favored by those who play on it.”

Ralph Page’s Northern Junket

From 1949 to 1984, Ralph single-handedly published 165 mimeographed issues of his Northern Junket magazine, which contained editorials, recipes, stories, dance notes, and sheet music for squares, contras, and international folk dances, and sheet music for many folk songs. Though he lived in Nelson, his popularity had him traveling all around the country and beyond.

Stories from the Old-Timers

In October, 2004, Lisa Sieverts sat down with old-timers Frank Upton, Renn Tolman, Barney Quigley, and Dudley Laufman, to collect some stories about contra (square) dancing and Nelson. These short videos were edited from the 90 minute interview.

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