The New England contradance renaissance
of the late 1970s and early 1980s Oral History Project

When I started going to dances in the Boston area in the Summer of 1978, the local square and contra dance scene was undergoing a wild growing phase. The big weekly Tuesday night dance run by the CDS Boston center had outgrown the YWCA in Cambridge, and had just recently moved to the Brimmer and May school gym in Chestnut Hill. Tony Parkes and Donna Hinds had recently started up the Monday night "Yankee Ingenuity" dance at the Concord Scout House, and Tod Whittemore had just started his Thursday night dance at the Cambridge YWCA (this dance then moved to the VFW in West Cambridge within a few years). Over the next few years, many things changed as these two private dances became the most popular dances in town, eclipsing the CDS Tuesday night dance. The music that was played for these dances evolved rapidly, new dances were written in an evolving style that would become known as "modern urban contra" dances, and the younger crowd increased at these dances. It seems that this was the start of a revitalization of an old tradition that had been going on for several hundred years, and this revitalization helped to launch this tradition out of New England into the entire country.

Some of the things that I think changed over this time

A rough timeline of this period to jog your memory

I am in the process of documenting this part of Boston dance history by conducting oral history interviews with musicians, callers, and dancers who went through this period and have something to say about it. If that describes you, I would dearly love to sit down with you and talk about it and record it for posterity.

A project update - what I have done in the past few years

August, 2013   Walter Lenk   Cambridge, MA   617-547-7781   <Walter_Lenk@Comcast.Net>