NEFFA Essay: The Perils Of Prosperity: Why Some Dances Are Having Low Attendance

Dudley Laufman – December 2000

In the 40’s and 50’s in rural New Hampshire there were regular weekly Friday and Saturday night dances* in Marlboro, Walpole, Richmond, Keene, Swanzey, Hancock, Bradford, Orford, Alexandria, and more. All these dances were the “place to be” for a local crowd, pulling over 100 people each night. It was what folks did. There were not many choices. Being a dance gypsy was not an option.

There are currently twelve monthly “contra” dances going on in New Hampshire. Three of them average 80-100 dancers each month, many hailing from out of state. The other nine monthly dances in New Hampshire are small, averaging maybe 25-30 at each one. Some of the same dancers can be seen each week at one or another of these venues.

Some of us here in rural New Hampshire like the small intimate dances. But there are others who are not happy with the economics of those events.disappointed with the meager turnout.weary of trying to crank up energy from ten dancers in a cavernous hall that could handle a hundred. Not too long ago in the ’70’s when “contra” had become a buzz word, large crowds of teenagers filled the town halls for monthly dances in Acworth, Fitzwilliam, Nelson, Sanbornton, Tamworth, Durham. For those of us who experienced those days the contra scene now might appear to be in a rather fragile condition.

So where is everybody? Why aren’t all the dances the “place to be”? Lot’s of reasons, but perhaps the biggest is the Perils of Prosperity (POP). Too much to do, and too much money to do it with. There are lots of “places to be” as the consumer surfs through the good times.

For the most part we are not doing anything wrong. Standing on our heads naked spitting wooden nickels won’t change anything. POP is in charge for the time being. But have no fear, it will pass. What we need is a good old depression to bring us back to our villages and communities to party and dance. This will be called Dance Up Depression (DUD).

* These were not “contra” dances in the modern sense. One or two contras, three at the most, squares, and round dances (foxtrots, waltzes etc). The event was called a “Dance” not a contra dance.

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