::  Posts  ::  RSS  ::  ◂◂RSS  ::  Contact

Piano and Contra Dance

March 6th, 2012
music, piano, contra  [html]
Occasionally people write to me because they're looking for a contra dance band to play at their wedding. Several times, however, they've been surprised that we have a piano in our band. They say they've never danced to a band with a piano, or that they don't want any non-traditional instrumentation. The first time I heard this, I was really surprised: to me the most traditional band is a piano and a fiddle. To check that I'm not halucinating, I decided to look back at old dance pictures:

We have Randy Miller's 1977 woodcut from p15 of his New England Fiddler's Repertoire:

1977 Nelson Contra Dance Woodcut
In 1952 we have the Myron Colby Orchestra:
1952 Myron Colby
   Dance Orchestra
In 1949 we have dancers in Everett PA:
Square Dancing in
the Street in 1949
Same place, possibly a little later:
Old Square Dance in
a Hall
On the cover of Beth Tolman and Ralph Page's 1937 Country Dance Book is Fran Tolman' woodcut [1]:
1937 contra dance band nelson

What do these all have? Fiddle and piano! Three also have drum kits and then there's a banjo, trumpet, and sax, but where do people get the idea that pianos don't belong?

The only old dance pictures I could find that didn't have a piano are from c1900 Illinois, showing dancing in a barn to fiddle and banjo and in someone's house to a reed organ:

Update 2015-11-17: Here are two other old pictures of dancing, one to fiddles and another to fiddle and (I think) clarinet:


[1] This is also on the cover of the NEFR, and my image here is from a scan of that. Looking at the image on an ebay listing it appears the original printed color was blue.

Comment via: google plus, facebook

Recent posts on blogs I like:

Veganism and restrictive eating

I’m reading the book Intuitive Eating, which I highly recommend. I was looking for something like it that could get me back to trusting my biological hunger without worrying that I need to control myself or my weight. It’s raised my consciousness to the w…

via Holly Elmore January 17, 2020

Cops on Public Transportation

I wrote a post about American moral panics about fare evasion two months ago, which was mirrored on Streetsblog. I made a mistake in that post that I’d like to correct – and yet the correction itself showcases something interesting about why there are arm…

via Pedestrian Observations January 17, 2020

Algorithms interviews: theory vs. practice

When I ask people at trendy big tech companies why algorithms quizzes are mandatory, the most common answer I get is something like "we have so much scale, we can't afford to have someone accidentally write an O(n^2) algorithm and bring the site d…

via Posts on Dan Luu January 5, 2020

more     (via openring)

More Posts:


  ::  Posts  ::  RSS  ::  ◂◂RSS  ::  Contact