- Theater Arts
The Dancingmaster is a whimsical musical portrait of the legendary contra dance caller, Dudley Laufman. Dudley almost single-handedly provided the link between the old days of rural contradancing in the hamlets of New England, and the vibrant network of dances taking place every week throughout the United States and beyond. The character “Dudley” is played by the great traditional musician, Keith Murphy. Becky Tracy and the composer of Dancingmaster, Larry Siegel, provide the musical accompaniment. Mary DesRosiers, a dancingmaster in her own right, creates original choreography performed by a group of traditional dancers from the Monadnock Region of New Hampshire.
The story of The Dancingmaster is of a self-made, independent person finding a home and a life in rural New England: a life focused on the simple gifts of time to build your own house, garden, play music and dance, to develop pursuits out of step with the hectic pace of contemporary life. Dudley, as well as most of those participating in this production, exemplifies and champions these virtues.
The name Dudley Laufman is so closely associated with the contra and barn dances of New England that most long-term residents refer to local gatherings as "Dudley Dances." Two forms of community dances evolved in New England -- contra dances, done in lines with partners facing one another, and square dances featuring sets of four couples. After the Revolutionary War, dances such as these, associated with England, fell out of favor, except in the rural areas of the Northeast where they continued to occur in informal settings such as kitchen parties and barn dances. Laufman came to New Hampshire in 1947 to work at a dairy farm and began to attend these local dances. He called his first dance in 1948 and soon started his own musical group for the dances, which later became the Canterbury Country Dance Orchestra. Ernest Thompson, New Hampshire resident and author of On Golden Pond, succinctly conveys Laufman's contributions to New England dance: "I think Dudley Laufman belongs in the pantheon of genuine American artists. He belongs in Franconia Notch, the real Old Man of the Mountain."
A native of Newfoundland, Keith Murphy’s traditional song repertoire is based in Eastern Canada and Quebec as well as his current home, Vermont. He is also renowned for his work as a multi instrumentalist, including his distinctive Irish style guitar playing, French Canadian piano, as well as his work as a mandolin player. He is an accomplished composer and arranger in the realm of traditional music and has also composed for theater and film. Several of his compositions have been featured on the recent Ken Burns documentary on the Roosevelts. Keith is a faculty member of the Brattleboro Music Center and the artistic director of the BMC’s Northern Roots Traditional Music Festival in Brattleboro Vermont which he founded in 2008.
Becky Tracy has been a defining presence in some of the most popular and innovative contra dance bands to come out of New England, being the fiddler for both Wild Asparagus and Nightingale. Her sound is unmistakable: a distinctive clarity of tone, a rhythmic attack owing much to French Canadian playing and the melodic quality of Irish music.
Mary DesRosiers is a New Hampshire native who has been calling traditional American dances for over thirty years. She has taught the contra and square dances and singing games of New England to audiences of all ages in town halls, schools, and at music festivals around the country. Mary previously collaborated on choreography for Lawrence Siegel’s opera Village Store Verbatim, a work which served as inspiration for many towns across the country to research, write, and stage their own folk histories. Mary is dedicated to preserving the heritage of old-time music and dancing for all to share.
Lawrence Siegel is a composer, theater artist, traditional musician, and creator of a range of music through collaboration and innovation. For more than 25 years, in leading his Verbatim Project, he has facilitated and empowered groups to create original music-theater performances in their own voice, ranging from the quirks of small-town life in New England, to the redemptive telling of the Holocaust story through the acclaimed oratorio, Kaddish. Siegel’s Verbatim projects have been widely recognized as unique examples of public art.
These premiere performances are jointly sponsored by the Monadnock Folklore Society, Next Stage, and the Brattleboro Music Center. They will appeal to fans of traditional music and dance and at the same time to audiences for musical theater and classical music.
The Dancingmaster is not to be missed. We seek your support to pave the way to our two scheduled performances in September: September 23rd at the Peterborough Town House, in Peterborough, NH, sponsored by the Monadnock Folklore Society, and September 24th in collaboration with Next Stage Theater in Putney, VT. Our minimum goal is $3,500; our stretch goal is $6,500. These funds will directly support the excellent artists performing The Dancingmaster for you. Support beyond that which covers the budget for the production will allow for an honorarium for the creation of the work.
Thanks so much for your interest and support!