Contra Dance

Dancing Forever in the Nelson Town Hall

This article was published on 1990,  in Leisure Weekly, a Keene-based entertainment newspaper that has long since ceased publication. Many things have changed since then,  but some will remain the same, even with the new renovations  ~ Gordon Peery (author). 

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.”

Over the past decade I have come to know that piano well, playing for contradances that occur regularly in the Nelson Town Hall. I have always enjoyed playing it, though from its condition it seemed like I shouldn’t.

The remarks of the piano tuner helped me to understand why I enjoyed playing it. Then it occurred to me that what was said about the piano was also a perfect description of the hall itself.

The old timber frame building doesn’t pretend to be anything fancy. The light fixtures, the windows, the architectural lines, all clearly address function over aesthetics. But the building, in its simplicity, harbors an elegance, or perhaps rather, a neutrality that facilitates the elegance of song and dance within.

Go to the Nelson Town Hall on any Monday night of the year and you’ll find anywhere from a handful to several dozen dancers moving forward and back, up and down, intertwining, moving through the graceful figures of a contradance. Though the Monday night dance is just about 10 years old, the contradance tradition in Nelson goes back long enough so that no one really knows when it began. Continue Reading »

Top