American Dance Program

American country dance (or contra dance) had been part of CDS Boston Centre’s activities for years. As early as Cecil Sharp’s time, people were aware of American country dancing. Louise Chapin, Mary McNair, Gene Gowing, and others encouraged American dance. During the hardships of World War II, dance organizations which were focused primarily on dances from other countries (like England) had to justify their continued activity in part by including forms of American dancing. By the end of the war, Louise Chapin was teaching square dancing. At the same time, Ralph Page was teaching contras and squares in New Hampshire, Louise Winston, Ted Sannella (whose father-in-law, Irvin Davis, played an important role in CDS Boston Centre), and others were central figures in the American dancing of CDS Boston.

In 1943, CDS Boston Centre started a weekly Tuesday night dance at the Boston YMCA with Ralph Page and other callers. The big weekly Tuesday night dance run by CDS Boston Centre outgrew the YWCA in Cambridge, moved to the Brimmer and May school gym in Chestnut Hill, and then back to the Cambridge YWCA until the late 1970’s. CDS Boston Centre continued to sponsor monthly and occasional contra dances until the 2000’s; other area dance groups increasingly sponsored contra dances, and the CDS Boston occasional series was discontinued. Currently, there is a contra dance in the greater Boston area almost every night of the week.