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Friday, September 23, 2016

Contra dance ties in with Big Read

By KATHY CLEVELAND

Staff Writer


MILFORD - About three-quarters of the way through John Steinbeck's novel "The Grapes of Wrath," the Joad family and other downtrodden migrants organize a country dance at which they get some relief from their situation as they do-si-do and smile and laugh and feel a little less desperate.

On Friday, dancers and musicians will fill the Milford Town Hall auditorium for a traditional New England contra dance as a way to re-create the spirit of the Nobel Prize-winning book. ...

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MILFORD - About three-quarters of the way through John Steinbeck's novel "The Grapes of Wrath," the Joad family and other downtrodden migrants organize a country dance at which they get some relief from their situation as they do-si-do and smile and laugh and feel a little less desperate.

On Friday, dancers and musicians will fill the Milford Town Hall auditorium for a traditional New England contra dance as a way to re-create the spirit of the Nobel Prize-winning book.

Contra dancing is a folk dance with murky origins. The word "contra" comes from the parallel lines of dancers who stand opposite - or contra to - their partners. There is a regular contra dance on most fourth Fridays at Milford Town Hall.

This Friday night, the dance will be part of The Big Read - the National Endowment for the Arts program that celebrates books and tries to connect people to their spirit.

"The Grapes of Wrath" is about one struggling family forced out of Oklahoma by the Dust Bowl in the 1930s. On Friday night, Jordan Tirrell-Wysocki on fiddle and Jim Pendergast on guitar will play the music of the 1930s.

"Not everyone in a community will read the book, but they can still connect with the book through the film" or through "music and dance from the era," Blanche Milligan, executive director of the nonprofit Fireseed Alliance, said in an email.

The Fireseed Alliance is one of 77 nonprofit organizations to receive a grant to host the NEA Big Read this year. In the Souhegan Valley, it is joined by the Chamber of Commerce, Crotched Mountain and New Hampshire Humanities to organize the many Big Read events that are going on through September and October.

There are film showings, lectures, community discussions and living history performances. Among them will be a "paint and sip" party at 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 24, at Art Happens in Wilton, and a program called "Just Off Route 66: Painting the America of the 1930s" will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 28, at the Amherst Town Library

All the public library events are free, but some require registration.

The project will culminate at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 27, at Saint Anselm College with author Jay Parini, who will discuss "Steinbeck in California: The Man and the Writer."

To see all of The Big Read events, visit fireseedallinace.org. Local events also can be found in The Telegraph's library listings.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or kcleveland@nashuatelegraph.com.