On Ben's Farm

Happy Just to Dance With You


Arthur Tufts '48 was on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston, heading to a dance festival with friends when it happened. His tire went flat. Bad timing. But Tufts wasn't about to let something like a flat keep him from getting to a folk dance. He was, after all, a Durham Reeler. So he and a friend climbed out, traffic whizzing past, and went to work. Pretty soon, horns started honking, passing motorists whistled and traffic slowed to take in the spectacle—they were wearing their Scottish kilts. "We changed that tire as fast as we could," Tufts remembers.

Started in 1947 by Priscilla Rabethge, the recreation specialist for the physical education department, UNH's folk dance club was named after a dance called the Durham Reel. More than a social group, the Reelers met twice each month to practice. The Reelers took their repertoire of dances to many festivals, performing the Swiss Weggis, German Puttjenter, Russian Korobushka and Lithuanian Kalvelis in colorful traditional dress. At night, the group often stayed at someone's home, lined up on the floor in sleeping bags with male students on one side of the room, females on the other—and chaperones judiciously in the middle.


In 1954, hoping to stimulate participation in folk music and folk dancing, the Reelers sponsored the first Intercollegiate Folk Dance Festival and Callers' Jamboree. Attendance grew each year at this event, with dancers from as many as 14 universities and colleges congregating in New Hampshire Hall to promenade and do-si-do. Some of New Hampshire's finest folk dance leaders, callers and musicians were a big draw at this event, including Ralph Page, Ted Sannella, Rich Castner, Bob Bennett, Barney and Edna Priest and Dudley Laufman.

For many Reelers, graduation from UNH was not the end of their dancing days. Tufts and his wife Jean, whom he met at a Durham Reelers dance, became well known as dance leaders and callers. The couple continued to advise and sponsor the activities of the club until it disbanded in 1982. In 1990, Tufts organized the first reunion of Durham Reelers; more recently Cressy Goodwin '61 has kept the tradition going. And every summer, former Reelers get together to trade memories, enjoy a potluck dinner and, of course, dance.

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