• Joe Pace

Granite State of Mind, #112: Rockingham Ballroom, Newmarket


Gotta get down to Swingtown.

I learned to ballroom dance in college, when Jen and I took a few semesters of lessons at the MUB. We became sufficiently confident in our energetic-if-undisciplined style to head down to Wonderland in Revere a time or two, including a memorable evening when we won a dance contest. Considering the average age of the competition was about eighty, I think they were mainly impressed by what an original set of hips could do.


Twenty years later, I still enjoy ballroom, and I've even roped Sarah into the warm embrace of swing dancing. We usually only get to break it out at weddings (or sometimes the kitchen if the right song comes on), but on occasion we luck out with a visit to the Rockingham Ballroom. Nestled on Ash Swamp Road in Newmarket, alongside the Rockingham Country Club (where Keith Tode and I have been known to spoil a few good walks), the Ballroom has been in operation since 1934. It's a classic old joint, with great maple floors and a broad dais for a big band. It lacks the sumptuous indulgence that made the Wonderland such a fabulous bucket of octogenarian nostalgia, relying instead on understated, utilitarian decor more fitting to seacoast NH than Boston's vulgar north shore. It's a space for dancing, not heavy damask curtains or velvet-trimmed banisters.


I don't know if the old place is still rolling - our last visit was in 2011 or 2012, when the star-crossed effort to save the Ioka was staving off the inevitable with an event there. I do know this - the world needs more ballrooms, more big bands, and more dancers.


(Photo credit to Roger Goun for the right half of the picture here.)

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