From the August 26, 1966 edition of the Gazette by Peter S. McGhee:

“The square dances will come back again,” said Edward Chalif, the general program director of the Chilmark Community Center, “they’re part of our heritage.”

Mr. Chalif stood at one of the side doors of the Center Monday night, guarding the entrance against non-paying guests. About him walls shook, basketball hoops trembled, the floor jumped up and down, and 300 teen-agers acted out an exhausting epileptic fantasy around the blasting cadences of the Ogres — a kind of orchestra.

Mr. Chalif, who was a dancing master at West Point some years ago, is, in his capacity as the Center’s director, custodian of the Chilmark Square Dance, an institution that goes back to the old Chilmark Tavern, when it was an ice cream parlor, not a post office, to the tin whistle and squeaky violin, the Virginia reel, and “everybody dig for the oyster or dive for the clam.”

The Square Dance moved to the Community Center ten years ago, when it was built. Each succeeding year the square dances, which became several a week instead of one, drew larger crowds. This year there has been a drop in attendance at the teen age square dances. Mr. Chalif blames the Ogres.

“We’re beginning to lose some of our older ones to this,” he said, indicating the maelstrom, “I guess we’re a little old fashioned — our square dances.”

The Ogres — five Connecticut high school boys and $6,000 worth of amplification — are messengers of what an underground musicologist living in the woods nearby identifies as The Big Beat. He doesn’t think they are very good (“During the course of the evening I was able to distinguish six, maybe eight chords — over and over and over,” he said the next morning, still shaken by the experience) but then neither was the tin whistle player or the squeaky violinist of Tavern days. But as they were, the Ogres are sufficient unto their purpose, which is to manipulate the strings that jerk and jig the puppet dancers.

“It isn’t really dancing,” said Mr. Chalif, shouting to be heard above the din, and succeeding only in fragments, “a caricature of the Polynesian dances...soldiers visited the South Seas...World War II...graceful, especially the mating dances...every movement the Polynesians made had meaning...this gang doesn’t know what it is doing.”

The electronic pulse beat quickened, the dancers obeyed. “This is where it becomes like the voodoo dances,” said Mr. Chalif, “watch it...the frenzy...the primitive beat of the drum... it’s very hard to keep your feet still...I can’t even keep my feet still.”

Two electric guitars, an organ, harmonica, drums, a tambourine, and all those amplifiers: Mr. Chalif waited for a quieter moment before going on. “It does something for their egos — it releases something in them. Dancing they lose all their inhibitions — maybe they never had any inhibitions. It crosses all class lines. Society just disappears.”

“This,” said a parent, watching from the door, “is the world of tomorrow.”

“The square dances will come back again,” said Mr. Chalif, “They’re part of our heritage.”

“It’s all here,” said a young mother and graduate of the Chilmark Tavern days who sat spellbound from the first dance of the evening to the last, “ontogeny recapitulates you’s all here, just as it was at the square dances.”

Mr. Chalif is not entirely disapproving. The lyrics to some of the songs the Ogres sing are just barely redeemed from obscenity by their ambiguity, but nobody hears or listens to them anyway. The motions of the dances — the Jerk, Frug, Monkey, Tautog, Flounder, etc. — are suggestive, perhaps libidinous, but the aura of the dance is one of almost pathetic wholesomeness. In the long hair, the careful uncleanliness, the tough dress, there are overtones of protest and revolt, but the conventions of unconventionality among them are strict, and the fads are hand-me-downs. And the Ogres themselves, the sons of New Britain stockbrokers and engineers, are from the very seed bed of the American middle class.

The Ogres have played on a fishing boat in Menemsha Pond, they have played in a shipyard storage shed in Vineyard Haven, they have played at their own sweet A-Go-Go home on Beach Road, and Monday night they played at the Chilmark Community Center, where attendance at square dances is slipping off. Sunday they will play at the Grace Episcopal Church in Vineyard Haven.

They are going to play the “music” for the evening service of prayer. Rev. Henry Lyons hopes the Ogres’ “musical offering” will prove a worshipful experience. “I think it will be acceptable to Him to whom it is offered.” Rev. Mr. Lyons said. “We want to show that the church is capable of talking the language of 1966 to a generation that is by and large absent from any church today, and capable of listening too.”

Compiled by Hilary Wall