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Appalachian Dance

Appalachian Dance: Creativity and Continuity in Six Communities

Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    Appalachian Dance
    Book Description:

    In Appalachian Dance: Creativity and Continuity in Six Communities , Susan Eike Spalding brings to bear twenty-five years' worth of rich interviews with black and white Virginians, Tennesseeans, and Kentuckians to explore the evolution and social uses of dance practices in each region. Spalding analyzes how issues as disparate as industrialization around coal, plantation culture, race relations, and the 1970s folk revival influenced freestyle clogging and other dance forms like square dancing in profound ways. She reveals how African Americans and Native Americans, as well as European immigrants drawn to the timber mills and coal fields, brought movement styles that added to local dance vocabularies. Placing each community in its sociopolitical and economic context, Spalding analyzes how the formal and stylistic nuances found in Appalachian dance reflect the beliefs, shared understandings, and experiences of the community at large, paying particular attention to both regional and racial diversity. Written in clear and accessible prose, Appalachian Dance is a lively addition to the literature and a bold contribution to scholarship concerned with the meaning of movement and the ever-changing nature of tradition.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09645-7
    Subjects: Performing Arts, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. 1. Dynamic Traditions
    (pp. 1-10)

    Fiddles and banjos ring out in the evening air, and couples join hands together in a circle. At the sound of the caller’s voice, the circle moves as one. At another call, sets of two couples form small “squares” and dance through sequences like “Cage the Bird” and “Take a Little Peek.” Later, the music draws individuals to the dance floor to match their footwork to the sound of the band. This is old time Appalachian dancing, known in the region since the late nineteenth century.

    Old time square dancing is a circle of any number of couples who divide...

  6. 2. Lively Dance Currents
    (pp. 11-28)

    When I mention my interest in regional dance traditions to people not acquainted with scholarship in Appalachian Studies, the first reactions often include comments about a pure Irish or English heritage here, or theories about the persistence of a very old dance tradition because of severe isolation and poverty. The truth is that the region was never as homogeneous, as poor, or as isolated as was once believed, and many kinds of social and theatrical dance were available to residents of the region as early as the 1790s.

    Sociologist Wilma Dunaway believes that the “agrarian myth” of the noble self-sufficient...

  7. 3. Old Time Dancing iIn Northeast Tennessee: Traditional Values in an Industrial Region
    (pp. 29-62)

    On a hot Saturday night in August 1987, when I entered the Beechwood Family Music Center in Fall Branch, Tennessee, the dance floor was filled with people from toddlerhood to retirement age, relating first to one person and then another. Taps rattled on the concrete floor keeping time with sharp accented strokes to the music of the band Snake and the Grass. After the tune ended and the dancers began to drift to their seats, the leader of the band announced a square dance, and caller Veronia Miller stepped up on the low stage and took the microphone. “Get off...

  8. 4. Blue Ridge Breakdown: Stability and Tradition in an African American Community
    (pp. 63-95)

    Square dancing and clogging and their accompanying string band music are not just European American art forms. Today, it is common knowledge that similar African American traditions flourished as well, but in the late twentieth century, few were aware of them. Ethnomusicologist Kip Lornell documented African American string band musicians in North Carolina and Virginia in the 1970s and helped to arouse interest in the traditions and bring new life to them. Charles Wolfe has written a number of articles about black string band music, and among his extensive writings on country music, he has frequently included discussion of African...

  9. 5. Mr. Perry’s Sweet Shop and a New Old Time Dance
    (pp. 96-122)

    On a summer Saturday afternoon in the 1940s in the coal town of Dante in Russell County, Virginia, the African American baseball team known as the Bearcats has just returned from a game in a neighboring community. In almost every house in Sawmill Hollow, the African American section of town, men and women are getting dressed up, preparing to go to Mr. Perry’s Sweet Shop for an evening of dancing. Some couples bring their children and some aging parents go along to share in the fun. As they stroll up the street to “the Shop,” other families sit on their...

  10. 6. Dance at Pine Mountain Settlement School: Ideals and Institutions
    (pp. 123-159)

    Pine Mountain Settlement School was an important promoter of folk dance during its long existence as a school. Its founders supported students and community members in their enjoyment of local traditional dances, and the school eventually became known as a center for English country dance. For the leaders, dance was a way of meeting educational goals as well as developing good citizens and promoting good health. It also provided a link to the heritage, both real and imagined, of the people they served, providing a way to draw on the past to prepare students for the future. For many years,...

  11. 7. “Rise and Shine”: Dancing for Community Development at Hoedown Island
    (pp. 160-186)

    At Natural Bridge State Resort Park in Powell County, Kentucky, freestyle clogging and old time square dancing were the centerpieces of weekly summer gatherings for more than four decades, and dancing continues to the present.¹ To regular participants and one-time visitors, these kinds of dancing came to symbolize local heritage and all that is good about local culture. The vision of one dedicated individual, Richard Jett, is responsible for this. He led the dancing for forty-four years, believing that dancing and singing were vital to individual growth and community development. The park used this symbolism as part of its publicity...

  12. 8. The Carcassonne Square Dance: A True Revival
    (pp. 187-218)

    High on a mountaintop in Letcher County, Kentucky, individuals and families stroll into the small, white school building on Square Dance Road, greeted by conversation and the sound of banjos and fiddles playing an old time tune. Dale Johnson and Jon Henrikson have a genial hello for each person at the door, while Beverley Caudill Johnson and Loretta Fugate Henrikson and her sister Von Hill prepare hot dogs and chili in the kitchen. The atmosphere is warm and friendly, almost like a welcoming family’s home. Indeed, the long history of this dance began in the home of Clifton and Ruby...

  13. Afterword
    (pp. 219-226)

    As I come to closure on this book, I find it hard to draft a true “conclusion” or to put a “period” at the end of this work. So this chapter is called an “afterword,” because it is not so much an ending as an invitation to the reader to take this work further. Each story is intended to stand on its own, and I hope the reader will find in each one something that piques interest or raises questions, and that all six stories taken together will perhaps stimulate thinking and exploration.

    It has been a great privilege to...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 227-246)
  15. Works Cited
    (pp. 247-262)
  16. Index
    (pp. 263-272)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 273-274)