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Kentucky Set Running - 1914 firsthand account

After graduation from Vassar and a summer holiday with family, Marguerite Butler, at age 22, headed for Pine Mountain Settlement School in a remote area of eastern Kentucky to try to make some satisfactory contribution to a 1914 world where few such opportunities were allowed for women. A few nights after her arrival at the school, folks gathered…

Smoky Mountain Square Dances

Biographical information obtained from a telephone conversation between Bob Dalsemer and David Hendrix's son Charles, June 10, 1999. Charles had donated to the John C. Campbell Folk School a manuscript in progress that his father had started, an expanded version of Hendix's earlier book (1941) on Smoky Mountain Square Dances.David B. Hendrix…

Traditional Square Dance of Ocracoke Island, North Carolina

Detailed description of big set dances on Ocracoke Island, and an attempt in 1996 to re-create a dance tradition that had dies out. From the opening page:

"The Ocracoke Island square dance is actually a big circle dance, much like big circle dances performed in the Appalachian Mountains of the eastern United States. However, islanders…

Square Dance in Haywood County, NC

Detailed look at western North Carolina, a region rich in square dance traditions including that of Sam Queen and the Soco Gap Square Dancers. Jamison starts his article with a look at the turn of the century house dances and "Shindigs" then surveys the grand hotels and the tourist trade. His survey continues through the post World War II era.

Virginia square dance, 1925, silent movie

This silent movie footage, created by Fox News, shows dancers and fiddlers recorded in an outdoor setting in Quitman [sic], Virginia. We cannot identify this location since it does not show up on current maps.

Traditional Square Dance Figures

One section of the Lloyd Shaw Foundation's website provides detailed instructions (and source information) for 20 figures from traditional Western and southern Appalachian squares: Arkansas Traveler Four in a Center Line Bachelor Mill Bouquet Waltz Chase That Rabbit, Chase That Squirrel Dive and Rescue the Lady Divide the Ring Docey Doe and…

Glenn Bannerman - big circle dances, audio

Three examples of big sets from western North Carolina, called by Glenn Bannerman with music from the Stoney Creek Boys. These audio files come from two recordings, "Mountain Dance Music Comes Alive" and "Appalachian Clog Dancing and Big Circle Mountain Square Dancing," and are used with Bannerman's permission. You can find more information and…

Kentucky Mountain Square Dancing

Written in 1949 and republished many times, this is a vital reference for anyone interested in southern Appalachian dance. Patrick Napier is a well-known dance leader at the Christmas Country Dance School in Berea, Kentucky, and this is his compilation of dance figures from eastern Kentucky. It is a PDF file available for download (easier…

Carcassonne big set, #2

This is another example of traditional southern Appalachian big set square dance, recorded by John Ramsay in Carcassonne, Kentucky, September 19, 1991. With relatively few examples on our site of this style of dancing, we have included the dance in its entirety. This one includes at least one figure not shown in #1, lady fall through the old side…

Carcassonne big set, #1

This is an excellent example of traditional southern Appalachian big set square dance, recorded by John Ramsay in Carcassonne, Kentucky, September 19, 1991. ("Big set" is the name given by outsiders; locally it's just "square dance.") The tune is Liza Jane. The caller is Randall Caudill; he is the son of Clifton and Ruby Caudill; they hosted the…

Square dance - Ary, KY - 1963 (big set)

The caller is Corbett Grigsby, with music provided by fiddler Marion Sumner and guitarists Martin Young and Roscoe Holcomb. Grigsby introduces the figure as "around behind, lady in the lead."This footage was recorded by filmmaker George Pickow at the Home Place Community Center in Ary, Kentucky, a small town in south central Kentucky. (Ary is about…

Square Dancing Atop Lookout Mountain

Article by Karen terHorst describes dancing in New Salem, Georgia, an historically-isolated community above Chattanooga, TN. The article is based on her visit to the dance in the 1970s. The dance stopped taking place sometime around 1990.

"New Salem's style is similar to the Appalachian square dancing described by Frank Smith (1955) and Pat…

Traditional Folkdance in Kentucky

Article by LeeEllen Friedland describing the social setting for community dances as well as the dance figures themselves. She differentiates among three types of dance: single dancing, couple dancing and group dancing. Folklorist Burt Feintuch provides a historical look at Kentucky dances in his article here.(excerpt from pp. 6–7) "The…

Berea Country Dancers - Set Running (1917)

In this re-creation of dances from 1917, the Berea College Country Dancers, under the direction of Ethel Capps, show several figures described by Cecil Sharp in his Country Dance Book V. Sharp first saw dancing at Pine Mountain Settlement School, Kentucky, in 1917. The footage ends with a few words from Marguerite Butler Bidstrup who was present at…

Rural Square Dances in East Tennessee: A Personal Account of Visits to Four Communities

This article appeared (1981) in the scholarly journal published by Country Dance and Song Society. The author describes four East Tennessee square dance communities, including discussion of typical program; he also includes verbatim transcripts of some of the calls. See also a similar account (1974) by Bob Dalsemer of dances in Maryland Line,…

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Big Set square dance called by Phil Jamison

Phil Jamisonn calls at the Dare To Be Square weekend held November 18-20, 2011, at the John C. Campbell Folk School, Brasstown, NC. Figures included in this version include right hands across, Georgia Rang Tang, birdie in the cage, and make a basket (ladies bow, gents know how).

Musicians are Steve Hickman and Jim Morrison, fiddles; Claudio…

Mountain Dance Trail - West Virginia

Created by folklorists Gerry Milnes and Becky Hill at Davis & Elkins College in Augusta, West Virginia, the Mountain Dance Trail is a statewide effort to support local square customs. The project received a lengthy article in the New York Times, which included a slideshow and video of dancing on its website, and a story (September 5, 2013) on…

Stu Jamieson - The Old-Time Kentucky Running Set

Although the title speaks of Kentucky Running Set, this article deals with many different variations of the big circle or big set formation of Southern Appalachian mountain dancing. The author is Stu Jamieson, who was the caller in the film "To Hear Your Banjo Play" with Margot Mayo's American Square Dance Group. In it, he provides a detailed…

West Virginia Square Dances by Robert G. Dalsemer

Dalsemer describes dance figures as done in five rural West Virginia communities in the mid- to late 1970s and reports on their regular dance events, including programming, type of audience, price and method of admission, and the traditions of figure calling and musical performance. He discusses the history of each dance event and their on-going…

Kentucky Set Running - 1993

Notes by John Ramsay: "The Kids From The Country, a country dance team from Silver Creek School in Berea, Kentucky demonstrate "running a set" or Set Running. Their music teacher, Mr. Barton, is the caller. Note that each couple takes a turn being the leader. In Daniel Boone's time, each couple would repeat the same figure; when each had their…