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

Title

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

Subject

Southern / Appalachian / Big sets

Description

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, Maryland.

from the article:
"Outsiders to rural Southern culture have tended to "revive" square dancing in a relatively pure, old form (though never as pure as it may appear, for they inevitably make many subtle changes), isolating it from electrical instruments and more modern dance forms that have evolved over the past fifty years. They frequently end up with a combination of traditional style dances which, taken all together are so complex and varied that they would boggle the mind and strain the spirit of an old timer. This is true of Western Club Square dancing, but also of much of the "country dance" revival.

"In contrast, the typical rural east Tennessee Square dance event, while appearing modern to our eyes, is, in fact, more traditional in spirit, for it puts together in a simple, sociable format dances which have been part of the cultural background of the dancers. In these dance events, the traditional mountain style big circle dance (referred to locally as the "square dance") is repeated about every thirty minutes, while in between are slow round dances and fast tunes for free-style buck dancing, boogie, twist, or whatever else fits a particular dance. ... [T]he different dance forms complement each other socially, providing a relaxed atmosphere that enables people to enjoy themselves to the fullest.

"Other elements of the setting help provide the desired atmosphere. The band may play either bluegrass or electric country-western instruments, or both, so that they can provide familiar music for listening or dancing. Soon after the beginning of the dance, the brighter white lights are turned off and the room is lit by softer colored lights, providing a cozy romantic effect. There are never more than about 60% of the people on the dance floor. The others, standing around or seated in the chairs which are always provided, are watching, talking, joking, or listening to the music."

Creator

Jon Sundell

Source

Country Dance and Song, 11/12 (1981), pp. 53–64

Date Created

1981

Contributor

Jon Sundell

Spatial Coverage

USA, Tennessee

Temporal Coverage

1980s

Item Relations

This item has no relations.