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Susan Spalding Appalachian Traditional Dance Video Collection, 1988-2002

This collection consists of video recordings of interviews and community dance activities in eastern Kentucky, southwest Virginia, and east Tennessee recorded at various times, 1988-2002.

The videos were recorded as fieldwork by Susan Elke Spalding; many of them are the source files for the film "Step Back Cindy." The footage includes interviews…

The Slave Roots of Square Dancing

This is an easily-read summary of a scholarly article by Phil Jamison on the African-American roots of southern Appalachian dance and, in particular, the pivotal role played by African-American musicians and callers. The summary notes, "Today, few people know about the pivotal role black people once played in helping develop American dance…

Cecil Sharp at Pine Mountain Settlement School

Cecil Sharp first encountered southern Appalachian dancing at the Pine Mountain Settlement School in Kentucky on August 31, 1917. (See here for Sharp's notes that day in his diary.) The event became the focal point of Part 5 of Sharp's Country Dance Book series.That visit is recalled here, in the 1919 Notes from the school.A detailed account of the…

Eastern Kentucky Folk Dancing Oral History Project

This is a collection of recorded interviews that document the development of
traditional square and related dance activity in southeastern Kentucky. The interviews were with mostly elderly residents of Harlan, Letcher, and Leslie Counties and were recorded by Peter Rogers in 1975.

At the moment (July 2016) the audio files and transcriptions…

Square Dancing in the Kentucky Foothills

Based in extensive interviews, audio files and video recordings, the author has compiled a detailed look at dancing in the area around Berea, Kentucky. Her introduction provides a broad look at the topic:

"In Berea and surrounding counties, square dancing, the type done in a big circle that divides into smaller “squares” of two couples,…

Finding List of Southeastern Square Dance Figures

Author J. Olcutt Sanders embarked on a serious effort to track down examples in other regions of square dance figures found in the Southeastern United States. He devised a shorthand method of categorizing figures, and his work is a useful reference from 1942. Sanders summarizes his work thus:

"Despite search in many of the major libraries of the…

"The Square Dance" - David Hendrix, 1951

East Tennessee caller D. B., Hendrix provides a general introduction to square dancing. He writes, "Square dancing is easy to learn. Anyone who can march or keep time to music can learn it. in nearly every community there is at least one person who can call square dances to some degree. Form a square dance group in your community. Eight couples are…

Cherokee Indian Circle Dance - Indian style?

Where does the square dance call "Indian style" originate? This description of a Cherokee dance, published in 1947, offers interesting possibilities. It comes from a booklet authored by two individuals connected with the "World of Fun" program, created in 1947 by folk dance teacher Michael Herman for the Methodist Church.In his 2015 book, Hoedowns,…

Square Dancing in the Mountains of Eastern Kentucky

NOTE: To read the actual booklet, choose the links above. Numbers 1 & 3 are large files and, depending on your internet speed, might take a while to load. This 1971 collection begins with a somewhat romanticized introduction to dancing in the region. Dance descriptions include figures for the Kentucky Running Set and the Big Set, as well as…

Fiddlin' and Square Dancing Are Back

Newspaper article (1971) written by caller Betty Casey, describing the start of the Green Grass Cloggers.Percussive clogging in choreographed routines had been made popular at the Mountain Dance and Music Festival started by Bascom Lamar Lunsford in 1928. The Green Grass Cloggers, a group of young dancers coming from the counterculture of the…

78-rpm Recordings of Southern Dance Callers (1924-33)

This collection of nearly 100 old recordings was created by Phil Jamison to accompany the publication of his book, Hoedowns, Reels and Frolics (2015). The book tells the story behind the square dances, step dances, reels, and other forms of dance practiced in southern Appalachia. Other sections of Jamison's website include still images and videos…

Let's Square Dance! - Richard Kraus

This series of five albums was recorded in 1956 featuring the calling of Richard Kraus, a caller and professor at Teachers College, Columbia University. This item serves as a general introduction to the series, including the table of contents showing how dances were arranged by age / grade level. Subsequent items will present clips from different…

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.

Origin of Appalachian Square Dance

Thurston rejects the notion that Appalachian squares did not originate from American Indian dances nor were they independently created. He concludes that they came from Europe, particular from the British Isles and even more particularly from Ireland. He demonstrates a strong connection between the structure of typical Appalachian squares with that…

Square Dance Fight on Ball Top Mountain

Phil Jamison: These are square dance skits on two sides of a 78 (Vocalion 5419) with a few random calls by John Dilleshaw (aka Seven Foot Dilly) of Paulding County, GA. It was recorded in Atlanta in 1930. The "Square Dance Fight" was one of many dance skits that were recorded in the late 20s and early 30s. Most of them simply have a few calls for…

Old-Time Revival: Traditional Appalachian Square Dancing Slowly Refinds its Footing in Knoxville

Reprinted by permission of Metro Pulse and Holly Haworth, © 2013 This well-written and lengthy article (available as a PDF through the link above or in an archived version of the original website captures the feeling of many of the new dance series spring up that feature southern Appalachian tunes and dances.

Soco Gap Dancers at the White House

This is the program for the evening entertainment provided for the visiting King and Queen of England at the White House, Thursday, June 8, 1939. Among the performers (see page 5) were the Soco Gap Square-Dance Team, directed by Sam Queen and presented by Bascom Lamar Lunsford.

Eleanor Roosevelt was interested in traditional dance, witness her…

Square Dance History Pageant, part 1 - 1976

The 25th annual National Square Dance Convention took place in 1976, the year of the United State Bicentennial Celebration. A historical pageant at the convention features a series of dances illustrating American social dance through time, with a particular focus on squares. This was an edited version of that presentation.

New Squares - video and web links

Recent years have seen the appearance of a new audience for square dances. One important starting point was a series of dances in the Portland, Oregon, area, led by caller Bill Martin and the Foghorn Stringband. Those dances featured old-time southern Appalachian tunes and high-energy, simple dances, often big sets. A similar pattern has emerged in…

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…