Community Folk Dance

A recent picture in the New York Times caught my eye.  Couples of mixed ages were joyfully dancing together.  The setting was a small-town county fair in West Virginia.  There was a live band with fiddle and banjo, and a caller who shouted out the moves.  Apparently the Pendleton County Fair in Circleville, Virginia (pop 700) had featured square dancing in the past, but the tradition has been missing for a few years.  Through the efforts of a group called The Mountain Dance Trail, a project out of the Augusta Heritage Center, the dancing was reintroduced this year.  Since April this non-profit group has researched and promoted dances from the West Virginia heritage.  They look for the oldest square dance callers in the area, and interview them to document their vocal and dance styles.  Their mission is to “preserve and promote West Virginia square dances from the Virginia line to the Ohio border.”

At the Circleville dance that night there were people in their 60s, toddlers, young adults, elementary school kids and even teenagers from a nearby summer camp.  A “highlight of the trip,” the camp counselor declared.  Becky Hill, one of the researchers from The Mountain Dance Trail, gives a clue to the delight on the faces of the dancers in the article’s accompanying video.   “You’re not just dancing with one person,” she said, “you’re connecting with everyone on the dance floor.”

Connection, flow, laughter, joy.  For those of us who teach folk dance in our music classrooms, we know those feelings.  Perhaps we’ve also created some community events where a mix of generations can dance together.  But even within the classroom, if we include folk dance and play parties, then we can surely capture some of that magic.

~ Liz

Visit the FACEBOOK page of The Mountain Dance Trail for more information. Read the New York Times article HERE.

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