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Friday, May 26, 2017

African Influences On American Square Dance, Part II - Information & Reviews Of Phil Jamison's Book "Hoedowns, Reels, & Frolics"

Edited by Azizi Powell

This is Part II of a two part pancocojams series on African American influences on American square dancing and American square dance music.

This post presents information about and reviews of Phil Jamison's book Hoedowns, Reels, and Frolics: Roots and Branches of Southern Appalachian Dance. That book demonstrates the complex origins and evolution of Appalachian dance and provides information about its significant African American sources.

Part II also showcases five videos of American square dancing, with particular emphasis on "the bird in the cage" figure which Jamison indicates is one of many square dance figures (movements) that is likely of African American origin.

Click https://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2017/05/square-dance-caller-researcher-phil.html. Part I showcases a video of an interview with American square dance caller, dancer, researcher, and author Phil Jamison whose 2015 book Hoedowns, Reels, and Frolics: Roots and Branches of Southern Appalachian Dance demonstrates the complex origins and evolution of Appalachian dance and provides information about its significant African American sources.

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The content of this post is provided for historical, folkloric, and cultural purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to the memories of early African American square dance musicians. Thanks to Phil Jamison for his research and writing about American square dancing. Thanks to all those who are quoted in this post and all those who are featured in these embedded videos. Thanks also to the publishers of these videos on YouTube.

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SELECTED EXCERPTS OF ONLINE INFORMATION AND REVIEWS ABOUT PHIL JAMISON'S BOOK ABOUT AMERICAN SQUARE DANCING
Pancocojams Editor:
These excerpts are presented in no particular order and are numbered for referencing purposes only.

Excerpt #1
From https://www.cdss.org/images/newsletter_archives/articles/CDSS_News_fall_2015_review_hoedowns.pdf
by Tony Parkes is the author of Contra Dance Calling: A Basic Text, (Hands Four Productions, 2010)
..."Hoedowns, Reels, and Frolics is a masterpiece of a book and a milestone in dance historiography. Phil Jamison has done what many would have thought impossible not so long ago: documented the development of dance forms whose history is chiefly oral. He has laid century-old myths to rest and produced persuasive evidence of the southern dance’s multicultural origins. And he has assembled his findings in a book that is both scholarly and readable.

Jamison is perhaps the ideal person for the task: he is at home in both academia (he teaches at Warren Wilson College) and the living world of traditional music and dance. He is a caller, a dance musician, and a percussive dancer; his long and varied experience includes thirty years of performing with the Green Grass Cloggers. His love of the dance has led him to seek and find hundreds of primary documents, most of which appear to have been overlooked until now (as he points out, when he began his research “there were no scholarly books devoted to Appalachian dance”). He has also attended dance events, conducted interviews, and catalogued and analyzed nearly a hundred commercial recordings of the 1920s and 1930s. The calls on these recordings were intended to entertain the listener and are not necessarily danceable, but they provide an important window into the southern dance tradition before square dancing began to be standardized.

Jamison’s most important conclusion is that the southern dance is not, as Cecil Sharp claimed to believe, an ancient English dance form preserved nearly intact for centuries due to the isolation of mountain settlements. Rather, it draws on Scottish, Irish, French, Native American, and African traditions as well as English. Dance historians since at least the 1960s have dismissed Sharp’s theory as the product of extreme Anglophilia (and racism), but Jamison has assembled enough evidence to convince anyone. He points out that Appalachia was never as isolated as romantic writers led their readers to believe; the region enjoyed considerable trade with the rest of the world, and its settlers belonged to many ethnic groups.

Perhaps the most fascinating revelation is that the practice of calling the figures, which sets American group dancing apart from its ancestors and its cognates elsewhere, is an African-American invention. From the earliest days of non-Native settlement through the nineteenth century, most dance musicians in what is now the United States were people of color. As early as 1819, there are written accounts of black musicians calling. Jamison theorizes that the practice originated in the West Indies, the first stop in the New World for many slaves, as references to calling appear nearly simultaneously in many areas.

The bulk of the book is devoted to what can conveniently be called “square dancing,” whether done in four-couple squares, large circles, or longways sets. There are also chapters on step dancing, couple dances, and the cakewalk, as well as on the relations between dance and religion.

Appendices include an analysis of the commercial recordings, a three-part glossary, copious notes and
twenty-four pages of bibliography. A companion website, http://www.philjamison.com/, contains audio files of the recordings, along with a generous selection of paintings, photographs and videos“...

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Excerpt #2:
From https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/chasing-the-rabbit-in-dc/2016/01/21/efc338cc-b8ac-1
Chasing the rabbit in D.C. By Gabriel Popkin January 22, 2016
"Roughly one Saturday night each month, government lawyers, nonprofit leaders, computer programmers, activists and creative professionals gather by the hundreds in a church in the middle of the nation’s capital and perform dance moves with names such as “duck for the oyster,” “push pa, shove ma” and “chase the rabbit, chase the squirrel.” Then they swing and promenade their partners to live fiddle music and the instructions of a dance caller...

The dance form does admittedly have some unfortunate associations to overcome, and not just because of the Virginia reels that many of us were forced to perform in gym class. Folk dance can seem fusty and arcane, and its supposed purity has led to it being appropriated at times to promote retrograde, nativistic ideologies.

But important new scholarship should put such simplistic and erroneous ideas to rest for good. Dance caller and historian Phil Jamison from Asheville, N.C., argues convincingly in his 2015 book, “Hoedowns, Reels, and Frolics: Roots and Branches of Southern Appalachian Dance,” that American square dance is not a colonial relic from the British Isles, but rather a uniquely American syncretism of European, African and Native American influences. Perhaps most surprising, Jamison found that having a dance caller prompting the steps — a practice that is integral to square dancing and numerous other “traditional” dance forms — was unheard of in Europe and seems to have its roots in the African call-and-response patterns that slaves brought to the New World.

Before calling became routine, you had to go to dance school to learn the dances. Calling made square dancing accessible to everyone, regardless of skill, experience or wealth — in other words, it made it a true folk dance. The District’s dancers, who come from all over the world and from all ages, ethnicities and walks of life, continue to benefit from this democratization today.”...

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Excerpt #3:
From http://www.philjamison.com/hoedowns-reels-and-frolics/
Book summary:
"In Hoedowns, Reels, and Frolics, old-time musician and flatfoot dancer Phil Jamison journeys into the past and surveys the present to tell the story behind the square dances, step dances, reels, and other forms of dance practiced in southern Appalachia. He argues that these distinctive folk dances are not the unaltered jigs and reels of the early British settlers, but hybrids that developed over time by adopting and incorporating elements from other popular forms. He traces the forms from their European, African American, and Native American roots to the modern day. From the Shoo-fly Swing to the Virginia Reel, Hoedowns, Reels, and Frolics reinterprets an essential aspect of Appalachian culture.
-snip-
[Note that the cover of this book is a painting of Black musicians and Black dancers at a “frolic” (dance event)].

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Review:
"The real complexity of American history is slowly, finally, being uncovered; Phil Jamison shines a beautifully well researched light on the birth of folk dance and music in these United States. He manages to dispel several well-worn myths in the process, and has Native and particularly African-American influences in their rightful place alongside the Anglo in the evolution of our indigenous folk traditions. The true history is far more interesting than the fantasy, and Jamison's thoughtful treatise will have you re-evaluating what you thought you knew about Square Dance--this ain't just a do-si-do in the school gym!"--Rhiannon Giddens, member of the Grammy Award–winning band Carolina Chocolate Drops"

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Review:
"For anyone interested in the history of American square dance and clogging, Phil Jamison's book is required (and enjoyable) reading. This is by far the most ambitious and comprehensive work on the subject yet, featuring a wealth of quotations from historical sources that the author has meticulously researched as well as his own extensive firsthand knowledge of the subject. Jamison refutes some long-held myths (for example, that the Appalachian square dance is an ancient and pure form of English country dance) and brings to light heretofore overlooked historical information (such as the significant role of African American dancers, musicians, and callers). Not only does he cover a large number of pertinent subjects (from early 78 rpm recordings of regional callers, to the history of the Virginia Reel, couple dances, and cakewalks), but he presents some pointed criticism of past popularizers. There may even be a few ruffled feathers, but, to me, an important by-product of serious scholarship is to stimulate further discussion and research. Well done, Mr. Jamison!"--Bob Dalsemer, square and contra dance caller and author of West Virginia Square Dances"

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Review:
"Appalachian dancer, dance scholar, and lover of dance Phil Jamison has crafted an artfully written, finely researched, groundbreaking, and comprehensive history of the multiple dance forms known as Appalachian dance. In dispelling myths of Appalachian isolation and whiteness, Jamison describes the transmission of dances through the vibrant commerce that flowed along the Ohio River and its tributaries—the backdoor to Appalachia—linking Pittsburgh to New Orleans and the central and southern Appalachians in between. Grounding his rich and detailed descriptions in a carefully crafted analysis of the ethnic diversity in the Southern backcountry, Jamison details the importance of European, African American, and Native American dance to the Southern square dances, social dances, and step dance traditions, as well as the contemporary dance forms popular in the twenty-first century." --Patricia Beaver, professor emerita, Appalachian State University"

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[Added May 27, 2017]
Excerpt #4:
From http://www.citizen-times.com/story/news/local/2015/07/16/square-dancing-ethnic-think/30233181/ Square dancing is more ethnic than you think
Dale Neal, Published July 16, 2015
"The folk dancing of the Southern Appalachians wasn’t just shipped over from the British isle but developed in the melting pot of American culture, according to a new book by a Warren Wilson College professor.

“I hope to dispel some of the myths that have been longstanding for the last 100 years,” said Phil Jamison. “These dances are not just ancient Anglo-Celtic heritage that has been locked away in isolation in the mountains, but it includes multicultural and multiracial influences, and it is a continually changing tradition.”

Jamison will release “Hoedowns, Reels, and Frolics: Roots and Branches of Southern Appalachian Dance,” his highly-anticipated book examining the history of square dances, step dances, reels and other forms of dance from southern Appalachia...

Jamison, a nationally known dance caller, old-time musician and flatfoot dancer, spent 14 years researching traditional Appalachian dance and turns the table on, what he says, is the oft-told incomplete history. Jamison argues that the distinctive folk dances are not the unaltered jigs and reels of the early British settlers, but hybrids that developed over time, drawing from the European, African-American and Native American traditions.

Jamison explores the powerful influence of black culture showing how practices such as dance calling and specific steps combined with white European forms to create distinctly “American” dances.

..."Throughout the book,” Jamison said, “you find the continual exchange of culture back and forth between blacks and whites across racial lines and between social classes. There’s way more to the story that nobody has ever talked about.”

For more information about “Hoedowns, Reels, and Frolics: Roots and Branches of Southern Appalachian Dance,” visit ttp://philjamison.com."

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SHOWCASE VIDEOS OF THE SQUARE DANCE FIGURE: THE BIRD IN THE CAGE
Example #1: Traditional Square Dance - Birdie In The Cage



RubberCrutches, Uploaded on Mar 8, 2010

Located in the Appalachian Plateau of the United States in Saegertown, Pennsylvania stands the "Wild Country Dance Hall". Local folks still dance square dancing in the old traditional square dance fashion to caller, Dan Freligh and his Digital Band, on Friday nights.

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Example #2: Double Birdie square dance



SquareDanceHistory, Uploaded on Dec 12, 2011

Larry Edelman calls a variation of Birdie in the Cage at the Dare To Be Square weekend held November 18-20, 2011, at the John C. Campbell Folk School, Brasstown, NC.

Musicians are Steve Hickman and Jim Morrison, fiddles; Claudio Buchwald, piano; Sam Bartlett, banjo. The tune is "Butcher's Row."

The weekend was sponsored by the Folk School and by Country Dance and Song Society. It brought six well-known callers and 70 square dance enthusiasts together to explore many different styles of squares, including both traditional and modern. The organizers will post additional video clips-- watch this space!-- as well as make audio clips and a syllabus available.

This video posting is part of the Square Dance History Project. More information about us can be found here: http://www.SquareDanceHistory.org

Recorded 19 November 2011 by John-Michael Seng-Wheeler and David Millstone

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Example #3: Dances of Jerry Goodwin 1a - Birdie in the Cage (teaching)



SquareDanceHistory, Uploaded on Dec 18, 2011

Larry Edelman led a workshop session on dances he learned from the calling of Jerry Goodwin, originally from West Virginia but living and calling in western Pennsylvania when Larry studied with him in the 1970s. Some of the dances were ones Jerry had learned from his father.

This was recorded at Dare To Be Square on November 19, 2011, at the John C. Campbell Folk School, Brasstown, NC. Additional support for the weekend, including for this videotaping by John-Michael Seng-Wheeler, was provided by Country Dance and Song Society (CDSS). The weekend brought together six well-known callers and some 70 square dance enthusiasts from around the country to explore different traditional and modern styles.

This clip shows Larry teaching the figures; you'll find a separate video with the actual dancing dancing. Each Brasstown workshop also has a sampler, with a short excerpt of each dance.

Musicians for this session were Claudio Buchwald and Steve Hickman, fiddles; Jim Morrison, guitar; and Sam Bartlett, banjo.

These videos are part of the Square Dance History Project. You can read more about us here: http://www.SquareDanceHistory.org


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Example #4: Dances of Jerry Goodwin 1b - Birdie in the Cage



SquareDanceHistory Uploaded on Dec 18, 2011

Larry Edelman led a workshop session on dances he learned from the calling of Jerry Goodwin, originally from West Virginia but living and calling in western Pennsylvania when Larry studied with him in the 1970s. Some of the dances were ones Jerry had learned from his father. This version of Birdie in the Cage puts the active woman, and then her partner, into the center without the other dancers having to drop hands. A separate video shows Larry teaching the figure; this one shows the dancing.

This was recorded at Dare To Be Square on November 19, 2011, at the John C. Campbell Folk School, Brasstown, NC. Additional support for the weekend, including for this videotaping by John-Michael Seng-Wheeler, was provided by Country Dance and Song Society (CDSS). The weekend brought together six well-known callers and some 70 square dance enthusiasts from around the country to explore different traditional and modern styles.

In some cases, you'll find a separate video with instructions / walkthrough; in others, the teaching comes at the beginning of the clip, and in some cases you'll just see the dancing. Each Brasstown workshop also has a sampler, with a short excerpt of each dance.

Musicians for this session were Claudio Buchwald and Steve Hickman, fiddles; Jim Morrison, guitar; and Sam Bartlett, banjo. The tune is "Boil that Cabbage Down."

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Example #5: Jerry Goodwin Calls Birdie in the Cage





Larry Edelman Published on Dec 3, 2013

Recorded at a square dance on February 7, 1987 at the Prosperity Fire Hall, Washington County, PA.
Jerry Goodwin, Caller

Mountain Express

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This concludes Part II of this two part pancocojams series on African influences On American square dancing.

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