The True History of Traditional Dance in Southern Applachia

Waren Willson professor, Phil Jamison, talked and showed southern dances. Photo by Chad Grant.

Waren Wilson College professor, Phil Jamison, talked and showed southern dances. Photo by Chad Grant.

Around 20 of WCU students, now know what hoedowns, reels and frolics are thanks to professor Phil Jamison who took his audience through the history of traditional dance in Western North Carolina on Thursday, Oct. 29.

The presentation was the result of a 14 year research project into the history of southern traditional dance that resulted with a book titled “Hoedowns, Reels, and Frolics: Roots and Branches of Southern Appalachian Dance”.

“I’m excited to finally have a book out and tell the story of the dances of the region,” said Jamison. He added that the true history of dance in the region has been misinformation and some myth. Jamison’s found that “Hoedowns” or “Square-dances” are the result of French, Native American, African-American dances, as a combination of influences. This new information combated the idea that most dances had their roots directly traced to the British Isles.

“Phil’s book goes against the idea that Appalachia was completely isolated in the past and the dance reflects that this was not true,” said Director and Curator of the Mountain Heritage Center, Pam Meister. The Mountain Heritage Center hosted the event.

The audience enjoyed a short banjo session by Jamison and a presentation of traditional dance.

“It’s interesting to learn about the true culture of America because it is so different from the one I grew up around,” said Western Carolina student Joao Luciano, who is from Brazil. He added that the presentation gave him unique historical information into a topic he knew almost nothing about.

Jamison teaches mathematics and Appalachian music and dance at Warren Wilson College. He began playing banjo in college and became involved in calling Square-dances. A Square-dance caller shouts out to the dancers on what moves to do. Jamison has been involved with music and dance for over 40 years.

See some how a southern Appalachian step dance is performed.

The video was shot and produced by Michael Williams.