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People's University: Appalachian Music & Folklore, Dance

August 09, 2016

Event starts at 7:00 PM.

Class 2, August 9: Hoedowns, Reels, and Frolics: Roots and Branches of Southern Appalachian Dance

The music and dance traditions of Appalachia are often portrayed as survivals of an ancient Anglo-Celtic heritage that was brought to the region by the early pioneers. Since the time of the earliest settlers, however, the southern backcountry has been home to a diverse population, and the region, though relatively isolated, has always maintained contact with the outside world through trade, travel, and immigration. The Ohio River, in particular, played an important role, serving as a cultural conduit and facilitating the dissemination of music and dance throughout the region. The traditional square dances and step dances of Appalachia reflect this history as well as the cultural and ethnic diversity of the region. Rather than being pure survivals of an ancient Anglo-Celtic heritage, locked away in isolation, these American folk traditions are a blend of the European, African, and Native American dance traditions, and they also show the influence of popular nineteenth-century social dances. This presentation, which will include a demonstration of Appalachian flatfoot dancing, will explore the roots of these Southern dances and challenge some of the common misconceptions and myths that have long been associated with these Appalachian traditions.

Phil JamisonInstructor Phil Jamison is nationally known as a dance caller, old-time musician, and flatfoot dancer. He has called dances, performed, and taught at music festivals and dance events throughout the U.S. and overseas since the early 1970s, including more than thirty-five years as a member of the Green Grass Cloggers. His flatfoot dancing was featured in the film, Songcatcher, for which he also served as Traditional Dance consultant. Over the last thirty years, Jamison has done extensive research in the area of Appalachian dance, and his recently-published book Hoedowns, Reels, and Frolics: Roots and Branches of Southern Appalachian Dance (University of Illinois Press, 2015) tells the story behind the square dances, step dances, reels, and other forms of dance practiced in southern Appalachia. Phil teaches mathematics as well as Appalachian music and dance at Warren Wilson College, in Asheville, North Carolina, where he also coordinates the Old-Time Music and Dance Week at the Swannanoa Gathering. Visit his web site at


Click here to see video of Phil dancing. Additional video here.




RSVP by email or call 304-232-0244.


The People’s University is a free program for adults who wish to continue their education in the liberal arts, featuring courses taught by experts in each subject that enable patrons to pursue their goal of lifelong learning in subjects such as history, philosophy, and literature. There are no grades and patrons are welcome to attend all or only some programs.

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