DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH English Country Dancing at Pine Mountain Settlement

Pine Mountain Settlement School

TAGS: English Country Dancing, Pine Mountain Settlement School, Harlan County, Kentucky, dancing, recreation, folk dancing, set running, party games, Kentucky Running Set, Cecil Sharp, Maude Karpeles, Phil Jamison, Dorothy Bolles, Abby Winch Christensen, Dorothy Nace, Mary Rogers, Berea College Country Dancers, Berea College, Arthur Dodd, Glyn Morris, 


May Day 1949. Drawing by Mary Rogers

English Country Dance crept into the Pine Mountain Valley like the bright green of Spring time creeps up the North flank of the mountain — slowly. Dance in the valley was not unknown in the first decades of the twentieth century, but the gentility of English Country Dance was unknown. Anywhere there was a large community gathering in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky there were “parties” and “party games” and often “set-running.” Churches were largely opposed to “dancing” but “party games” were often accepted. In the more strict religious sects, dance had always been forbidden. Dancing was seen as the work of the devil, but so was moonshine, but never guns.

In the Pine Mountain Valley, many in the community had been “dancing” most of their lives. The dance most favored was one later called the Kentucky Running Set. It was a fast-paced, vigorous and lengthy series of maneuvers which were rhythmically called out by a leader. According to Phil Jamison, in his 2015 book, Hoedowns, Reels, and Frolics: Roots and Branches of Southern Appalachian Dance, pp.72-73, the idea of a “Running Set” is not as intuitive as it seems. A noted North Carolina dance historian, dancer and set caller, Jamison suggests that the term “set” has several definitions.

In the seventeenth century, for example, a “set” was used to describe a series of simple steps in place to one’s partner, as in the action to “set” to a partner before turning. Jamison. however, also conjectures that Karpeles and Sharp conflated the meaning with another “set”, that of a composition of figures, such as Jamison’s suggestion, “a ‘set of Quadrilles.'” Further, French dances that had many parts were referred to as “sets”. This last description of a set given by Jamison, suggests to him that the use of the term is associated with the idea of a Quadrille “set” and this seems to be confirmed in the appearance of the term and idea in the Southern Appalachians. Strengthening his argument for a French connection with the Quadrille, he quotes Karpeles from an article, “Some Additional Figures for Set Running,” In the Journal of the English Folk Dance Society 2, no. 3 (1930): 39-50.

“It is very probable that the word ‘set’ implies a ‘set of figures,’ in the way that it is customary to speak of a ‘set of Quadrilles.'”

As for “running” Jamison conjectures that it has its origins in Scotland. In dances, particularly the reel, where “running a set” was a common description of the dance pattern.

It was this “dance,” this running of sets, that surprised and charmed one of the world’s leading instructors of English Country Dance when he first viewed it at Pine Mountain. The dance form had been observed by visitors to the School and commented on by the staff when visiting on fundraising trips to the North East. And when Cecil Sharp came to America, it was recommended by English Country Dance lovers in the North East that Sharp come listen to the ballad singers and see what the remote people in Eastern Kentucky had retained of old English forms of entertainment in song and dance. Pine Mountain gave Cecil Sharp a gift, and Cecil Sharp left a gift for the School — English Country Dancing. 

Cecil Sharp‘s discoveries at the School were well described in his book. English folk songs from the southern Appalachians, collected by Cecil J. Sharp; comprising two hundred and seventy-four songs and ballads with nine hundred and sixty-eight tunes, including thirty-nine tunes contributed by Olive Dame Campbell, edited by Maud Karpeles. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1932. The book, dedicated to William Creech, the donor of the land for the Pine Mountain Settlement School remains a testimony of a mutual fondness for the culture of the Southern Appalachians. When Cecil Sharp came to the School along with his secretary, Maud Karpeles, he witnessed a joyful and energetic community of set runners and when he left, he set a tradition for the inclusion of English Country Dancing in annual celebrations and in the school’s educational program.


Some English Country Dancers may recognize formations that readily suggest the named dance being performed. Most will not. Many times the dance forms overlap and are incorporated in a new dance with new sequences and new rhythms. Few English Country Dancers,  will, however, fail to recognize the familiar names of the dances.


When Pine Mountain Settlement School was organizing its dance programs they borrowed heavily from the Boston Center music and dances. Dorothy Bolles, the link in that important chain of influence, supplied the School with a list of available music for English Country dancing.

Here is her list of “His Master’s Voice, Gramophone Records” most of which were collected by Pine Mountain or were played on the piano by Arthur Dodd and accompanied by Glyn Morris on violin or by fiddlers in the community.

All records are 12″ and 4/6

I.D # Titles
C 1644 Apley House
Old Noll’s Jig
C 1645 Seed the Plough
Pop Goes the Weasel
C 1646 The Triumph
The Twenty-ninth of May
C1263 Nancy’s Fancy
Tink a Tink
C1264 Flowers of Edinburgh
Christchurch Bells
C 1265 Childgrove
Sage Leaf
C 1266 Mr. Beaveridge’s Maggot
Jack’s Maggot
C 1072 Brighton Camp
The Ribbon Dance
C1073 My Lady Cullen
Bonnets So Blue
C 1074 The Mary and Dorothy
Haste to the Wedding
B 2954 Oaken Leaves
Mage on a Cree
Hey Boys Up Go We
B 2955 Newcastle
Jenny Pluck Pears
B 2956 The Old Mole
Shepherd’s HOliday
Parson’s Farewell
B 2957 The Phoenix
St. Martins
B 2958 Lady Speller
Rufty Tufty
The Maid Peeped Out at the Window
B 2959 The Merry Merry Milkmaids
If All the World Were Paper
The Black Nag
B 5071 Galopede
We Won’t Go Home Till Morning
B 1370 Scotch Cap
The Boatman
Picking Up Sticks
B 1371 Chelsea Reach
The Lady in the Dark
B 1372 Argeers
Broom, the Bonny Bonny Broom
Oranges and Lemons
9769 Helston Furry
Indian Queen
5503 Fourpence Halfpenny Farthing
Lilli Burlero
5504 Epping Forest
Gathering Peascods
B 1193 Three Mewt
The Butterfly
B 1194 Goddesses
Hudson House
5505 Picking Up Sticks
5434 Haste to the Wedding
Bonnets So Blue
5733 Hey Boys Up Go We
Rufty Tufty
Mage on a Cree
Parsons Farewell
5734 Sellinger’s Round
The Black Nag
If All the World Were Paper
DB 82 Dick’s Maggot  (orch.)
DB 84 The Fine Companion
Hit and Miss
The Beggar Boy
DB 182 Oranges and Lemons
Hyde Park
DB 183 Never Love Thee More
The Maid in the Moon
  COLUMBIA (Morris Jigs and Running Set)
DB 226 Jackie to the Fair  (Violin E. Avril)
Old Mother Oxford  (Violin E. Avril)
The Fool’s Jig  (Pipe and Tabor/ J. Sharp)
Old Woman Tossed Up (Pipe and Tabor/ J. Sharp)
DB227 Running Set  (Violin E. Avril)
Ladies Pleasure  (Pipe and Tabor/ J. Sharp)
None So Pretty
  COLUMBIA  (Sword Dances)
9800 Flamborough
Kirkby Malzeard
(Folk Songs)
DB ? I  Will Give My Love An Apple  (Clive Carey)
Oh Sally My Dear  (Clive Carey)
My Billy Boy  (Clive Carey)
The Lover’s Tasks  (Clive Carey)
DB 336  A Farmer’s Son So Sweet  (Annete Blackwell)
As I Sat On A Sunny Bank  (Annete Blackwell)
Dance to Your Daddy  (Annete Blackwell)


DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH  English Country Dancing at Pine Mountain Settlement School



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About pmss_editor

The editor, Helen Wykle, was born at Pine Mountain Settlement School in Southeastern Kentucky. She graduated from Berea College in 1964 with a B.A. in Art. She studied painting at Ohio University and art history at Tulane University. Both experiences led to the completion of an M.A. in Art History at San Jose State University in 1987. She taught Art and Art History for the University of KY at Maysville, KY, Gavilan College, and San Diego City College in California. Her five-year employment at UC San Diego in the Library Visual Resources and Main Reference Services departments led to a Master's Degree in Library and Information Science from Berkeley in 1987 and a left turn as a Sr. Museum Scientist for the UC Irvine School of the Arts (1987-1992). In 1992 she returned with her family to Appalachia and began a second career first as faculty at Warren Wilson College Pew Library and the Art department and later in 1995 as Assoc. Prof. at UNC Asheville. There, she had another full career in bibliographic instruction and as Director of Special Collections and University Archives. Retirement in 2013 brought her back to Pine Mountain Settlement School as a member of the Board of Trustees where she and her cousin, Ann Angel Eberhard, initiated the development and digitization of the Archive of the Pine Mountain Settlement School Collections in 2010.