Pine Mountain Settlement School
Series 30: MUSIC AND DANCE
Dance – Introduction
TAGS: folk dancing, Kentucky Running Set, Cecil Sharp, Maude Karples, Abby Winch Christian, Dorothy Bolles, Dorothy Nace, English Folk Dance & Song Society, Country Dance and Song Society
Dance at Pine Mountain Settlement School and its surrounding community has a long and remarkable history. The material in the collections allows the history of dance to be explored from many different perspectives including a deep dive into the European origins of folk dance forms. The periodic debates at the local community level regarding the conflict of dance with religious beliefs and at the educational level regarding its merits, provide rich exploration across many disciplines.
The origins of Appalachian dance forms have been variously assigned to France, to England, to Germany, and to a myriad of other nations. Importantly, according to Cecil Sharp, the noted British folklorist and founder of the English Folk Dance & Song Society (EFDSS), Pine Mountain has contributed its own unique dance form, the Kentucky Running Set.
In addition to Cecil Sharp and his co-worker, Maude Karples, there is a long chain of individuals who have looked to Pine Mountain as a central location for English Country Dancing in the Southeastern United States. The School has a long history with the Country Dance & Song Society (CDSS) and with nearby Berea College and its Berea Country Dancers. Dorothy Bolles, a major figure in English Country Dance instruction, spent many months over many years coming to the School to teach the community the finer points of English Country Dance. Her friends, Evelyn Wells, Abby Winch Christiansen, Dorothy Nace, and others kept English Folk Dance and its traditions alive at the school for many years. Later administrations have always found a place for dance in their programming. The School has been fortunate to have had contacts with these deep wells of heritage and experience throughout its history. Consequently, dance has left its mark on the community and on its historical memory.
Dance at the School was, for many years, integrated into programming in the Environmental Education Program and a number of other unique adult programs. Instructors pulled their knowledge from the large collections of rare dance publications, recordings, and photographic documentation gathered at the School. The rich and deep collection of dance material is a testimony to the deep dive and personal commitment that staff gave and continues to give, to preserve and teach dance at Pine Mountain School.