Friday, May 23, 2014


I recently discovered The Square Dance History Project.  I even submitted a contribution: my booklet describing the traditional Ocracoke Island Square Dance. Curious about the connection between our island dance and Appalachian Big Circle dances I explored the site.

I soon discovered a 1987/2013 article about "Set Running, a Southern Folk Dance," by John M. Ramsay. 

Ramsay's article is titled SOUTHERN FOLK DANCE, and may be found here:

So much about the dances that Ramsay describes are identical or very similar to the format of the Ocracoke dance. Ramsay's final words echo our sentiments about why we continue to keep our island dance tradition alive:

"On the [modern] dance floor, the circle has given way and dancers have become lonely dots often in a grid formation.

"There are signs that people are beginning to realize the price which has been paid for 'do your own thing.' There is growing interest in the dances of our ancestors which can teach us to join hands again. The message of the circle is still strong. It can speak to us again. It is interesting to see the reaction of pre- teenage boys and girls to an opportunity to run a set in the old way. In that unsure age, between the openness of childhood and the acculturated world of adults, youth at first resist the circle as an alien experience. But, within five minutes of creating the circle, propelled through society's hangups by natural curiosity and by traditional music, their faces begin to relax, smiles break out and they understand, more readily than adults, the powerful and wholesome message of the circle. Our dance circle is still there, a cultural residual which has weathered many changes of society. It is ready to help us put community life back together. 'All hands up and circle left!'"

If you will be on the island during the upcoming OcraFolk Festival be sure to grab a partner, join us on the dance floor, and swing your partner!

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the curious story of Vera/Charlie Williams. You can read it here:


  1. Anonymous6:27 AM

    Wanted to read more but all I got at that url was an OOPS.

    1. Sorry about the link. I have fixed it.

    2. Anonymous10:38 AM

      Wow. It seems to me that all these corporate retreats , and ropes corses to help build team espirit de corps and to build confidence, yada yada, could easily be replaced by forming a square dance team /group weekly meeting. In addition to meeting the mentioned goals -- fun, exercise, mood elevation, enjoyment etc etc. is had by all. Plus you can wear cowboy boots right?? Any way, Jimmy Buffett wrote a song Nautical Wheelers about the Square Dance group in Key West. Years ago, I drove down to Key West looking for any tell tale signs of JB. I walked into the Miami Herald branch office , introduced myself and asked if they had a phone book I could look at. Hoo Boy am I dating my self here...And there on page what ever it was a listing for Jimmy Buffett. That address I never will forget. Anyway, I also found a Map of the town courtesy of the chamber of commerce with a recipe for Key Lime pie and a mention of the Knautical Wheelers and when they meet.This was not the only time I had been to KW. The old Key West hand Print Fabric business has closed, what a shame. The fabrics created there, from what I understand, were the fabrics for the Original Lilly Pulitzer shift/dresses. She had a juice stand before she created her dress empire. You see what she wore at the stand became more popular, oh never mind, it is an interesting story. Spin spin, twist and turn, all around like a flying squirrel.

    3. Anonymous10:43 AM

      Lord have Mercy. That last sentence is from Hillbilly Hare- A Bugs Bunny cartoon episode-- and a hysterical call for those with a sense of humor and a thick skin.