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: http://squaredancehistory.org/files/original/283940993da3e0bbe509b292bb29ad58.pdf.
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,
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: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news052114.htm.