The Language of Dance Music

Oscar’s Gift Reading Guide: Day 19

The Language of Dance Music

“With a tap of their feet and a loud count of ‘One! Two! Three!’ the fiddlers began to play. Before long, more couples joined in. Soon the barn was alive with music and movement. Everyone seemed to know the language of dance music.” ~ Oscar’s Gift

The Wedding Dance in a Barn, circa 1616, Pieter Brueghel the Younger
The Wedding Dance in a Barn, circa 1616, Pieter Brueghel the Younger

Barn dances on the Great Plains continued a European folk tradition of social dancing brought to the United States by immigrants. Square dancing and contra dancing are some of the most well-known dances performed at barn dances and remain popular today.

Dudley and Jacqueline Laufman, authors of Traditional Barn Dances with Calls & Fiddling, explain what barn dances were like at the end of the 19th century:

“In the country, folks danced in village halls, schoolhouses, barns, and kitchens. Music was provided by one or two musicians playing fiddle and stamping feet, and a caller prompted the dances. Favorite dances included the Virginia Reel, the Portland Fancy, Paul Jones, and square dances. Readers of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House in the Big Woods might recall characters dancing to the tune ‘Pop Goes the Weasel’.”

What might Tomas have seen and heard at the barn dance? This video offers a good idea:


Click HERE for the full Oscar’s Gift Reading Guide.

Oscar’s Gift: Planting Words with Oscar Micheaux is available from Amazon as a paperback and ebook.

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