I was thinking about how I wish I could take all of you along with me to the festival today and tomorrow. Most of you live way too far away to even remotely think about coming, but I still wish you could experience it with me.
Since teleporting you all to Brasstown wasn't an option I decided I'd share a video of what the girls will be doing today at 1:20 p.m. - clogging.
Before the festival the team has its final practice at the folk school on the festival barn stage where they will actually be dancing during their performance.
Most folks are more familiar with the fast bluegrass type of clogging than the style the girls are doing in this routine. The Kudzu Kickers do a variety of clogging styles within their performances and this one is a Waltz Clog. They also do plenty of the more common style of clogging and buck dancing. Sometimes I wonder how they move their feet fast enough to keep up, but they always mange to pull it off.
Chatter and Chitter are the couple in the middle of the line. Chitter has a green shirt with writing on it and Chatter has a black shirt.
Jo Kilmer and Blind Pig Reader Gayle Larson are the coaches of the Kudzu Kickers-they both do a great job and I so appreciate them! You can see Jo in this video-she is the first in line nearest the camera with pants and a pink shirt on.
This group of five girls have danced together for years. Chatter and Chitter are the oldest of the bunch. When they all started clogging together back in the day the other girls were little enough to carry around on your hip and Chatter and Chitter weren't much passed carrying themselves.
Us moms always laugh about how we can't help getting teary-eyed as we watch them dance. It's like our own private mom joke on each other.
This year it seems I've been more teary-eyed than usual. I might feel more emotional because Chatter and Chitter haven't gotten to clog as much since they started college or it might be because of their recent birthday-leaving me with two adults instead of two girls.
But I believe my emotion comes from seeing five girls who through the years of clogging have grown into beautiful young women who are kind, smart, and generous. AND who've spent all those years keeping the folk dance of clogging alive even though doing so never made any of them the popular kid at school.
I hope you enjoyed seeing a little bit of what the girls will be doing at the festival today. Drop back by tomorrow for sneak peak of that day's performance.
This weekend is the date for the annual Mountain Folk Festival held at Berea College in KY. The girls and I didn't get to go this year, but we're thinking about all our friends and wishing we and our dancing shoes were there too. Hope you enjoy this post from the Blind Pig Archives, it's from Mountain Folk Festival 2011.
The Mountain Folk Festival really is all about the dancing just like the founders wanted it to be. The festival days usually start at 8:00 a.m. and the dancing is still going strong at 8:00 p.m. at night. The kids are amazing, their attitudes are positive, they are eager to learn, and most of them seem to absolutely love the dancing.
Looks like fun doesn't it? One of my favorite parts of the festival is show off time. Since the kids participating in the festival come from a variety of locations, they are allowed to show off the type of dancing they are most familiar with.
In our case, it's Clogging. Instead of going it alone this year Chitter and Chatter had 2 of their clogging team-mates there to dance with them. There was a minor problem with their music, but they still brought the house down with their stomping.
Now that's what I call dancing! Hope you enjoyed the videos. What type of dancing are you most familiar with?
Yesterday afternoon the Kudzu Kickers (Chatter and Chitter's clogging team) took the festival barn stage at 4:00 p.m. and they brought the house down!
The older kids on the team have been clogging together for years.
They've grown up together. Through the years their paths have went in various directions-but clogging has brought them together to enjoy something they all love. Crazy to think of how many week day evenings they've spent together-learning, laughing, and growing into an amazing group of young women who care about traditional folk dancing.
I filmed this video as the Kudzu Kickers practiced for fall festival last week. *Before you watch the video you need to stop the music player-the music controls are along the top of this page on the far left side-just under the Blind Pig logo. Click the center round button to stop the player. For those of you who want to go to youtube to watch the video-go here.
No need to go into any details, but suffice it to say-these girls have overcome a few obstacles. Nothing world changing in the grand scheme of things-but nonetheless life affirming for their young hearts.
They followed their intuition. Their gut told them what they needed to do. Making the decision to follow what they knew was right led them down a bumpy road for a while-but they've pulled out onto the blacktop and now it's all good. They're back on the big stage keeping the traditional Appalachian dance of clogging alive-continuing to grow their longstanding friendship-and wowing the crowd all at the same time.
p.s. The Pressley Girls and the rest of the Blind Pig Gang will be performing at the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown TODAY, Sunday October 5 @ 2:00 p.m. on the Festival Barn Stage. If you make it to the show-PLEASE find me and say HELLO!
My Appalachian Celebration was a huge success! The only thing that could have made it better-was if every Blind Pig reader could have been there too.
You knew there was going to be singing-and there was-by The Pressley Girls and the whole Blind Pig Gang. I think we set a world record. I'm positive we did the song Poor Man the fastest it has ever been done. We had it moving along so fast Paul could barely get the words in their place.
Sometimes that happens-at least this time it made me smile. I felt like the mischievous sister watching Paul sing faster and faster while we all played faster and faster.
There was some mighty fine clogging by the Kudzu Kickers. What a great bunch of kids! They've been dancing together for so many years they remind me of the siblings in The Sound of Music. The team always does a great job-but something seemed extra special about their clogging that night. Watching them filled my heart with pride and made me teary eyed all at the same time.
Gail Larson played the spoons as folks began to arrive. She never ceases to amaze me-truly one of the most interesting and talented ladies I have ever met.
Then there was Granny Sue-the star of the night. Wow what a storyteller! Granny Sue had the crowd in the palm of her hand. One lady told me she was sitting on the edge of her seat during the scary parts. My favorite stories were the funny ones. I especially loved the one about her husband Larry thinking a ghost was after him when it was actually his imagination and the Prince Albert can full of marbles he had in his back pocket.
I was honored by the Blind Pig readers who did make the show. I wish I had thought of taking a photo of all the Blind Pig readers who were there before the night was over. I'm thinking this won't be the last Appalachian Celebration so I'll add the group photo to the list for next time.
I promised those of you who were unable to attend because of distance or prior commitments I'd share part of the show via video. I thought sharing a video of Granny Sue, one of the cloggers, and one of the music would give you a taste for what the night was like. Unfortunately a small technical issue left me with no video of Granny Sue from the night-but I did video her telling a story to the girls at my kitchen table so that will suffice.
Since this is Monday-lets start this week off with a peppy clogging number by the Kudzu Kickers.
(*Before you watch the video you need to stop the music player-the music controls are along the top of this page on the far left side-just under the Blind Pig logo. Click the center round button to stop the player.) *For those of you who have trouble viewing the video-go straight to youtube to see it by clicking here. Chatter and Chitter are the girls with their hair plaited (braided).
I hope you enjoyed the clogging! Drop back by in the next few days for a peek at the music and for a story from Granny Sue.
Each year participants of the Mountain Folk Festival in Berea, KY are given an opportunity to take part in a dance workshop of their choice. Various workshops are offered-things like Morris Dancing, English Country Dancing, Jump Rope Clog, Square Dancing.
This year the girls signed up for Kentucky Running Set. Neither me nor the girls had ever even heard of the style of dancing. We thought it sounded like fun since the description said the dance is performed with no music-only the rhythmic sounds of the dancers feet and hands are heard along with the caller's voice.
Jennifer Rose Escobar led the workshop. Before the kids got started dancing she shared the history of the dance style with them.
Cecil Sharp (1859-1924) is most well known for collecting English folk songs and folk dances. According to Escobar, Sharp discovered what he termed Kentucky Running Set at the Pine Mountain Settlement School.
The Square Dance History Project offers this information regarding Sharp and his discovery:
The name "running set" comes to us from the work of the great English song collector Cecil Sharp, founder of the English Folk Dance Society and, in 1915, what became Country Dance and Song Society. During the years 1916–18, Sharp and his colleague Maud Karpeles spent more than 40 weeks traveling throughout the southern Appalachians, collecting ballads and other songs.
It was at a school in Pine Mountain, Kentucky, that Sharp first encountered dancing. No musicians were present, but someone commented, "Let's run a set," and people started clapping hands to set a beat for the dancers. (That casual comment became solidified as Sharp dubbed the observed dance form the "running set.") Sharp was entranced by the dancing and took detailed notes that form the basis of his description in his Country Dance Book. He wrote in his diary (October 8, 1917), "This dance is as valuable a piece of work as anything I have done in the mountains."
As Jennifer began teaching the dance, the calls seemed really difficult at first. But once they went through them a couple of times the kids had them down pat. The calls were things like 'shoot the owl', 'wild goose chase', 'grapevine twist', 'uptown downtown', and the girls' favorite the 'Georgia rang tang'.
Watch the video below to see the dance.
Chatter and Chitter really enjoyed learning the dance-and of course they fell in love with the song-Killy Kranky. (If you missed the post about the origin of Killy Kranky-click here).
Hope you enjoyed the dance too!
Killy Kranky is a song the girls and I learned at this year's Mountain Folk Festival in Berea, KY. We had never heard the song before, but the girls immediately fell in love with the quirky lyrics and have pretty much drove me crazy making Killy Kranky jokes ever since.
Killy Kranky is my song sing and dance it all day long.
From my elbow to my wrist. Now we do the double twist.
Broke my arm, broke my arm
Swinging pretty Nancy
Broke my leg, broke my leg
Dancing Killy Kranky!
Killy Kranky is my song sing and dance it all day long.
From my wrist down to my knee we'll do the grapevine twist.
Broke my arm, broke my arm
Swinging pretty Nancy
Broke my leg, broke my leg
Dancing Killy Kranky!
Killy Kranky is my song, sing and dance it all day long.
From my knee down to my toe. How much farther can you go?
Broke my arm, broke my arm
Swinging pretty Nancy
Broke my leg, broke my leg
Dancing Killy Kranky!
In the book edited by Jean Ritchie, Folk Songs of the Southern Appalahcians as Sung by Jeanine Ritchie, this description of the song is given:
Uncle Jason calls this one a play ditty, because according to his description of it, it was both a game and a song, and not much of either one. The players sang the song while they "wound the grapevine," using different variations, all of which Uncle Jason avowed was just a good excuse to get their arms around one another. He thought that the words, "Killy Kranky" were just nonsense syllables, and so did I until my husband and I found the town of Killy Kranky (by accident when we lost the main road) in Scotland!
Like Richie and Uncle Jason I assumed Killy Kranky was a made up name-too but after we got home from Berea I decided to do some googling around just in case. Like Ritchie, I discovered Killy Kranky, actually spelled Killiecrankie is indeed a place in Scotland.
The website Killiecrankie Undiscovered Scotland: The Ultimate Online Guide has this to say about the area:
The Pass of Killiecrankie lies about midway between Pitlochry and Blair Atholl. A little under a mile and a half long, it is a narrow, steep sided glen cut by the River Garry through the surrounding high ground, and forms the most constricted part of what has throughout history been the main route between the Highlands and the Lowlands.
It is probably best to say up front that the paths that descend from the visitor centre into the lower reaches of the pass are steep in places, are mainly of compacted earth, and many sections have steps. This is a place you are most likely to enjoy in sensible shoes.
Throughout history, the Pass of Killiecrankie was travelled by most overland visitors to the Highlands. It is interesting to consider that our own response to it, as a place of beauty, is a relatively recent development. Thomas Pennant, in writing about his tour of Scotland in 1769 said of Killiecrankie: "The pass is extremely narrow between high mountains, with the Garry running beneath in a deep dark foam, and a rocky channel, overhung by trees, forming a scene of horrible grandeur."
In 1844, Queen Victoria took a very different view when writing in her journal: "We came to the Pass of Killiecrankie, which is quite magnificent: the road winds along it, and you look down a great height, all wooded on both sides, the Garry rolling below it. I cannot describe how beautiful it is. Albert was in perfect ecstasies."
The pass was probably not a welcome sight to another group of visitors who travelled through it on 27 July 1689: 4,000 government troops on their way to defeat at the hands of the Jacobites in the Battle of Killiecrankie.
You can jump over to the website by clicking here and read more about the battle of Killiecrankie.
After reading all of that-if I was making a guess-I'd say the song originated because of the rough terrain of Killiecrankie.
The warning to wear sensible shoes and the quote from Thomas Pennant make the lines: Broke my arm, broke my arm Broke my leg, broke my leg seem believable.
Maybe the song started out as a battle cry for the Jacobites or maybe it was a song sung by travelers who had to traverse the rugged terrain of Killiecrankie. Who knows how it started?
Knowing a version of the song-even one that has been maligned and morphed into a dance tune-is still alive and well in Appalachia is beyond cool to me in fact I think it's downright AWESOME.
Drop back by in a day or so to see the dance and to hear more of our Killy Kranky story.
p.s. Go here to hear a version of Killy Kranky that is similar to the one we learned in Berea.
*Source for Killiecrankie photo: Old UK Photos.
Earlier this week when I was listing the things that May brings to mind-I totally forgot one-The May Pole.
Sometime during the last of April-strange things start happening around Brasstown-you know like top hats growing ferns around their edges. There's a rush on all the thrift stores-from people looking for white clothing-and it seems colorful ribbons wave around everywhere you look.
Me and the girls always look forward to being part of the John C. Campbell Folk School's May Pole Celebration. This year we just couldn't seem to make it work-first there was a choral performance at school-then I got the practice day mixed up-then the end of semester homework blues took a hold of us.
I had last year's May Pole Celebration on video so we watched it and remembered how fun the day was-and told ourselves next year we'd make sure to be part of the joy again. (*Don't forget to stop the music player in the top right of this page before you start the video)
If you couldn't tell-I'm the one holding hands with the least May Pole Dancer; Chatter of course has her cowboy boots on; and Chitter is between the Green Man and the Morris Dancer when we're going around the pole.
So have you ever danced around a May Pole?
p.s. The lovely Monica Gatti filmed last year's May Pole for me-THANK YOU Monica : )
One of the highlights of attending the Mountain Folk Festival every year for the girls-is getting to show off their clogging. This year they had Brian, a fellow JCCFS Clogger, with them.
Clogging was born right here in the Appalachian Mountains. The folks who settled here-the Irish, Scottish, English, and German brought along their folk dances with them. Over the years those dances along with the Cherokee and African influences morphed into what we recognize as clogging today. (you can go here for a more indepth history of clogging)
Chatter and Chitter have been clogging for almost 6 years-and Brian-has been at it even longer. The routine, Feet Of Flames, they chose for Berea has an Irish feel to it. The music as well as the steps-go through a variety of emotions. (*don't forget to stop the music player in the top right of this page before you start the video)
Whew-it makes me tired just watching it! Of course I'm prejudice-but I think they did an outstanding job-don't you?
Each year the Mountain Folk Festival offers Saturday morning dance workshops for the attendees. It give the kids an opportunity to learn a new style of folk dancing, a new dance, or both.
The girls took the same workshop this year, and they learned a new dance called Arnold's Circle. The dance was written by a Dutchman named Cor Hogendyk and was originally published in Holland. It may have been introduced to America by Pat Shaw. The mtn folk festival class danced Arnold's Circle to a Canadian jig called Little Burnt Potato.
The girls are wearing their clogging dresses. Chatter has on her trademark cowboy boots; Chitter has on dancing shoes-both have braids.
I love the lightness of the dancer's feet-to me it's part of what makes this type of dancing so pleasing to the eye. While I enjoy folk dancing immensely-I'm no expert on the history, the styles, or even the actual dancing. A couple of years ago I got Bob Dalsemer (a.k.a. Best Dance Caller Ever!) to explain the different styles of folk dancing performed at the mountain folk festival each year. I think he did an excellent job-see if you don't agree:
When we choose required dances for MFF we try for a mix of "country dances" that include mainly American squares (including Appalachian squares) and contras, English country dances with at least one Danish dance and a singing (Play Party) game. Morris, garland, rapper and clog are display dances (rather than social dances) and are usually included only in the workshops and performances.
The term "contra" these days refers to a contemporary form of American country dance, most often danced in two long lines of couples, divided into sub sets of two couples.
I define "country dancing" as follows:
What is “Country Dancing?”
The term “country dance” has existed in the English language for more than 400 years and refers to social dancing performed by groups of couples in a “set.” Despite the rustic connotation, country dances were popular in cities and towns as well as rural areas, and were danced by all classes of society. In 1651 the first book of instructions for country dances, The English Dancing Master, was published by John Playford in London and dedicated to “the gentlemen of the Inns of Court,” the legal fraternity who were known for their enthusiastic dancing and lavish balls. It described dances in a number of formations (squares, circles, lines, etc.) for anywhere from two couples to “as many as will.”
Country Dancing spread in popularity from England to the continent, and thereby to most of the western world. In 18th century England the most popular form of country dance was the “longways for as many as will", while in France the most popular “set” was the four couple square formation, which evolved into the Cotillion, and later, the Quadrille. Remnants of the 19th century quadrilles can be found in the folk dances of Eastern and Western Europe and North, Central and South America, including our American square dances. The English longways formation eventually evolved into today’s American contra dances. In fact the term “contra” is derived from “country dance” by way of the French term “contredanse.”
At the beginning of the 20th century little was known about England’s dance history. English musician, scholar and collector, Cecil Sharp began by investigating folk dancing in England’s rural villages. Later, he discovered the 17th and 18th century publications of Playford and others. Sharp and a group of interested dancers began to work out dances (and their accompanying tunes) from Playford’s notations. Thus began a revival of interest in English Country Dancing that continues worldwide today.
In 1915 Sharp visited the U.S. to choreograph dances and arrange songs for a special New York production of Shakespeare’s “A Mid Summer Night’s Dream.” During his stay he gave a number of dance workshops in various cities which led to the founding of the American Branch of the English Folk Dance Society, later to become The Country Dance and Song Society. CDSS has a broad range of interests that includes country dancing in it’s many historical and contemporary forms as well as related music, songs and folklore.
I hope you enjoyed the video-and Bob's historical explanation about the dance styles. This past year, Bob was the recipient of the 2011 CDSS Lifetime Contribution Award.
Wish you could see the different folk dancing styles performed at this year's festival? Check out the short video below-made by one of the other Mom's who went on the trip with us. You can see a sneak peek of Chitter and Chatter's clogging routine in the video-and you can even see me-if you look quick enough near the beginning.
Have you participated in any type of folk dancing? If so-please leave a comment-I'd love to hear about it.
Drop back by for an outstanding clogging performance in the next few days.
Me and the girls spent the past weekend at Berea College-we were there for the 76th Annual Mountain Folk Festival. To put it in a nut shell-the festival is dedicated to keeping the tradition of folk dancing alive in our youth.
This is the 4th year we've been able to take part in the festival-and I do believe it was the best year yet.
Our group of dancers from Brasstown was larger-we had 5 new dancers with us this year. So the girls got to introduce old friends from home -to old friends from the mtn folk festival. (in this case-it was clogger meet clogger)
There were lots of twirly skirts;
there were girls with plaited hair every where I looked;
and there was more than a few secret whispering sessions between these 2.
Even though this was my 4th festival-I was blown away by the same thing I always am: no matter the hairstyle; no matter the type of footwear or lack thereof; no matter the clothes-no matter the age-the kids who attend the Mountain Folk Festival love folk dancing-and it's a true joy to see it on their faces and hear it in the steps of their feet.
Attendees have an opportunity to learn the dances that'll be called at the festival before they arrive. Maybe this was such a good year-because everyone knew the dances-which means we get to dance more dances instead of going over and over the required ones.
Or maybe it was the best year because our Brasstown group was full of great kids who all enjoyed the trip.
Or maybe it was because I was so proud of Chatter and Chitter. I was proud of their dancing-I was proud that they were friendly and approachable-I was proud that they pitched in to help when needed-I was proud they were respectful to all the adults-and I was tickled pink with their choice of music for our long trip-Ray Price, Hank Locklin, Kitty Wells, Hank Williams Sr., and Patsy Cline-I mean Ray Price!!!-am I lucky or what.
Come back in a day or so-I've got 2 videos from the festival to share with you!