TRADITIONAL SQUARE DANCES
Traditional square dancing returns to the 24th annual Old-Time Music, Ozark Heritage Festival in downtown West Plains, Mo. Dances will be held from 6-8 p.m. each night – Friday, June 1 and Saturday, June 2 in the Civic Center Exhibit Hall.
Traditional square dancing has been an integral component of the Old-Time Music, Ozark Heritage Festival since the first event in 1995. Fiddler Bob Holt and caller Edna Mae Davis of Ava introduced this art form that year, and their influence continues to be felt.
Square dancing has been an important vehicle for both artistic expression and social recreation in this region since the arrival of the first white settlers. It is closely associated with traditions of fiddling and string band music, as well as traditions of solo dancing such as jig dancing.
Square dancers in the Douglas County, Mo., area, especially Ava, maintain a distinctive tradition of square dance characterized by brisk tempos, the incorporation of solo jig dancing into square dances during transitional segments, and the participation of the callers as dancers.
Traditional square dancing still takes place at least occasionally in some locations within the Ozarks. Additionally, Western square dancing, a pan-regional, popular-culture version of the art form that is related to traditional square dancing but does not have long-established local roots, has become popular among some Ozarks residents in recent decades.
The square dancing featured at the Old-Time Music, Ozark Heritage Festival is predominantly traditional square dancing. Dances take place from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday during the festival. Square dancers from Douglas County and the Potosi, Mo., areas frequently participate in the dancing in leadership roles, but everyone is welcome.
Experienced string band musicians from south-central and southwest Missouri who are thoroughly familiar with regional square dance traditions, led by guitarist Alvie Dooms of Ava, fiddler David Scrivner of Mansfield, and banjo player Nathan McAlister of Neosho, provide live musical accompaniment for the dancing.