When Maud Karpeles set out to document the tradition of the Britannia Coco-nut Dancers of Bacup in 1929, she was regarded with considerable wariness.
The dancers insisted on drawing up an agreement with the English Folk Dance Society that allowed documentation only—teaching of the dances or their unique tune, Tip top polka, were forbidden—in return for active support from the society. While the mass media have brought them national notoriety since then, the dancers point to the 1929 agreement as the cornerstone of their continuing ability to thrive.
This according to “’In a word, we are unique’: Ownership and control in an English dance system” by Theresa Buckland, an essay included in Step change: New views on traditional dance (London: Francis Boutle, 2001, pp. 48–59). Below, the Nutters perform their signature Tip top polka.
The peoples of the Caribbean welcomed Katharine Dunham and shared their dance cultures with her; her obligations toward them figure in her danced testimonies to their hospitality.
Her solo in L’ag’ya (1938) was not a collusion with colonial ideologies of appropriation—it was a testament to the immediacy of performance and the importance of maintaining a welcoming openness in the face of the overwhelming idea of infinity.
This according to “Hospitality and translation in Katherine Dunham’s L’ag’ya” by Ramsay Burt, an essay included in Proceedings: Society of Dance History Scholars (Stoughton: Society of Dance History Scholars, 2003) pp. 8–11. Above, Dunham with Vanoye Aikens in L’ag’ya in 1938; below, excerpts from Dunham’s solo from a silent 1947 film.
Created by the ethnomusicologist David Locke, Dagomba dance-drumming presents sound recordings, staff notation, and text materials on the dance drumming of the Dagomba people of northern Ghana.
The recordings and historical narratives—including a personal narrative of training in drumming—were collected from Alhaji Abubakari Lunna, an expert on Dagomba performing arts and culture. The story of Lunna’s life conveys the scope of the knowledge that a great drummer learns, the way this heritage is transmitted, and a glimpse into the Dagomba drumming scene during the second half of the twentieth century. The website is hosted by Tufts University.
This is the first in our series of posts celebrating Black History Month. Throughout February we will be posting about resources and landmark writings in black studies. Click here or on the Black studies category on the right to see a continuously updated page of links to all of our posts in this category.
Below, an excerpt from a performance of Takai, a Dagomba dance that involves the striking of metal rods in the dancers’ hands and swirling movements that are enhanced by their flaring costumes.
Related post: Traditional Ghanaian sampling
During New Year’s celebrations, transplanted Northern Thracian farmers perform fertility rites to coax a bountiful harvest from the earth.
Three forms of the important wedding dance type συγκαθιστό (syngathisto)—which is seldom seen outside a matrimonial context—are performed during New Year’s rituals; two of them, ντιβιτζήδικoς (divitzīdikos, “camel driver’s dance”) and κατσιβέλικος (katsivelikos, “gypsy’s dance”), employ phallic objects and involve improvisation. The three forms differ in style, kinemics, and morphokinemics.
This according to “Structure and style of an implement dance in Neo Monastiri, central Greece” by Rena Loutzakī, an essay included in The 16th symposium of the ICTM Study Group on Ethnochoreology (Studia musicologica Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae XXXIII/1–4 , pp. 439–452). Below, a syngathisto in its usual cultural context.
Folkstreams is an archive of hard-to-find documentary films about traditional cultures that gives them new life by streaming them on the Internet. Founded in 2002 by the filmmakers Tom and Mimi Davenport, the idea grew out of “our love of filmmaking, a respect for the traditional culture of ordinary Americans, and a desire to get our work to the general public.”
Partnering with Ibiblio, the School of Information and Library Science, and the Southern Folklife Collection, all based at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Folkstreams preserves and disseminates priceless historical documents, including many whose subjects are music and dance.
Above, the Landis family of Granville County, North Carolina, sings “Jezebel” in A singing stream: A black family chronicle (Tom Davenport, 1986).
Related post: Pete Seeger, filmmaker
Designed and edited by Lev Weinstock and Suzel Ana Reily and produced by the Department of Social Anthropology at The Queen’s University of Belfast, Venda girls’ initiation schools presents all of the available materials resulting from John Blacking’s now-legendary fieldwork, undertaken from May 1956 through December 1958, documenting the songs, ceremonies, and dances of the girls’ initiation cycle of the Venda people of the Sibasa district of the Northern Transvaal, South Africa.
The resource includes photographs, sound clips, video clips, texts with translations, transcriptions, and all of Blacking’s writings on this and related subjects.
Launched in 2010 by the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance at the University of Limerick, Inbhear: Journal of Irish music and dance is a free online journal devoted to these performing arts as they are “relevant to Ireland, the Irish (wherever they may be), or perceived to be of Ireland or the Irish.”
The journal’s Editorial Board comprises faculty members and researchers from the Academy. The inaugural issue, edited by Niall Keegan, includes articles on Irish traditional fiddling, musical style, and step dancing.
The EVIA Digital Archive Project is a collaborative peer-reviewed digital archive of ethnographic field videos for use by scholars and teachers; it is also an infrastructure of tools and systems supporting scholars in the ethnographic disciplines, including ethnomusicology and ethnochoreology.
Since its founding in 2001, the project has been developed through the joint efforts of ethnographic scholars, archivists, librarians, technologists, and legal experts, with funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Indiana University, and the University of Michigan. There is no charge for access for educational purposes. Above, the videographer James B. Weegi assists the ethnomusicologist Ruth M. Stone with materials that are now part of her EVIA collection.
Although they rarely focus directly on music, articles in scholarly dance journals are often important sources for music researchers. Ethnomusicologists regularly find that their work intersects with that of ethnochoreologists, and music historians increasingly turn to publications by dance historians for information on choreographers, performers, and productions, from the court of Louis XIV to the Ballets Russes to music videos.
RILM is currently working to complete its coverage of three leading dance journals—Dance research, Dance chronicle, and Dance research journal.