All join hands and make that wheel, the more you dance the better you feel.”
The Mountain Dance Trail
The Mountain Dance Trail, a new statewide project of the Augusta Heritage Center of Davis and Elkins College, celebrates West Virginia as the only Appalachian state which maintains a strong community dance tradition. Dances Trail began in April of 2012 and just started it’s second season in January 2013.
The route follows a trail from the Potomac Highlands in the east to the Ohio River in the west, connecting ten communities that host old-time mountain square dances. The towns involved are Marlinton, Dunmore, Monterey, Blue Grass, Franklin, Upper Tract, Circleville, Riverton, Harman, Elkins, Helvetia, Pickens, Ireland, Sutton, Glenville, and Henderson.
These destinations will host a series of scheduled dances for local dancers and visitors alike, where locally based musicians and callers will provide the music and figure calling. Square dance styles vary throughout the state from the “Mountain Circle” or “Big Circle” dances in the east, to Appalachian four couple squares in the west. “Round Dances,” like waltzes and two steps are played between squares at most locations.
Square dance culture has been losing ground over the last fifty years. But West Virginia is a special place, and has held on to traditional dancing in small towns and communities across the center of the state. The idea behind The Mountain Dance Trail is to honor, embrace, and promote these dance traditions. We want to preserve Appalachian old-time dance in its localized forms.
A mini-grant from the West Virginia Humanities Council has allowed Augusta Folk Art Coordinator, Gerald Milnes, and Appalachian Forest Heritage Area AmeriCorps, Becky Hill, to document each community’s dance traditions. Through video-taped interviews with callers, musicians, and organizers, and video documentation of dances, Mr. Milnes and Ms. Hill are capturing the West Virginia dance tradition. They were furthered granted in Fall 2012 from the West Virginia Humanities Council to create a documentary film about traditional vernacular dance in West Virginia.
Youth participation is essential to the continuation of the dance tradition in West Virginia. Connections have been established with 4-H clubs along the route, offering a discounted admission rate of $2 for students.
How You Can Participate
Please join us at a dance! Attending a dance, whether to participate, watch, or listen, supports The Mountain Dance Trail. Every weekend there is an authentic West Virginia dance taking place! We hope to see you on the dance floor!
“Up the river and around the bend, that’s all there is, this is the end.”