All join hands and make that wheel, the more you dance the better you feel.”
The Mountain Dance Trail
The Mountain Dance Trail, a statewide heritage tourism 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. The Dance Trail began in April of 2012 and just started it’s sixth season in January 2017!
The route follows a trail from the Virginia Line in the east to the Ohio River in the west, connecting communities that host old-time mountain square dances. The towns involved are Marlinton, Dunmore, Monterey, Franklin, Elkins, Helvetia, Pickens, Ireland, Sutton, Morgantown, Weston, Glenville, and Henderson.
These destinations all host series of scheduled dances for local dancers and visitors. Locally based musicians and callers provide 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,” 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 allowed Gerry Milnes, and 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 attempted to capture the West Virginia dance traditions. They were furthered granted in Fall 2012 from the West Virginia Humanities Council and created a documentary “Reel ’em Boys, Reel ’em” available for purchase at Augusta Heritage Center.
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.”