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Appalachian DanceCreativity and Continuity in Six Communities$
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Susan Eike Spalding

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780252038549

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: April 2017

DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252038549.001.0001

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Blue Ridge Breakdown

Blue Ridge Breakdown

Stability and Tradition in an African American Community

(p.63) 4. Blue Ridge Breakdown
Appalachian Dance

Susan Eike Spalding

University of Illinois Press

This chapter examines African American square dancing traditions in Martinsville, Henry County, Southwest Virginia. It tells the story of African American dances in Martinsville from the perspective of four people who were central to it through much of the twentieth century: fiddler Leonard Bowles and his wife, dancer Naomi Bowles, and caller Ernest Brooks and his wife. The chapter begins with a historical background on African American old time dancing in the Appalachian region, along with Martinsville and its black community. It then considers the old breakdown, first in the 1930s and 1940s and then in 1978, as well as its connection to the agrarian lifestyle in which it thrived. It also discusses the relationship between music and dance in Martinsville, the decline of the old breakdown, and the factors that brought new life to old time dancing during the 1970s and 1980s and beyond. The chapter concludes with an assessment of the future prospects for African American dancing traditions, including the old breakdown, in Martinsville.

Keywords:   square dancing, Martinsville, Henry County, Southwest Virginia, African American dances, Leonard Bowles, Naomi Bowles, Ernest Brooks, old breakdown, music

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