On June 10, I had the great honor of being inducted into the Blue Ridge Music Hall of Fame in Wilkesboro, NC (for Traditional Dance) along with my longtime friend, old-time musician and singer Laura Boosinger. Other 2017 inductees included the Skillet Lickers, songwriter Don Gibson, and Mac Wiseman. Paul Brown was on hand to make the presentation and play the fiddle. I feel truly honored to receive this award, to be recognized for my work with traditional dance, and to now be in the company of some of the seminal figures of Appalachian music.
A few weeks ago, I returned from a three-week tour of China with my Warren Wilson student band, Jenny & the Hog Drovers. The group included Maddy Mullany (fiddle), Clarke Williams (fiddle), Hayden Holbert (guitar), Landon George (bass), and myself (banjo). On this cultural exchange, supported by the US Embassy in Beijing, we met and collaborated with a group of Chinese musicians known as Manhu (Fierce Tigers). These traditional musicians, from the Yi ethnic group, live in the Yunnan Province in the south of China, a mountainous region not unlike Appalachia. We spent our initial days at the Linden Centre, in the village of Xizhou in Yunnan, and although the two bands couldn’t speak to each other, we were able to communicate and find common ground musically. We ended up creating six collaborative pieces (drawing from both traditions) that we could perform together. After our time in Xizhou, we traveled to Manhu’s village near Shilin (south of Kunming), where we were welcomed with a raucous celebration that evening. The next day, both bands flew to Beijing, where we performed at the American Center of US Embassy, the National Center for the Performing Arts (the Chinese equivalent of the Kennedy Center), and a few other venues. At the US Embassy, I gave a talk, “Appalachian Music and Dance: Hoedowns, Reels, and Frolics.” This presentation, which included some of the collaborative pieces, was live-streamed to thousands of people across China, and it is available for viewing at: http://v.qq.com/live/p/topic/21526/review.html
From Beijing we rode the 200 mph bullet train to Shanghai, where we performed at the Shanghai Concert Hall and the American Center at US Consulate. Most of our performances ended with dancing, drawn from both traditions. (It's a challenge to call a square dance for non-English speakers.) While in Shanghai, we also spent a day recording our collaborations. If you would like to see photos and some videos from the trip, check out our Facebook page.
On January 1, I head to China for a three-week tour with Jenny and the Hog Drovers, my student old-time band from Warren Wilson College. I am exited about traveling and performing with these young musicians, and I anticipate that it will be an amazing experience for all of us. On this cultural exchange, supported by the US Embassy in Beijing, we will meet and collaborate with a group of Chinese musicians known as Manhu (Fierce Tigers). These traditional musicians, from the Yi ethnic group, live in the Yunnan Province in the south of China, a mountainous region not unlike Appalachia. We will meet up with these folks at the Linden Centre, a conference center and hotel near Dali (in Yunnan), and after performing there, we will travel to their home at Shihin (south of Kunming). We will perform at a cultural center there, and then the next day, we will fly to Beijing. In Beijing we will perform at the American Center of US Embassy as well as the National Center for the Performing Arts (the Chinese equivalent of the Kennedy Center). After that we take the bullet train to Shanghai, where we will perform at the Shanghai Concert Hall and the American Center at US Consulate. We fly back to the US on January 20.
This spring, I have given a number of presentations about my book, Hoedowns, Reels, and Frolics. These have included invited talks at the Interdisciplinary Nineteenth-Century Studies Conference in Asheville, the Celebration of Scholarship at Shawnee State University in Portsmouth, Ohio, and the Breaking up Winter Weekend at the Cedars of Lebanon State Park in Tennessee.
On April 28, I appeared on the front page of the Asheville Citizen-Times in an article about the Old Farmer’s Ball, the local dance that takes place every Thursday on the campus of Warren Wilson. The story (and an accompanying video) are available online here.
Last month, I attended the annual conference of the Southeast Regional Folk Alliance at Montreat, North Carolina, where I received the SERFA President’s Award for Outstanding Contributions to Music and Culture in the Southeast. I was recognized for my forty-plus years as a dance caller, my twenty-five years as the coordinator of the Old-Time Music and Dance Week at the Swannanoa Gathering, and for the publication of Hoedowns, Reels, and Frolics. I felt truly honored.
I was recently honored to be included, along with Betty Smith, Sheila Kay Adams, Dom Flemons, Gillian Welch, and David Rawlings, in a BBC Radio 3 program commemorating the centennial of Cecil Sharp's and Maude Karpeles' ballad collecting in Appalachia. This program, which was broadcast on January 31, 2015, can be heard online at:
2015 has been an eventful year for me. After many (fourteen) years of research and writing, Hoedowns, Reels, and Frolics was finally published in July, and coinciding with being on sabbatical this fall, I have been busy with book events, workshops, dances, and concerts around the country: in West Virginia, New York, Maryland, California, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, North and South Carolina, and as far away as Alberta, Canada, where I went for a weeklong residency at the University of Alberta, in Edmonton. It has been gratifying to finally share my ideas and many years’ work with others, and I am pleased to report that my book has been well received. Here are a few lines from two recent reviews. The complete reviews can be read online.
"Jamison demonstrates how the history of dance is the story of America: immigration, race, trade, culture, identity, fashion, social stratification, and innovation. The closer you look, the more fascinating it all becomes. . . . This book is about dance, true, but it also provides an analogue for so many other things, reminding us, once again, that few forms of art. . . are ever quite what they seem." -- Sing Out!
"No praise is too high for this book. . . . The book is essential for anyone interested in American dance history or southern Appalachian culture." -- Country Dance and Song Society News
While on sabbatical this fall, I have also been working on a video project, editing videos of elderly buckdancers, flatfoot dancers, and Charleston dancers from western North Carolina. I interviewed and filmed these dancers over twenty years ago, and most of them are now deceased. These short videos will soon be posted on YouTube, and they will also be available on this website.
Hope to see you in 2016!
I have been busy this fall, with book events, workshops, dances, and concerts in California, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, North and South Carolina, and as far away as Alberta, Canada, where I went for a weeklong residency at the University of Alberta, in Edmonton. My visit to Canada was hosted by folkwaysAlive!, an archive associated with Smithsonian Folkways that houses a nearly complete collection of Folkways Records. I thoroughly enjoyed my time there sharing my research with ethnomusicology classes, meeting local musicians, scholars, and folklorists, teaching a flatfooting workshop, calling square dances, and most important, giving a talk about my book, Hoedowns, Reels, and Frolics. It was interesting to see how many of the dance issues that are discussed in the book are also relevant in Canada.
folkwaysAlive! University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada (November 25, 2015)
Next weekend (December 4-6), I'm headed to Kentucky for Dumplins’ and Dancin’, a heritage food and square dance weekend at the Hindman Settlement School.
On Friday, July 17, at 12:20 p.m., I will be interviewed about my newly released book “Hoedowns, Reels, and Frolics: Roots and Branches of Southern Appalachian Dance,” on WUNC's The State of Things. http://wunc.org/programs/state-things
After many years of research, writing, and editing, I’m pleased to announce that my book, "Hoedowns, Reels, and Frolics: Roots and Branches of Southern Appalachian Dance” (University of Illinois Press), is finally out! This book explores the origins of the square dances, step dances (buckdance, flatfooting, and clogging), team clogging, and other various forms that are part of the Appalachian dance tradition. The official book release will be held at Malaprop's Bookstore in Asheville, NC on Friday, July 17 at 7:00 PM.