Spring is sprung, and our “old” traditions are looking pretty fresh and verdant! Once again Country Dance + Song Online presents articles that explore how Anglo-American dance and song traditions continue to reinvent and refresh themselves in the age of the internet and the cell phone.

In The Dolphin Hey: The Evolution and Transmission of a Dance Figure, former CDSS President David Millstone and I trace the history and travels of this popular English (and Scottish and contra) dance figure. In sailing out to catch a glimpse of these dolphins we traveled (figuratively only, alas!) from the Shetland Islands of the 1880s to England, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, and the United States today. Our collaboration also had us reach out to dance choreographers and leaders from these countries who gave us their insights and knowledge of the transmission of the dolphin hey, and who reminded us that our joy in the traditional arts is shared around the world. This article also includes “A Pod of Dolphin Dances”—not a compendium of all known dances with dolphin heys in them, but a collection of the transformational ones (to date) mentioned in the context of the article. A bonus feature is a link to footage of the key dolphins themselves: Pelorus Jack and Opo.

Sacred Harp singing, so firmly associated in many people’s minds with the folk cultures of the southern United States, is now, as Jesse P. Karlsburg discusses, both a global and local phenomenon. Sacred Harp singing has spread to Europe, Oceania, East Asia, and the Middle East. Jesse observes that, though vastly expanded in geography and demographic variety, the style is still a “subcultural sound,” a “micromusic” that convenes small groups of people with strong community bonds. These groups may live beneath the level of broad cultural attention even while the musical form itself regularly achieves local and even national press coverage. In The Folk Scholarship Roots and Geopolitical Boundaries of Sacred Harp’s Global Twenty-first Century, Jesse explores the unique musical features and practices that support Sacred harp’s adoption and the similarities and differences in the histories of transnational political, economic, and cultural exchange affecting the form of participation for many singers. The numerous audio/video clips included will heighten your understanding of this musical form.

Tradition never stands (pun intended) still—in Lock and Dam: A Longsword Dance for the 21st Century, Douglas Allchin describes an innovative new longsword dance from Minneapolis, Minnesota, on the Mississippi River. The imagery of the dance evokes the river, with various spinning gestures and undulating waves reminiscent of the twirling turbulence and flow of the river’s water, while figures and sword locks are named after various riparian features such as “Paddle-Wheel” or “Bridge Lock,” or local Minneapolis celebrities. The dance is based on a 12-count phrase to hornpipes in 3/2, giving it a pulse not felt in a duple meter, and Douglas provides directions for creating the complicated new sword locks that are a feature of this new dance. Video included!

African-American dance continues to influence popular dance traditions today. In Walking for the Cake, Mark Matthews explores how the cakewalk—popular (in varying ways) in both black and white cultures—served as a cultural bridge from 19th century plantation/frontier society to the modern industrial age. Mark notes that the dance marked the beginning of the acceptance of African-American dance and music in the United States—as well as around the world. The cakewalk was the first step, so to speak, that led to African traditions dominating American pop culture. And, yes, video included!

Happy singing and dancing to all!

Allison Thompson
General Editor
Country Dance + Song Online