We’re getting away from that too much. The idea that folk dancing just happens in someone’s lounge room and is done for fun is not very much of a reality at all. If you have some social connection and feel that your friends are there because it is fun for them to go to a place where some of us get together and dance, you’re in a different kind of category than folk dancing.
Can we think about the history of folk dancing, the development of it?
Of course we can. I think you can do a history of folk dancing. That is something that you can’t see at the present day. I think this is one of the reasons why the dance had such a significant role in its own time and place. The fact that it was so important really helped the dance take on its identity. It made it a part of folk dance and an expression of American culture, which was all about community, unity, and solidarity. There was a lot of talk about how if the country couldn’t take a lead. And if the United States couldn’t take a lead for these wonderful dancing traditions, it was something that could be taken up by the Caribbean; you could take it over that way. It was a great dance and a great symbol that was part of the American experience. We’re still using many of its symbols today, when we dress up, when we move.
We see those things very much today. We are doing it a little bit today. But it was very much an American thing. You don’t go to the Caribbean because you’re in a hurry. It was something that was more important than simply being more stylish. People who didn’t want to get dressed up to go out, people who wanted to be with their friends and have a good time with them, they moved out to the tropics for that very reason.
When we dance, do we dance around like a mad woman? Do we dance like a ballerina? No, the dance is a very slow process. It takes years. And there was a lot of progress in dance in the nineteenth century. It did have a very clear time signature, but it was very slow and fluid. That’s why it was so important. People could feel they were part of something greater. People could feel they were part of something that was important.
Do you think a lot of people still feel that way?
I sure do. That’s what makes it so important in the present day. When the