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Hoodoo Religion and American Dance Traditions: Rethinking the Ring Shout

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Hoodoo Religion and American Dance Traditions: Rethinking the Ring Shout


Article by Katrina Hazzard-Donald looks at the relationship between African-American churches and traditional dance. As the article's summary puts it: "When one considers the history of American dance traditions one rarely thinks about its possible relationship to the local African American "Sanctified" or fundamentalist church described in works such as James Baldwin's Go Tell it On the Mountain. This article examines the historical relationship between early African American slave worship and its contribution to both the social and theatrical dance traditions of the United States.

"The most significant and transforming contribution by black Americans, to the American country dance tradition, was the invention of American square dance calling. In the early colonies, enslaved fiddlers were in great demand as musicians and "callers" at elite, as well as non-elite, dance affairs. ...

"The African musical calling tradition would predispose the enslaved African American musician to improvisation and "calling" as a matter of course. By eighteen hundred, African American bondsmen in the United States had established a two century long rich musical tradition that was highly influential in the making of American dance. ...

"The European contra dances, which became American square dances, were never called this while in Europe. Instead, they were memorized under the instruction of a "dancing master." Once the dances came to the colonial United States, they were "called." The most popular and widely known West and Central West African dances involve "calling" or signaling changes in movement, initiated by either the lead dancer, or the lead drummer. In this case, the enslaved fiddler would have inserted the African tradition of "calling" dances in an environment where few dancers knew the changes in the dance steps known as "the figures." "


The Journal of Pan African Studies

Date Created

September 1, 2011

Item Relations

Item: Phil Jamison 2: African influences, and African-American callers is related to This Item