THE PLAY-PARTY IN INDIANA - online book

Folk-Songs and Games with Descriptive Introduction, Notes, Sheeet music & Lyrics

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14                          The Play-Party in Indiana.
A teacher of the new dance steps would never have called the movement dancing, nor could the critical magazine editor have been surprised into calling the words poetry. There was a rhythm to the whole thing, a certain keeping time to the music, but this rhythm was almost as much of the arms, head and body as of the feet. The players bowed, they knelt, they kissed, they promenaded, they swung, each keeping time to the singing in whatever way his innate sense of dance directed. The walking, the running, the skipping and the promenade steps could all be recognized, but the players did not all use the same. The impres­sion which a visitor would get from the dance was that of a jumble of old dance steps, all in time, yet related in no other way. In the promenade a few couples two-stepped, but they were pointed out as doubtful characters, and probably had attended real "hoe-downs."3
What did they sing? Oh, that was of the least importance. Whence the words had come, no one knew, and certainly no one cared to question. They were the stanzas which belonged to the game, and those which had given it its name. They were queer, not always intelligible, and little more than directions for the dance in many instances. Yet they were always gay. Many of these songs had been taught to members of this group by individuals from other communities. The only requirement was that the words indicate, or at least conform to the movements of the dance. Since the refrain alone usually accomplished this, the singers were at liberty to use the traditional stanzas or to im­provise others to suit the occasion. It was customary to have all of the verses conform to a simple rhyme-scheme, but even this was not obligatory.4
Tired by the strenuous movement of the games, a couple might retire to the kitchen or to the bench for on-lookers, and "sit out one set"; especially was this the practice when the two were engaged and disliked to "play" with other partners. Yet this plan had to be used with discretion, for a frequent resort to it laid them open to the suspicion of being "sweethearts", and so to the taunts of all of the others.
About midnight the plentiful yet inexpensive refreshments were passed around and enjoyed. Soon after this the parents gathered together their sleeping children, gave the usual series of
3.     The local name for the "dance."
4.     e. g. All Go Down to Rowser's.
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