Cowboy Dances

A collection of Traditional Western Square Dances By Lloyd Shaw

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The Kentucky Running Set
In the mountains of Kentucky, and throughout the Southern Appalachians, an old form of dance called the Running Set has survived. Cecil Sharp, the great authority on Country Dances of England, discovered the dance on his visit to this country in 1917, and proclaimed it as one of the purest and oldest dance forms of England. When first told of the dance, he avoided it because he believed it to be "a rough, uncouth dance, remarkable only as an exhibition of agility and physical endurance." When he finally chanced to see it danced, he was fascinated by its beauty or aesthetic quality and by its historic significance. He made a careful study of it and wrote a booklet on his findings which he published as Part V of his authoritative study of English dancing, The Country Dance Book.
In this little volume one immediately recognizes the source of much that we find in the Western Square Dance. The call and the spirit of the running set are much closer to the Western form than is the New England Quadrille.
In the Running Set as many dancers as wish to may join the figure, standing in couples in a huge circle. The dance can follow many patterns, but here is a typical form. After an introductory circle left similar to the introduction of the Western dance, the first couple moves to the second and executes a special figure, then on to the next couple and repeats this figure. As they go on to the fourth couple, the second couple folloivs up and executes the same figure with the third couple, and then follows behind the first couple and repeats the figure with each couple in the ring. As soon as possible, the third couple folloivs up and dances with the fourth, and then follows around the ring. This goes on until every couple has followed in a sort of looping or crocheting chain stitch of continuous ,and furious dancing.
The figures that they execute between couple and couple not only bear a resemblance to the Western figures but in some cases are identical. And the do-si-do, with which each couple ties off when they finish the circle, survives in an altered form in the Western dance.
Miss Ida Levin has published more recently a little vol­ume called Kentucky Square Dances, In this, the same Run­ning Set is danced as a square, and the similarity to the Western dance is even more evident. While saying that any