Renowned West Virginia folklorist, documentarian and traditional musician Gerald Milnes will present the screening of a film about community dance traditions in West Virginia at the West Virginia University Creative Arts Center, Wednesday, Oct. 29, as part of Mountaineer Week.
The event will begin at 6 p.m. in Bloch Learning and Performance Hall (Room 200A) and is free and open to the public.
“Reel ‘Em Boys, Reel ‘Em” is a one-hour documentary film exploring the rich dance traditions of rural West Virginia that Milnes co-produced in association with the Augusta Heritage Center at Davis & Elkins College in Elkins, West Virginia.
The film presents interviews with dancers, dance scholars and dance callers, who talk about regional dance, dance music origins, and the history of dance calling. Numerous dance venues are shown, as well as archival and contemporary footage of step dancers from around the state.
The film also highlights the work of the Augusta Heritage Center’s Mountain Dance Trail project, which is working to document and promote West Virginia’s traditional dance culture.
Milnes will present the film and then lead a discussion about various issues raised in the piece.
Milnes is a filmmaker, writer and musician who recently retired after 25 years of work with the Augusta Heritage Center of Davis & Elkins College. He has produced 16 films dealing with West Virginia folk life and traditional arts. He received the Governor’s Arts Award in 2008, the Vandalia Award in 2012, and the Mountaineer Week Robert C. Byrd Heritage Fiddler Award in 2012. He and Becky Hill, the co-producer of “Reel ‘Em Boys, Reel ‘Em,” initiated the Mountain Dance Trail project in 2011. He has been published by Alfred A. Knopf, the University Press of Kentucky and the University of Tennessee Press. He was named West Virginia Filmmaker of the Year in 2007 for his cultural film, “Signs, Cures and Witchery.”
The Mountain Dance Trail project celebrates West Virginia as the only Appalachian state that maintains a strong community dance tradition. The dance trail follows a route from the Potomac Highlands in the eastern part of the state, to the Ohio River in the west, connecting 10 communities that still host old-time mountain square dances.
The towns are: Marlinton, Dunmore, Monterey, Blue Grass, Franklin, Upper Tract, Circleville, Riverton, Harman, Elkins, Helvetia, Pickens, Ireland, Sutton, Glenville and Henderson.
Square dance styles vary throughout the state, from the “Mountain Circle” or “Big Circle” dances in the east, to Appalachian four-couple squares in the west. “Round Dances,” like waltzes and two steps, are played between square dances at most locations.
Square dance culture has been losing ground over the last 50 years, but West Virginia has held on to traditional dancing in small towns and communities across the center of the state. The idea behind The Mountain Dance Trail is to honor, embrace, and promote these dance traditions and to preserve Appalachian old-time dance in its localized forms.
The documentary film “Reel ‘Em, Boys, Reel ‘Em” was made possible through a mini-grant from the West Virginia Humanities Council.
For more information about the Mountain Dance Trail project, see http://mountaindancetrail.org.
The film is available on DVD at: https://augustaheritagecenter.org/store/reel-em.
For more information about the Oct. 29 event, contact Travis Stimeling, WVU assistant professor of Music History, phone: 304-293-4968, or email Travis.Stimeling@mail.wvu.edu.
CONTACT: Charlene Lattea, College of Creative Arts
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