UC 255 - Creative Expression Seminar
Section: 101 Country Dance and Creative Tradition
Term: SP 2009
Subject: University Courses (UC)
Department: LSA UG: Curriculum Support
Requirements & Distribution:
Waitlist Capacity:
May be elected twice for credit.
Primary Instructor:

English country dance, Scottish country dance, and New England contra dance are distinct but closely related forms of social dance. The earliest source is The English Dance Master of John Playford in 1651. In all three forms, couples usually "progress" up or down and dance in succession with other couples. Contra dance is a continuous tradition. English and Scottish country dance (ECD and SCD) were both revived in the early 20th century in a deliberate attempt to counter mass culture. Under the leadership of Cecil Sharp, ECD saw itself as folkdance, while the Scottish organization, led by Jean Milligan, insisted that SCD was ballroom rather than folkdance. Contra and ECD are immediately accessible, although dances for experts can be complex; SCD requires initial teaching. In the past twenty years, all three styles have experienced an explosion of choreographic innovation. New dances are being composed constantly and leaders are perplexed: do they try to keep a core repertory?

This class will teach students the basics in all three forms and take a critical look at their history. How do such types of invented traditions work? What should be the limits of creativity directed at the past? What is the function of history and pseudo-history? What is the nature of this creativity? (These questions also apply to a variety of other forms of "heritage" and social memory.) Dancers typically feel that they are "expressing themselves," even though the dances are choreographed.

We will spend about 30 minutes discussing the reading assignment. The rest of the class will be learning to dance and discussing the broader issues above. There will be two short papers — one on the social history of the dance, one analyzing the student's own experience, and an exam (15% each). In groups of two or three, students will compose a dance in one of the three styles and teach it to the class (5%). 50% of the grade will be based on participation (but not skill in dancing — there is no clumsiness penalty).

All the reading will be on Ctools or library reserve. There will be a $30.00 course fee for musicians; I hope to have live music at least half the time.

UC 255 - Creative Expression Seminar
Schedule Listing
101 (SEM)
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