Ozark Jig and the Stomp Dance

“Within the Ozarks cultural exchange drastically transformed the Scotch Irish customs of song, dance, and story. I have often defined story and storytelling as the cultural and emotional core for a people. This is most evident in the intertribal realities of the Ozarks. For southeastern tribes and the Shawnee and Delaware, the stomp dance lies at the religious and cultural core of their people. The stomp dance brings men and women together around a central fire, and as the caller calls out verses, the audience responds. The women wear calico dresses with shakers that sound like rattlers, signaling fertility. The men, with staffs and cowboy hats, typify the dress of the hunter. The call-response pattern unifies the collective through gender, song, story, and action. The symbiotic relationship born out of this dance contains the keys that help unlock the power of life and creation for the region.

“In the Ozarks the Scotch-Irish combined the jig and call-response forms of stomp dancing to create the art of square dancing. Using the shrill sound of the fiddle notes, the caller signals the crowd of men and women to the next dance move. The dancers respond and repeat the caller’s directions through movement. Although most of these songs and dances do not employ spiritual overtones, the action itself is symbolic of stomp dance rhetoric. Two other similarities link the stomp dance and the square dance—timing and title. Square dances traditionally last from sundown till sunrise, as do stomp dances. Additionally, the square dance derives its name from the southeastern square grounds, a place constructed for the sole purpose of stomp dance culture. The blending of song (call and response) with dance has emerged from the intertribal realities of Ozark culture and lifeways.”

~Kent Blansett “Intertribalism in the Ozarks, 1800-1865”

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