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TUNES FOR ROUND DANCES

 

In 20th-century terminology, "round" dances refer to any dances which are not square dances, which are quadrilles and (incorrectly) contradances. Thus they include waltzes, two-steps, fox trots, schottisches, polkas, and other dances. The old-fashioned polka and schottische were danced by couples, positioned side by side, who followed other couples around the outside of the hall; hence, the "round" dance. In my experience, schottisches are always danced this way. The old-fashioned heel-and-toe polka, similar to the schottische, was, unlike the schottische, all but extinct.

People are sometimes confused about the ethnic nature of some of these dances. The polka is well known to have its origins supposedly as a folk dance in Bohemia. It was brought to Paris, taught by dancing masters there, and it soon created a sensation. From Paris it spread to other centers of style and fashion, including New York, where in 1844 the city's leading dancing master, Allen Dodworth, taught it to his pupils. Other American dancing masters learned it, and from them it spread throughout the country. Other dances followed in succession, spreading throughout the United States in a similar fashion. Most never found lasting success, but two did, the varsovienne (better known as "Put Your Little Foot," 1854) and especially the schottische (1849), which still has its devotees. The schottische was originally a German adaptation of a Scottish dance, but came to America through the influence of style-setting dancing masters in New York City, who traveled to Paris and London to learn the latest steps.

The waltz (of German origin) also came to America early in the 19th century via Paris and dancing masters, but outside of the most fashionable and elegant balls on the East Coast, faced serious resistance in most of the country, who found the face-to-face position scandalous. Eventually, after substantial German immigration before and after the Civil War, Americans began to accept the dance. By the last two decades of the 19th century, it was very popular at rural dances in Michigan, although as late as 1920, in other parts of the country, largely due to religious influence, it still was held in contempt.

These dances also spread through much of Europe, probably through similar means of formal dancing instruction at higher social levels, then spreading to the common people. In the 1850s, fiddler August Mueller, a native of Mecklenberg, in Prussia, but active probably in western Ohio and Cincinnati, had a manuscript full of schottisches (but also of waltzes and cotillions, i.e., American square dances), which must have comprised most of the dances of the immigrant German population of that region. Schottisches were also popular with Scandinavians, and of course polkas and waltzes remain popular to this day over a wide area, although the actual steps vary. Immigration of various European groups in the late 19th and early 20th centuries also influenced the spread of these dances, especially the polka, and the popularity of the European polka in the 1940s and later.

Some round dances had American origins. The two-step began in 1892, and owed part of its popularity, no doubt, to the marches which accompanied the dance. Ragtime grew and also accompanied the dance, as did popular songs like "Red Wing." The two-step craze also seems to have coincided with the introduction of the bass drum or trap set to dance orchestras. In Michigan, the dance called the Sally Waters seems to date from around 1880, using a popular song as its tune; the otherwise unknown hop dance appears to have similar, although later, origins. Perhaps these had the same kind of origins as the ripple and other round dances that Henry Ford attempted to revive.

Fiddlers active for dances incorporated newer tunes popular for dancing, including all of those post-1913 (a kind a watershed year for newer styles of dancing, beginning with the one-step and fox trot) dances, which, because of the Tin Pan Alley nature of the tunes for "modern" dancing, I am not including in this website. These include two-steps and fox trots (including any number of country-western hits to about 1970) and waltzes. Waltzes form the most diverse type of round dance in the repertoire of these fiddlers----from tunes of ethnic folk origin, to 19th-century popular waltz songs, to mid-20th-century hits like Tennessee Waltz and Mockin'bird Hill.

 

POLKAS

 

1. Jenny Lind Polka (Heel and Toe Polka) played by Bill Bigford, accompanied by Paul Gifford, guitar, Portland, Michigan, March 20, 1976. This tune, by Anton Wallerstein, a composer of dance music living in Paris, was written in 1843 and probably accompanied the dance as it spread across the United States. It is widely known.

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SCHOTTISCHES

 

2. Detroit Schottische. This was composed and published in 1853 by Adam Couse, then Detroit's leading music proprietor and dancing master. According to a local history, 100,000 copies of this were sold, making this obviously a big hit. The popular fiddle tune Flop-Eared Mule (which was practically unknown to Michigan fiddlers) clearly derives from this. Although the name of the original composition was largely forgotten, the tune remained the best-known schottische in Michigan.

a. Nameless schottische played by Varsal Fales and Les Raber, accompanied by William White, dulcimer, Bud Pierce, guitar, and Paul Gifford, piano, Hastings, Michigan, June 15, 1981.

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b. Nameless barn dance played by Elmer House, accompanied by Paul Gifford, guitar, Mackinac Island, Michigan, 1976. It is interesting to note that Elmer called this a "barn dance," which I think is a variation on a schottische that was popular in Great Britain and perhaps Canada.

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c. Old Detroit Schottische played by Gale McAfee, accompanied by Paul Gifford, dulcimer, Manton, Michigan, 1976.

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d. Detroit Schottische played by James Moran, accompanied by Paul Gifford, dulcimer, St. Clair Shores, Michigan, January 18, 1978.

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2. Rochester Schottische. written by William H. Rulison in 1852, was an even bigger hit nationally.

a. Nameless schottische played by Varsal Fales, accompanied by William White, dulcimer, Bud Pierce, guitar, and Paul Gifford, piano, Hastings, Michigan, June 15, 1981.

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b. Nameless schottische played by Gale McAfee, accompanied by Paul Gifford, dulcimer, Manton, Michigan, April 15, 1976.

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c. Nameless schottische played by Russ Nelson, accompanied by Paul Gifford, second fiddle, William White, guitar, Lansing, Michigan, January 7, 1978.

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3. [Rustic Dance]. I am supplying this title for this schottische because it probably is the best-known commercial version, written and copyrighted by C. K. Howell in 1898, but in fact is older.

a. Nameless schottische played by Gale McAfee, accompanied by Paul Gifford, guitar, Manton, Michigan, May 1976.

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b. Nameless schottische played by Jasper Warner, tenor banjo, accompanied by Bill Stevens, guitar, Delores Cain, piano, Bob Spinner, dulcimer, and Paul Gifford, violin, at dance at Barnard Grange, near Charlevoix, Michigan, October 29, 1977.

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4. Nameless schottische played by August Hasted, accompanied by Paul Gifford, second fiddle, Spring Lake, Michigan, September 22, 1985. The first part resembles the Crystal Schottische, written in 1854.

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5. Nameless schottische played by Orin Miller, accompanied by Paul Gifford, dulcimer, Scottville, Michigan, September 8, 1977.

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6. Guernsey's schottische played by Merritt Olsen, accompanied by Paul Gifford, piano, Birmingham, Michigan, April 1976. He learned this from John Guernsey, a hired man on his uncle's farm in Montcalm County.

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7. Nameless schottische played by Cloise Sinclair. accompanied by Ken Staines, tenor banjo, Sheridan, Michigan, February 22, 1976.

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8. Nameless schottische played by Bill Walker, accompanied by Phil Miller, piano, and Paul Gifford, dulcimer, Kinde, Michigan, April 29, 1978. This is similar to Orin Miller's schottische, at least the first part.

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WALTZES

 

9. Pick Waltz played by Wilbur Brown, accompanied by Pete Keller, tenor banjo, Dan Johnston, piano, Paul Gifford, dulcimer, Harbor Springs, Michigan, September 6, 1977.

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10. Rock My Baby to Sleep played by Bud Cease, accompanied by Danny Johnston, tenor banjo, and Paul Gifford, guitar, Harbor Springs, Michigan, September 7, 1977. The title comes from his wife's singing and recognition of the tune, but Bud didn't seem to think that was the same piece.

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11. Bisbee's Waltz played by Henry Ford's Old-Fashioned Dance Orchestra (Clayton Perry, violin; Edwin F. Baxter, dulcimer; William Hallup, cimbalom; Maurice Castel, sousaphone). Recorded March 10, 1927, in New York, New York. Columbia 877D. This waltz obviously came from Jep Bisbee.

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12. Friederike Waltz played by Helen Gross, accompanied by Paul Gifford, piano, Saline, Michigan, April 25, 1978. This really is the same tune as Put Your Little Foot, or Varsovienne, introduced to America in 1854. Helen was of German descent, as was her community, and the name of this waltz is German, but the fact that the tune is what it is leads me to place it here, rather than in the "ethnic" section. For another Michigan version of this widespread tune, hear The Lice That Ate the Pants, played by Tony Strzelecki, of Posen, recorded in 1938 by Alan Lomax, that Jim Leary included on his radio series "Down Home Dairyland," here.

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13. Nameless waltz played by Helen Gross, accompanied by Paul Gifford, piano, Saline, Michigan, April 25, 1978.

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14. Nameless waltz played by Gale McAfee, accompanied by Paul Gifford, dulcimer, Manton, Michigan, April 15, 1976.

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15. Waltz Promenade played by Gale McAfee, accompanied by Paul Gifford, dulcimer, Manton, Michigan, April 15, 1976. This is actually a well-known singing call, generally used for a second change of a square dance, but done in 3/4 time with waltzing.

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16. Nameless waltz played by Orin Miller, accompanied by Paul Gifford, dulcimer, Scottville, Michigan, September 8, 1977. This bears resemblance to Helen Gross' waltz (no. 13).

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17. Nameless waltz played by Orin Miller, accompanied by Paul Gifford, dulcimer, Scottville, Michigan, September 8, 1977.

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18. Nameless waltz played by Orin Miller, accompanied by Paul Gifford, dulcimer, Scottville, Michigan, September 8, 1977.

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19. Nameless waltz played by Bill Walker, accompanied by Phil Miller, piano, and Paul Gifford, dulcimer, Kinde, Michigan, April 29, 1978.

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20. Nameless waltz played by Les Raber and Varsal Fales, accompanied by Bud Pierce, guitar, William White, dulcimer, and Paul Gifford, reed organ, Hastings, Michigan, June 14, 1981.

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OTHER

 

21. Sally Waters played by Gale McAfee, accompanied by Paul Gifford, dulcimer, Manton, Michigan, May 1976. Les Raber and Helen Gross also played this, and Judy Raber is one of the last to know how to dance it. Henry Ford's sister recalled him trying to learn this tune as a young man. It is derived from a popular song, "Babies on Our Block," by Dave Braham and Edward Harrigan (New York: William A. Pond & Co., 1879), whose first chorus is: "Oh, little Sally Waters, sitting in the sun, / Acrying and weeping for a young man, / Oh, rise, Sally, rise, wipe your eye out with your frock, / That's sung by the Babies living on our Block" (thanks to Vivian Williams for discovering this). The song, a sentimental one from a theatrical show, is about poor Irish urban residents, probably in New York City. Interestingly, I taped neighborhood Afro-American girls in Detroit in 1974 sing a play-party version of the song referred to in the song, which they called "Little Sally Walker." Bayard (Dance to the Fiddle, March to the Fife) includes two versions, which he calls Little Sally Waters (no. 259). There seems to be no other evidence of the dance associated with the tune being done outside of Michigan.

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22. Hop Dance played by Helen Gross, accompanied by Paul Gifford, piano, Saline, Michigan, April 25, 1978. The tune is Wal I Swan! by Benjamin H. Burt (New York: M. Witmark, 1907). Excuse my bursting out in song on this recording. I never encountered any references to this dance other than Helen's example. The hoppwaltz was the Norwegian name in Wisconsin for a polka (thanks to Jim Leary); in the 1880s, there are some descriptions of German-Americans dancing the "hop waltz," yet another dance. However, I found this in a book of dance calls, Pine Center Dance Calls, as called by "Rambling Bill" Hurley with Tim Doolittle & His Gang, that was sold at personal appearances made by this popular WJR (Detroit) group, which had a daily morning show from 1933 to 1941 that included rube comedy skits and square dance music. In this booklet, The Hop is a singing novelty call, done to the tune of "Joshua or Gidiap Napoleon," which is this song. Thus it should probably be excluded from this entire collection, as are other singing call tunes, but I am making a single exception here.

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