Retired Berea College Faculty Member Authors Appalachian Dance Book

Susan Spalding

Susan Spalding, author of “Appalachian Dance: Creativity and Continuity in Six Communities.”

After interviewing black and white Virginians, Kentuckians and Tennesseans over a twenty-five year span, Susan Eike Spalding has authored “Appalachian Dance: Creativity and Continuity in Six Communities”, a book that explores the evolution and social uses of dance in each region. Spalding’s book analyzes how issues as different as industrialization around coal, plantation culture, race relations, and the 1970s folk revival profoundly influenced freestyle clogging and other dance forms like square dancing. Her research identifies how African Americans and Native Americans, as well as European immigrants drawn to the timber mills and coal fields of Appalachia, brought movement styles that added to local dance vocabularies.

The book places each community in its sociopolitical and economic context, and analyzes how the formal and stylistic nuances found in Appalachian dance reflect the beliefs, shared understandings, and experiences of the community at large. Spalding pays particular attention to both regional and racial diversity.

Spalding, now retired, previously taught at Berea College and directed its nationally recognized Country Dance Program. Deborah Thompson, Assistant Professor of General Studies and current director of Berea’s Country Dancers says, “Appalachian Dance is a great contribution to the Appalachian Studies literature, set within nuanced and particular historical contexts. I have been using this in my Traditional Appalachian Dance class and it is a wonderful book. Very accessible and with such solid primary research filling in some ‘missing links’ about traditional dance. The communities really come to life.”

“Appalachian Dance: Creativity and Continuity in Six Communities” was published by the University of Illinois Press. In talking about Spalding’s book, Laurie Matheson, Editor in Chief at the University of Illinois Press says, “’Appalachian Dance’ is getting very broad attention. We have sold copies at the Southern History conference and at the folklore, ethnomusicology, and musicology conferences! Not many books have [such broad] reach.”

Spalding has been dancing, and leading dances, in the Appalachian region for nearly three decades. She has served as a consultant for the Smithsonian Festival of American Folklife and the Kentucky Folklife Festival. She co-edited the book Communities in Motion: Dance, Tradition and Community; edited the dance entries for the Encyclopedia of Appalachia; and co-produced two Appalshop video documentaries on old-time dance.

Spalding will be at a regional book-signing event on Thursday, February 12 from 4:00 to 6:00 pm at Morris Book Shop, 882 East High Street, in Lexington. Live music will be provided by Rich Kirby and friends.

Categories: News, People
Tags: Appalachia, Dance, faculty, Literature, retiree

Berea College, the first interracial and coeducational college in the South, focuses on learning, labor and service. The College only admits academically promising students with limited financial resources—primarily from Kentucky and Appalachia—but welcomes students from 41 states and 76 countries. Every Berea student receives a Tuition Promise Scholarship, which means no Berea student pays for tuition. Berea is one of nine federally recognized Work Colleges, so students work 10 hours or more weekly to earn money for books, housing and meals. The College’s motto, “God has made of one blood all peoples of the earth,” speaks to its inclusive Christian character.