A little bit of background

Hello dance enthusiasts! Thanks for coming to my site. You’re probably here because you want to get more information about my book project. Well, here it goes.

I’m writing a book on recreational folk dancing for Greenwood Press. It’s part of a social dance book series by different authors.

How the idea for the series came about: Dance TV shows nowadays are turning recreational dance into competitions, leading people to believe that in order to dance one has to be technically perfect and perform onstage in front of an audience. What ever happened to dance for dance’s sake, a group of people getting together and just enjoying themselves?

Greenwood Press provides reference books to libraries across the U.S., directed at the general reader. This is my first time working with them, and I anticipate finishing the book August 2010. Because I’ve done ethnographic research before, I know that my best strategy is to first conduct fieldwork and immerse myself in the cultures, conduct interviews and collect resources during this period, and then sit down with everything and have an intense writing period. So this year I am attending dance events and talking with insiders, as much as time and money allows. Fortunately, my regular job as a transcriptionist affords me a relatively flexible schedule.

How I got connected with Greenwood Press: In 2008, I went to a conference (Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association) to present research on another dance project. Because I was at this conference as a dance panelist, my name was put on an email list. Subsequently, I received a “Call for Authors” for the social dance book series. I applied to write the book on recreational folk dancing, and my vision and approach were in line with what the editor was looking for. Furthermore, I had recently gained some credibility as a dance writer, because I had just published my first article “Bulgarian Dance Culture: from Censorship to Chalga” in Anthony Shay’s book Balkan Dance (2008). This stemmed from three years’ work on my master’s thesis for the Department of Dance at Arizona State University, “Dance and Nationalism in Post-Communist Bulgaria.”

As far as my book goes, from my fieldwork and interviews thus far I’ve decided to concentrate on the following American or Americanized dance scenes: traditional and modern western square dance, contra dance (and English country), clogging, international folk dance and culturally/regionally specific groups (e.g. groups that only do Israeli, Balkan, etc). I will also address the international gay square dance and gender-free contra dance communities. Of course, I expect other recreational dance forms will come up in the context of these scenes (such as round dancing in the square dance scene). I’m interviewing a range of people in all these groups to learn about the culture from their perspectives, and to see what common themes come up amongst interviews, in order to understand the most important overarching things that the book should address. For example, in the gay square dance world, everyone talks about how great the national convention is, so I made a point to go this year and to see firsthand why everyone loved it so much. I am forever changed from that experience; it was truly amazing.

Here is a list of some of the major events I’ve done/will do this year. Some of them were paid for by a grant from AZ Commission on the Arts.
Wheel Around the Saguaro, a GLBT square dance weekend in Tucson, AZ
Tucson Area Square Dance Festival in Tucson, AZ
Phoenix Folk Dance Festival in Phoenix, AZ
International Gay Square Dance Convention in Washington D.C.
Glen Echo in Washington D.C.
May Madness Contrafest in Prescott, AZ
Albuquerque Folk Festival
National Square Dance Convention in Long Beach, CA
Balkan Music and Dance Workshop in Mendocino, CA
Stockton Folk Dance Camp
Timber Ridge Camp

I’ve interviewed probably around 70 people so far either locally (Phoenix/Tucson) or at these events, and I have more people to talk to over the phone later this year. I’ve also designed a survey that I bring to dance events; it is based on preliminary interviews and essentially asks people when/where/how they’ve danced as well as other hobbies/interests they have, to get a broad sense of the people who comprise the folk dance scene, and to make sure that I’m truly getting a national perspective.

I’ll be adding to this blog periodically with details about the places I’ve been and what I’ve observed. Please come visit from time to time, and feel free to leave comments or contact me! I can be reached at ericawritesdance at gmail.com. This summer is really busy for me between my regular job and conducting lots of fieldwork, but I’ll do my best to follow up.

I love this kind of fieldwork!

I love this kind of fieldwork!

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June 16, 2009. About the Book.

One Comment

  1. Rick Gittelman replied:

    I think you are doing a great job and I have enjoyed sharing information with you along the way. Good luck and keep up the great work you are doing!
    RICK

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