edited from MELENA RYZIK (www.nytimes.com):
Square dancing made its return to the Pendleton County Fair in Circleville,West Virginia, this year after a two-year absence as part of the Mountain Dance Trail.
The return of the Pendleton County dance was spurred by the Augusta Heritage Center, a resource for folk life studies out of Davis & Elkins College, about an hour away. The center’s Mountain Dance Trail project has helped organize dances across the state, cultivating tradition county by county. With a nod to the Bourbon Trail in Kentucky and the Crooked Road music trail in Virginia, it is a homegrown effort to revive and brand a West Virginia legacy.
Circleville is an unincorporated area with fewer than 350 households about three and a half hours from Washington. “The nice thing about a county like this,” Mr. Nelson said, talking about dancing but not only that, is that “if you screw up, they’ll straighten you right out.”
The Mountain Dance Trail began this year as an oral history project. Through the AmeriCorps program, Mr. Milnes hired Becky Hill, 23, an alumna of Davis & Elkins, and with money from a Kickstarter fund and some small state grants, the two traveled along Route 33, which runs east to west across the state, interviewing the oldest square dance callers they could find, documenting their dance styles and histories.
“The reason we did interviews was to capture these stories, about the boozing and the drinking and the fighting,” Ms. Hill said. “What makes this dance so important is not just a dance move, but everything that’s around that, that makes it alive.”
“It’s like regional identity for a lot of the folks around here,” she added. “They grow up with the fiddle music and the banjo music, and dancing in their homes. It’s part of who they are.”