Oskaloosa.com

June 24, 2013

Barn dance rooted in American history

By ANDY GOODELL
The Oskaloosa Herald

OSKALOOSA — This pioneer tradition lives on.

On Thursday evening, a Barn Dance at Bradbury Hall was held at the Nelson Pioneer Farm and Museum.

Mule wagon rides, traditional American music, dancing and candlelight tours of the farm’s living history buildings were all on the itinerary that evening.

Ron Hoy was at the reins for the mule wagon rides, which featured a team of two mules. Hoy said the rides would appeal to the “kid in everybody.”

Kelly Halbert, curator at Nelson Pioneer Farm and Museum, said she’s hoping to help plan four or five dances per year at Bradbury Hall. There are dances planned for August and October of this year, she added.

“I’m going to hold them on Thursday nights just to make it a little different,” explained Halbert, noting that there are dances similar to the one at Bradbury Hall all throughout central Iowa, which are held regularly.

The Barn Dance at Bradbury Hall encourages what is known as contra dancing, which is a form of American folk dance.

“Contra dancing is your forerunner to square dancing,” said Halbert. “It uses square dancing moves. It also uses country line dancing moves.

So, you get a combination of all of those kind of things.”

When pioneers made their way through areas like Missouri and Arkansas seeking religious freedom, they didn’t use music, but they danced, explained Halbert.

“That’s where the ‘Hokey Pokey’ and those kind of dances came from,” she said. “Then we added the music back to it. So, it’s kind of a merge — give and take — of old style dancing and then, of course, modern country dancing is going to have its influence in here.

It’s a truly American-style dance, I think.”

——————

Herald City Editor Andy Goodell can be reached at news2@oskyherald.com.