Dances of Appalachia (Appalachian Heritage Week) with Nancy Mamlin & Kenny Jackson

Join us for a fun-filled celebration of Appalachian Heritage Week as Nancy Mamlin shares her passion teaching Dances of Appalachia at the Folk School from August 18-24!

With over 30 years of experience calling square dances, Nancy brings boundless energy and infectious joy to the dance floor. Her welcoming style ensures that dancers of all levels have a blast! From coast to coast, Nancy has graced dance halls with her lively calls, earning her a well-deserved reputation as a master of her craft. As one of the visionary minds behind the Dare to Be Square dance weekends, Nancy has played a key role in nurturing a revival in square dancing since 2003. Her roots run deep in Appalachian culture, hailing from Danville, VA, and now proudly calling Person County, NC, home. Don’t miss this opportunity to learn from a true Appalachian dance enthusiast. Join us as the Folk School as we dance, laugh, and celebrate our rich heritage together!

Read more about Nancy Mamlin and her class in our interview below! Interested in their class? Register today to secure your spot.

JCCFS: Tell us a little bit about yourself. What’s your background in your medium? How did you get started?

NM: I started calling square dances in the late 1980s. I’ve called dances all over the country, including at several weeks and weekends. In an effort to increase the interest in calling square dances, and increase the skill level of square dance callers, I co-founded the Dare to Be Square weekend with Phil Jamison in 2003. We sponsored it for 3 years at Warren Wilson College, and after that it spread to locales around the country put on by their local communities. I feel that our doing that was in large part responsible to the spread of interest in traditional square dance. My main passion is spreading the joy I get from square dancing, and can’t wait to share some of that with my students.

JCCFS: Tell us more about your class’s specific technique or process.

NM: For the most part, we will dance, dance, dance! I’m planning to focus primarily on Appalachian dance – to include square dances, couple dances, and flatfooting. We will likely spread out to some other “Appalachian-adjacent” dances – and discuss their relationship to Appalachian dance. In addition to dancing, I want to share videos, records, and books, when we need to give our bodies a break.

Nancy Mamlin

JCCFS: What can students expect to leave your class with?

NM: When you leave the week, my hope is that you are energized about Appalachian dance and want to “spread the love” in your home communities. At the very least, you will have spent the week enjoying each other and enjoying the dance.

JCCFS: What do you enjoy most about teaching?

NM: I am a teacher at heart, so calling square dances comes naturally for me. Teaching dance is great because I get immediate feedback about whether I’m getting through to my students or not! Every time I teach, or call a dance, I learn something new that helps me the next time.

JCCFS: What attracted you to the Folk School? What are you most excited about for your first time teaching here?

NM: I have heard about the Folk School since I was a kid. My granddaddy was a large animal vet for the USDA and this was part of the region he traveled in, and I think he even treated animals at the school. In the early 90s, my younger brother and I attended the Winter Dance Week here, and when I relocated to NC in 1994, I have occasionally come to the Folk School to call evening dances. I’m thrilled to be able to spend a week here – the campus and the surrounding area are beautiful, and the culture of the campus is so welcoming.

JCCFS: Where do you draw inspiration from for your work?

NM: I started square dancing in Pittsburgh, PA, in the early 1980s, where there were four dance callers who called the Friday night dances (they each had a different week): Dolores Heagy, Larry Edelman, Marlin Whitaker, and Ron Buchanan. They are each stellar callers, and while I have danced to many others over the last 40 years, they are my original influences. I could name many more, but I know I would leave someone out….

My other inspiration is the music. Kenny Jackson is a fine example of a fiddler who can fill the bill! I have been dancing to his fiddling, and calling to his fiddling, for the past 30 years or so. I am thrilled he can join me!

JCCFS: What’s one piece or craft object you’ve made recently that you are proud of, and why?

NM: Again, the thing I am probably proudest of is helping start Dare to Be Square. If students are interested in hosting one in their home community, I’m certainly willing to help with whatever guidance I can give!

Upcoming Class with Nancy Mamlin

Dances of Appalachia (Appalachian Heritage Week)

August 18-24, 2024

Join us on the dance floor as we explore the range of dance traditions from the Appalachian region, including square dances, couple dances, flatfooting, and more. Discuss the history of some of these traditions, and where they are headed now. Also have time to explore some square dance traditions from other parts of the country and look at how they relate to our roots here in the Southeast.

About Nancy Mamlin & Kenny Jackson

Nancy Mamlin has been calling square dances for over 30 years. She is known for her energetic style, and her ability to help everyone on the dance floor have a good time! She has called dances all over the United States. She is also one of the founders of the Dare to Be Square dance weekends, which she started with Phil Jamison in 2003 to help increase interest in square dance and square dance calling. She was a member of the Coal Country Cloggers from Pittsburgh, PA, from 1984 – 1988. She is originally from Danville, VA, moving to the mountains of North Carolina in 1994. She moved to the center of the state in 2008, and now calls Person County, NC, home

Kenny Jackson (musician) was born into Cincinnati’s “urban Appalachian” community, grew up in southern Indiana, and has lived in North Carolina for more than a quarter century. Inspired by boyhood memories of music and singing at family gatherings, guitar and banjo were Kenny’s first string instruments, but old-time fiddling drew him down a rabbit hole forty-something years ago. Avidly pursuing traditional fiddle music–especially from Appalachian regions of Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, and North Carolina–he developed a keen ear for the depth, subtlety, and nuances of the music. Since the mid-80’s, he’s performed with several well-known OT string bands, most recently with the Bow Benders, and he has a number of recordings to his credit. What’s more, Kenny believes in the importance of passing along his musical knowledge, and for decades he’s taught many private lessons and workshops around the country.

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