Research Jean Ritchie and her contributions to American folk music and culture. Play some of her songs for the class.
Research courting rituals in various cultures and time periods. Dance examples to include are “Little Johnny Brown” and the Renaissance court dance the Pavane. Is dance a “courting” activity today?
Have students learn and perform the play party game “Goin’ to Boston” (Found in Appalachian culture collection.)
Show this as part of a study of Appalachian culture. What was Appalachia like during the 1920s when Ritchie was a young girl? What is it like today? Are traditional music and dance still part of the Appalachian lifestyle?
In the clip Ritchie mentions an Irish ceili. Research the ceili and Irish dance traditions and compare them to Appalachian play party games.
Have students research and have students learn a variety of folk dances from cultures around the world.
According to The Handy Play Party Book, a play party is “one of America’s most important contributions to the world of folk dances and folk games. It is rooted in the customs of the old countries from which the early settlers came. Defined simply, a play party is a kind of country dance done to a singing accompaniment. The songs and figures of our early play parties harken back to Scottish, Irish, English, and German folk traditions.”
According to folk performer Jean Ritchie, play party games were an important social event in Eastern Kentucky when she was growing up there in the 1920s and 1930s. The play parties were a reward for working hard all week. All ages attended, but the events were especially important to young couples wanting to flirt and get to know each other better. The events had to be called “play party games” because dancing was considered sinful.