World Arts West
SF Ethnic Dance Festival


Jubilee American Dance Theatre

DANCE ORIGIN: United States
GENRE: American Folk
First Appearance in SF EDF: 2000

Formed in 1999 by Hilary Roberts, Jubilee American Dance Theatre is a unique performance ensemble, bringing to life dances, music, songs, and stories from Appalachia to Swing Era dance halls to Cajun Country, from North American Whalers to Baja California to America’s immigrants. Jubilee transports audiences to another time and place. Directed by Becky Coulter since 2009, Jubilee’s work is set in context: the costume staff carefully researches and reproduces authentic costumes of each era, and music directors recreate regional and historical musical styles.


DANCE ORIGIN: United States
GENRE: United States Regional Social Dances
TITLE: The Pioneering Spirit: Dances of the Big Woods
CHOREOGRAPHERS: Don Allen, Becky Coulter
DANCERS: Mitchell Allen, Carol Braves, Dee Brown, Anil Comelo, Becky Coulter, Lew Douglas, Deborah Evenich, Diana Greenleaf, Jay Jackson, Carl Kanzaki, Mal Mead, Steve Rottell, Ellen Schwartz, Jim Smith, Lonnie Stevens, Betsy Strome, Ruth Suzuki, Eve Tarquino, Barbara Vernon, Nancy Weston
MUSICIANS: Martha Kendall (bass, vocals), Suzy Mead (vocals), Tony Phillips (mandolin), Jim Tepperman (guitar), Joe Weed (fiddle)

Photo by Mark Muntean


The Pioneering Spirit: Dances of the Big Woods is a set of social and regional dances from American pioneers. The title comes from the Laura Ingalls Wilder book about 19th century pioneer life, Little House in the Big Woods. The tunes, dances, and setting were inspired by the books: this performance takes us to a clearing by a small cabin in the Wisconsin woods.

Although early religious leaders warned against its evils, regional dance survived and thrived as American society evolved. Pioneers carried European dance west, and their inventiveness stepped up in community gatherings, when musicians brought out fiddles, guitars, and mandolins, and gentlemen farmers and gentle-frontierswomen danced the night away.

In Money Musk, neighbors greet each other with walking, curtsies, bows, step dancing, clogging, and English country dance. Next, in Old Dan Tucker, there’s flirtatious choreography and a play-party—a form adapted from children’s games to sidestep religious prohibitions. The lyrics are by Daniel Decatur Emmett (1815-1904), and the melody is probably much older.

Next, Arkansas Traveler, a lively circle dance first mentioned in the 19th century, included choreography by Don Allen, adding a bit of English country and polka to stylized western/pioneer dance. The fiddle tune repeats, so it could go on forever.

The fourth dance, Virginia Reel, to the song Devil’s Dream, links back to English and possibly Scottish country dance. Performed in long sets, it features the do-si-do, where couples pass around each other right shoulder to right shoulder. Next we see Waltz, danced to Lover’s Waltz by Jay Unger. This original choreography has Czech and Austrian influences, an English
four-person formation called the “hey,” and the modern ballroom “whisk.” Finally, Virginia Reel was danced again, to the old-time Irish Washerwoman from 1609.

The clothing set the piece in the 1860s, with hoop skirts of 1800s crinoline inspired by open-cage styles of 16th to 17th-century farthingale and 18th-century pannier. Shortened dresses and tight pants allowed freedom of movement for popular dances of those days—the quadrille, cotillion, and reel.

This piece was staged and choreographed by Becky Coulter unless otherwise noted.


DANCE ORIGIN: Appalachia, US
TITLE: A Play Party in 1860’s Appalachia
GENRE: Clogging
CHOREOGRAPHERS: Becky Coulter, Hilary Roberts, Neal Sandler
DANCERS: Eric Bennion, Carol Braves, Dee Brown, Anil Comelo, Becky Coulter, Lew Douglas, OJ Erickson, Diana Greenleaf, Lori Koch, Mal Mead, Steve Rottell, James Smith, Lonnie Stevens, Betsy Strome, Ruth Suzuki, Eve Tarquino, Barbara Vernon, Nancy Weston
MUSICIANS: Marty Kendall, Jennifer Kitchen, Suzy Mead, Michael Schwartz, Joe Weed

This lively medley of American folk dance is titled A Play Party in 1860’s Appalachia.The first piece, Goin’ To Boston, hails from the 1830s when religious practices banned dancing and musical instruments in some Southern and Midwestern States. Clapping rhythms and singing folk songs clues dancers to movements, and the dance looks like an innocent children’s game. These “Play Parties” faded in the 1950s, but educators still used them to teach music and dance. The song is “Goodbye Girls, I’m Goin’ to Boston,” a Revolutionary War marching song, and Jubilee overlooks those old restrictions as they add musical instruments.

The refrain—early in the morning—and the familiar tune are from the song “Drunken Sailor,” once sung by sailors hauling ropes and stamping feet in time. This version tells us: Goodbye girls, I’m going to Boston/ Saddle up, gals, and let’s go with him/ Get out the way, you’ll get run over/Swing your partner all the way to Boston.

Next, a transition set of Appalachian clogging keeps the beat going. Following the folk tradition of 1850’s Appalachia, Jubilee cloggers wear hard-soled leather boots.

The third dance, Knockdown, brings alive a 1930’s East Texas tavern where a string band and lively fool lead the foolishness. Dancers vie for center stage, showing off favorite steps— and they dance until they are plain-old knocked-down tired. The band sings “Old Plank Road:”

Won’t get drunk no more,
Way down the old plank road . . .
Rather be in Richmond in all the hail and rain,
Then for to be in Georgia, boys, wearing that
ball and chain.
Knoxville is a pretty place,
Memphis is a beauty,
If you want to see them pretty girls,
hop to Chattanoogie.

The costumes are traditional vintage mid-1800’s daytime dress. Women wear hoop skirts, men wear workday shirts and pants with suspenders. Old time fiddle, banjo, guitar, and mandolin tunes are the toe-tapping inspiration for stepping lively and swinging partners round.

Becky Coulter choreographed Goin’ To Boston in Fall 2013, based on the original dance and music. The clogging choreography is by Jubilee founder Hilary Roberts. Knockdown choreography is by Neal Sandler and Hilary Roberts with vocal arrangement by Suzanne Leonora.


JubileeTITLES: Kentucky Running Set, Exhibition Square Dance, Appalachian Clogging
GENRE: Western Square, Appalachian
CHOREOGRAPHERS: Becky Coulter, Mary Bee Jensen, George Frandsen
Eric Bennion, Carol Braves, Dee Brown, Becky Coulter, Mary Ann Davis, Lew Douglas, OJ Erikson, Debbie Evenich, Diana Greenleaf, Fabien Goulay, Joe James, Carl Kanzaki, Sandra Koenig, Rebecca Navarrete-Davis, David Nelson, Steve Rottell, Lonnie Stevens, Ruth Suzuki, Eve Tarquino, Barbara Vernon
Karen Celia Heil (banjo), Elise Engelberg (fiddle), John Fuller (bass), Matt Knoth (guitar), Tony Phillips (mandolin)
CALLER: Ken Olcott

Say, boys, when you tell where you’ve been / You preach your
wives such stories / You can tell them just a few / Just met an
old acquaintance / Or the train was overdue / And when the wife
believes / That every word is true / Then you wink the other eye!

Jubilee presents a foot-tapping suite of traditional American music and dance. It opens with Kentucky Running Set, the earliest dance form in the colonies, followed by an old-time music break with “Mississippi Sawyer”, “Goodbye Liza Jane”, “Kitchen Girl”, and “Little Liza Jane”. The next set is Exhibition Square Dance, performed to “Skip to My Lou”, “High Up on Tug”, and “Wink the Other Eye”. This complex piece is choreographed to show square-dance formations, lifts, polka steps, ladies chain, circles left and right, allemandes, swing your-partner, and the special flying square—a carousel-like spin that sets the ladies flying. The final set is Appalachian Clogging, high-energy step dancing to “Bile Them Cabbages Down” and “Blackberry Blossom”.

Kentucky running sets descend directly from pre-1650s era English dances. The form was isolated in the Appalachians for generations until the English scholar Cecil Sharp brought it to light in 1917. He described the form as “so smooth that the dancers seemed to be moving, or gliding on wheels”. Clogging—like some square dance elements—originated in eighteenth century Appalachian cabins where Irish, German, and English immigrants, enslaved Africans, and Native Cherokee combined songs and steps and developed a percussive syncopated dance. The banjo was originally a West African stringed gourd.

The dancers begin in 1860s era costumes. They then transition to authentic clothing from the 1950s American square-dance renaissance. The women wear petticoats, pettipants, and dresses with rows of “Native American” rickrack. The men’s vintage shirts sport embroidery and floral appliqués. The old-time music group plays authentic instruments, with fiddle and banjo playing melodies, and a caller cuing the square-dance moves. Hilary Roberts choreographed Kentucky Running Set. Becky Coulter learned Exhibition Square Dance from its choreographer, Mary Bee Jensen, and set it for this stage. Coulter choreographed Appalachian Clogging with George Frandsen in 1983 and adapted it in 2008.


TITLE: Appalachian Afternoon: A Barn Dance
Erik Hoffman (squares), Hilary Roberts (clogging)
Eric Bennion, Dee Brown, Becky Coulter, Mary Ann Davis, Rebecca Davis-Navarette, Lew Douglas, Oscar Erickson, Debbie Evenich, Fabian Goulay, Diana Greenleaf, Michelle Ito, Joe James, Sandra Koenig, Vicki Lapp, John Lozynsky, David Nelson, Monica Oakley, Hilary Roberts, Steve Rottell, Mark Ryken, Lonnie Stevens, Ruth Suzuki, Barbara Vernon
David Brown, Chip Curry, Alan Dreyfuss, Hap Engle, Ken Olcott (caller), Tony Phillips 

Jubilee presented two early American dance forms: square dancing and Appalachian clogging. The set began with a square dance, a form developed in early New England communities, combining elements of English Morris dances and contra dances, the French quadrille, Irish country dances, and African dance. The "caller" is America's only unique contribution to the square dance: as the dance evolved increasingly complex patterns, a caller gave cues to the steps and formations. This piece shows the dynamic form of square dancing that evolved in the 1950s, with formations like the "Harlem rosette" and the "teacup chain.”  

The next piece featured precision Appalachian clogging. Jubilee presented a high-spirited demonstration of precision clogging footwork as it is used in traditional formations: America's big circle dance, the square dance, and the running set. You will see traditional American square dance moves such as "duck for the oyster, dive for the clam" as well as an overlap of common formations in both dances—right and left-hand stars, do-sa-dos (partners passing around each other while facing forward), seesaws, and elbow turns. Along with hambone, tap dance, and step dance, Appalachian clogging is a percussive form that is rooted in British and Irish origins and subsequently blended European, Native American, and African-American elements.

The costumes suggested "the American feel"—men wore plaid shirts and suspenders, and women wore calico dresses. This clothing was seen in 1950s rural communities and casual settings. Like the dance, the "ol’ timey" music has roots in British and Irish music. It was further influenced by the songs of enslaved Africans who laid railroad tracks through the mountains. To the European fiddle, dulcimer, and pipes, mountain musicians added the banjo, a traditional African instrument, as well as the then-evolving guitar and mandolin.

Internationally known teacher Erik Hoffman choreographed the square dance number and wrote the “calls” in 2006; this piece debuted in Kaustinen, Finland, and was last performed at the Gannat (France) International Folk Dance Festival in 2008, and was reset for this stage. Jubilee's Artistic Director, Hilary Roberts, choreographed the Appalachian clogging piece in 1999. It debuted on the Festival stage in 2000, and has since been performed locally, and in Italy, the Czech Republic, Mexico, Finland, and France. It was also reset for this performance.


Jerry Duke
Jill Breslauer, Dee Brown, Anil Comelo, Rebecca Davis, Mary Ann Davis, Lew Douglas, Travis Engle, O.J. Erickson, Debbie Evenich, Phillip Garrison, Marija Hillis, Joe James, Bhakti Klein, Bill Lidicker, Marjorie Nugent, Monica Oakley, Tirtza Rosenberg, Steven Rottell, Mark Ryken, Erik Schutter, Paul Strogen, Ruth Suzuki, Barbara Vernon
Chip Curry (fiddle), Hap Engle (bass), Dan Falsetto (triangle), Chris Martin (guitar), Tony Phillips (fiddle), John Remenarich (accordion)
: Rebecca Davis, Ralph Nelson, Tony Phillips, Mark Ryken, Lianne Venner

Jubilee presents a suite of four parts created by a noted Cajun authority, San Francisco State Professor, Jerry Duke. The opening depicts local gentleman rounding up the townspeople from their homes and accompanying them to the social hall. Once inside the hall a lullaby entitled, Fais Do Do, is sung to put babies to sleep, followed by a waltz to segue into the evening's festivities. The third section portrays married couples and singles dancing together to the upbeat Contra, the Colinda, said to be an old Caribbean song brought to the region by slaves. The concluding dance is the well-loved Cajun two-step. Brought to the Bayou in 1910, it is heavily influenced by Caribbean dance rhythms and is noted for its fast-paced twists and turns called, the "jitterbug."

All the costumes are original 1940s garments and are typical of the simple yet formal attire that people wore to dance in. The lyrics of the songs are nostalgic reminiscence of aspects of Louisiana's folklore or a person's childhood memories.

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