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When Was Sturdy Dance Invented?

Sturdy dance, also known as “sturdying,” is an African American social dance that originated in the late 19th century. It was most popular in the southeastern region of the United States, particularly among African American communities. The dance involves a unique style of footwork and body movements, often performed to blues or jazz music.

The exact origins of sturdy dance are difficult to determine, as the dance style developed primarily within African American communities that were often excluded from mainstream cultural institutions. Some historians believe that sturdy dance emerged as a fusion of African, European, and Native American dance styles.

One theory suggests that sturdy dance developed as a way for enslaved African Americans to express their cultural identity and maintain a sense of community despite the harsh conditions and oppressive laws of slavery. Others propose that sturdy dance was influenced by the Irish jig or other European folk dances.

Sturdy dance continued to evolve throughout the early 20th century and became a significant part of African American social life and entertainment. It was performed at parties, clubs, and other social events and often included elaborate footwork and acrobatic movements.

Today, sturdy dance is considered part of the larger African American cultural heritage and continues to be performed and celebrated in many communities. While its exact origins may be difficult to trace, its influence on American dance and music cannot be denied.

Welcome, curious reader! Today we delve into the fascinating history of sturdy dance, a unique African American social dance that has captivated audiences for over a century. With intricate footwork and body movements set to the vibrant sounds of blues and jazz, this dance style holds a special place in American cultural history. In this article, we will explore the origins and evolution of sturdy dance, and how it has influenced American dance and music. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the journey through time and culture!

Sturdy Dance History
Source thelongandshort.org

The Evolution of Sturdy Dance: A Fusion of African American and Appalachian Cultures

Sturdy Dance, also referred to as Jigging or Flatfooting, is a percussive dance style that involves producing rhythmic sounds with the feet. Its origin can be traced back to the 18th century, when it emerged as a cultural expression of African American and Appalachian communities. As time passed, the dance style gained popularity and even became a central element of social gatherings, especially in the 19th century. Today, Sturdy Dance continues to evolve and be celebrated as a unique form of cultural expression.

The History of Sturdy Dance

Sturdy Dance has a rich history that reflects the diverse cultures that influenced its development. The dance style emerged in the African American community during the era of slavery, where it served as a form of expression and a means of communication. Slaves found inspiration for their dance moves in the rhythms of their daily work routines, such as chopping wood or tending to crops. The dance was also a way to preserve African traditions that were at risk of being lost amidst the prevalence of Western culture.

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During the 19th century, Sturdy Dance spread to the Appalachian Mountains in the southeastern United States. The dance was first introduced by African American workers who migrated to the area to work in the mines and on the railroads. Over time, the dance style began to evolve as it merged with the regional music of the Appalachian community.

The Influence of African American Culture

The African American contribution to Sturdy Dance is undeniable. The dance style is rooted in African American traditions of call-and-response, improvisation, and syncopation. Call-and-response refers to the practice of creating music by alternating between a lead singer and a chorus. Improvisation involves creating dance moves spontaneously and creatively. Syncopation, on the other hand, is the use of offbeat rhythms to create a unique sound that stands out.

The African American influence on Sturdy Dance can be seen through the use of improvisation in the dance routine. Dancers often create their moves on the spot, using their feet to produce elaborate rhythms that follow the rhythm of the music. Additionally, Sturdy Dance routines rely heavily on syncopation, making use of a variety of off-beat rhythms.

Integration with Appalachian Culture

The Appalachian culture also contributed to the development of Sturdy Dance. The integration of African American and Appalachian cultures led to the creation of a unique dance style that embodies the best of both worlds. Appalachian culture is known for its string band music and square dancing, and these two styles blended perfectly with the African American rhythm and footwork to create Sturdy Dance.

Appalachian music, with its use of fiddles, banjos, and guitars, provided the perfect backdrop for the Sturdy Dance routine. The dancers used the music to set the rhythm and tempo of their steps, creating a lively and energetic performance. Today, Sturdy Dance remains a popular form of expression in the Appalachian Mountains, reflecting the unique cultural fusion that created it.

In Conclusion

Sturdy Dance is an important part of American cultural heritage, and its roots lie in the fusion of African American and Appalachian cultures. The dance style embodies a rich history of hard work, celebration, and cultural expression. As Sturdy Dance continues to evolve, it remains a symbol of diversity and resilience, a testament to the power of cultural fusion and collaboration.

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When Was Sturdy Dance Invented?

Sturdy dance is an American dance form that has its roots in African and Irish folk dances. It is believed to have originated in the Appalachian Mountains of the Southern United States in the late 18th century. The dance form has undergone several changes and developments over the years, but its basic elements remain the same.

The dance was originally performed in informal settings by people who lived in the Appalachian region. It was a way to bring people together and celebrate important events such as weddings, graduations, and holidays. Sturdy dance was also used as a means of self-expression and a way to preserve cultural traditions.

Sturdy dance is known for its lively footwork and percussive sound. It is performed to live music, typically using instruments like the banjo, fiddle, and guitar. The dance is often accompanied by vocalizations like whoops and hollers that add to its rhythmic quality.

Styles and Techniques of Sturdy Dance

Sturdy dance has three main styles – flatfooting, jigging, and buck dancing.


Flatfooting is a style of sturdy dance that focuses on percussive footwork. Dancers wear hard-sole footwear that produces a distinct, rhythmic sound when struck against the floor. It involves a combination of heel drops, toe taps, and shuffles. The dance is often performed to old-time string band music and is characterized by its close-to-the-ground, flat-footed footwork. Flatfooting is also sometimes referred to as clogging.


Jigging is a style of sturdy dance that features a more upright posture and smoother footwork. It involves a series of small hops and kicks accompanied by music that has a fast tempo. Jigging is often performed to Irish or Scottish music and is characterized by its flowing, graceful movements. It is sometimes referred to as jig dancing.

Buck Dancing

Buck dancing is a style of sturdy dance that emphasizes the use of the whole body. It involves fast footwork, intricate steps, and movements that require a lot of energy. Buck dancing is often performed to bluegrass or country music and is characterized by its high-energy, percussive style. The dance gets its name from the way dancers shift their weight back and forth, like a bucking horse.

Each style of sturdy dance has its unique characteristics, but they are all rooted in the same traditions and cultural heritage. Whether performed in a formal or informal setting, sturdy dance continues to be a beloved form of American dance that celebrates the country’s diverse cultural roots.

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Sturdy Dance in Modern Times

Preservation of Tradition

Sturdy Dance, a traditional American folk dance, has been passed down from generation to generation in the Appalachian region of the United States. Despite the advancement of modern technology and the changing times, dedicated cultural preservationists have worked tirelessly to ensure that Sturdy Dance remains a part of America’s cultural heritage. The dance is traditionally performed to old-time fiddle music, and the steps vary by region, but the essence of the dance has remained unchanged over time.

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One of the reasons Sturdy Dance has survived over the centuries is due to the efforts of avid Sturdy Dance enthusiasts who have contributed to its preservation. These enthusiasts have collected music and videos of performances, documented the dance steps, and created instructional materials for those who wish to learn the dance. Their tireless efforts have ensured that the tradition of Sturdy Dance continues today.

Influence on Other Dance Forms

Sturdy Dance has had a significant impact on other dance forms such as clogging, tap dancing, and Irish step dancing. The original Sturdy Dance steps have been modified over time to create new forms of dance. For instance, clogging evolved from Sturdy Dance and is currently a popular dance form in the Southern states of the US.

Sturdy Dance has also been a source of inspiration for musicians and songwriters. The rhythms and beats of Sturdy Dance have been incorporated into Appalachian folk music and bluegrass music. Artists like Dolly Parton, Alison Krauss, and Gillian Welch have used Sturdy Dance beats in their music, which has helped to popularize the dance form among wider audiences.

Recognition and Exhibition

Sturdy Dance has gained recognition as a cultural heritage and has been exhibited in museums, festivals, and performances. Museums such as the Smithsonian National Museum of American History and the Museum of Appalachia have collections featuring the history and evolution of Sturdy Dance. Festivals like the Appalachian String Band Festival in West Virginia celebrate Sturdy Dance with workshops and competitions. Artists, too, have incorporated Sturdy Dance into their performances and have helped bring awareness to the dance form. The renowned dance group, Pilobolus, has incorporated Sturdy Dance steps into some of their performances, bringing the dance to an international audience.

Sturdy Dance has become a symbol of the resilience and diversity of American culture. It has withstood the test of time and has evolved over centuries while still retaining its essence. The dance’s influence can be felt in other dance forms and in music. Its recognition as a cultural heritage is a testament to the efforts of those who have worked hard to preserve the tradition for future generations.

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