How to move to that old-time mountain sound

Even if you don’t know which way to swing your partner or how to do-si-do, you can dance like a pro here in the hills.

No one’s left out of an old-time mountain dance! Circle up and we’ll share the steps— so simple, even 2 left feet can figure it out!

All you have to do is watch and listen. The caller will clue you in, going over every step before you start, and even telling you when to make each move all throughout the song.

You don’t even need to bring a partner!

Get those shoes shuffling with these 7 swingin’ 2-steppers:

1. Mountain Dance Trail

Events nearly every week across 10 towns

The Mountain Dance Trail traces through 10 tiny communities that have teamed up to keep mountain music’s heartland thumping.

Old-time tunes and tapping ring out across the community halls, opera houses and farmsteads all year round. Some of these events have been kickin’ since the 40s.

2. Augusta Heritage Center

Summer sessions in Elkins

Strap on your dancing shoes extra tight! The Augusta Heritage Center’s famous summer sessions immerse you in mountain tradition the whole week long.

Swing and step your way through intensive classes, master workshops, informal dances, concerts and more at this legendary gathering of the mountain’s finest musicians and movers.


Monthly dances and special events in Charleston

Shew! The Kanawha Valley Friends of Old Time Music and Dance (FOOTMAD) sure keeps up the fancy footwork! They have monthly dances and concerts all season, on top of special events like contra dance weekends and other special events.

Join them for a little dance vacation at the Whitewater Whirl!

4. Morgantown Friends of Old Time Music

Monthly dances in Morgantown

A rotating lineup of local musicians lend their toe-tapping tunes to the Morgantown Friends of Old Time Music’s family-friendly contra dances.

Step the whole weekend away at the June Moon retreat. Now, this here is a truly homegrown community event, so don’t forget snacks to share, instruments for jamming and a home-cooked dish for the Friday night feast!

5. Appalachian String Band Festival

Summer festival in Clifftop

Tuck up on the mountaintop for a 5-day footloose hootenanny in Almost Heaven. This music festival ends every evening with a square dance— because who could listen to the sweet strums of Appalachian pickin’ without itching to move along?

If you sharpen your skills enough after all those days of dancing, show off in the flatfoot contest!

6. Vandalia Gathering

May weekend festival in Charleston

The Vandalia Gathering rounds up every element of Appalachian culture into a giant jubilee on the capitol lawn.

You won’t be out of place if you start up a jig pretty much anywhere here! But if you head for the nearest hay bales, you’ll find everything from featured concerts to casual picking circles. One of the main stages is even dedicated to nothing but dance, all day long.

7. West Virginia State Folk Festival

June weekend festival in Glenville

Get a true taste of tradition at one of our grandest cultural celebrations, the West Virginia State Folk Festival, which has commemorated our dear Mountain State’s birthday since the 50s.

Presided by the pioneer “Belles,” the festival stays true to its roots, with only authentic traditions— and that surely includes square dancing! Come “butterfly whirl” with the best of ‘em!

Which mountain dances get you tapping?

Find more WV fun >


This post was last updated on July 17, 2020