Hoedown dances are a type of American dance stemming from rural American culture. What's unique about a hoedown is that there's no specific dancing style associated with it, though square dancing is the most common. At original hoedowns, each dancer, or group of dancers, would try to outdo the previous group in a rudimentary dance competition.
Hoedowns were arguably America's first dance and musical talent competitions. While dancing was primarily the most popular competitive activity at a hoedown, fiddlers and banjo players, as well as other instrument-playing musicians, would perform jig-type melodies for the dancers to dance to and for the audience to judge.
The word "hoedown" holds a slightly different meaning among Western American square dancers. Rather than a party or festival, a hoedown in Western American culture is a composition of music for dancing. They were typically written for fiddles and the style remained popular in recorded music through the late 1950s.
Hoedowns originated in the Medieval days of minstrel shows, where troupes of dancers would jig in a circle and take turns dancing a few steps before alternating with another set of dancers in the troupe. The community would get involved in the dancing and would often cheer on the dancers while clapping their hands and stomping their feet to the music. This kind of dancing persisted through the years and eventually evolved into the rural style of dancing associated with it today.
American hoedowns incorporated the European notion of a barn dance. These large spaces in rural American areas often served as the venue for hoedowns. The idea of using barns as a dancing venue originated in Scotland in the 1860s. Barn dances were primarily known as the poor man's ballroom dance and were often thrown to celebrate birthdays, weddings and holidays.
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