Salty Dog Rag

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Hebrew: סלטי דוג רג. American partner folkdance. Lyrics and music by John Gordy and Edward Crowe, recorded by Red Foley in 1952.

The identity of the original choreographer is unclear. Some sources say it was "introduced" by Ricky Holden in the 1950s[1][2], though Ricky Holden has reportedly denied authorship.[3] Others say it "goes back to the ragtime era circa 1911";[2][4] if so it was of course danced to different music. Frank Hamilton has been credited as the source,[5] and it has also been attributed to Nita and Manning Smith of College Station, Texas.[4]

It was presented by Jack Sankey at Stockton Folk Dance Camp in 1955[6] and at that time contained only two parts, what we would now call Figure 1 and the chorus. That presentation "bears musical, stylistic, and subtle choreographic resemblance to [Evelyn] Porter's 1937 description of an improvisational, Ragtime-style Cakewalk."[7] The story of the subsequently added variations is complex, but "[b]y 1969, all descriptions were of the full contemporary version."[8]

On top of all this, the dance is done differently in Israel than in the rest of the world. The dance contains two figures and a chorus: The sequence is Figure 1, then the chorus, then Figure 2, then the chorus, and so forth. See example here and notes here. In Israel, on the other hand, the chorus is treated as just another figure, hence the dance has three parts that repeat ABC, ABC, and so forth, as in the Rokdim video. Moreover, the second part has undergone some changes, incorporating backward chugs, and the handhold has been lost. (Though perhaps this isn't universal even in Israel, see here.) How and when these variations were introduced is unknown.

References and Links

  1. Andrew Carnie's Folk Dance Instructions for Salty Dog Rag
  2. 2.0 2.1 ARHtisitic License blog entry of June 19, 2021
  3. Ron Houston, personal communication
  4. 4.0 4.1 Comments by John M Ramsay in this video
  5. Mynatt, C.V. and Bernard D. Kaiman, Folk Dancing For Students and Teachers, W. C. Brown Co., Dubuque IA, 1968, page 42
  6. Stockton Folk Dance Camp 1955 syllabus, p. 83
  7. Folk Dance Problem Solver 1994, Ron Houston of The Society of Folk Dance Historians
  8. Ibid. Ron speculates that Sankey did in fact create the dance based on Cakewalk.

Salty Dog Rag at

Video at Rokdim