Mats Melin is a well-known researcher and practitioner of Cape Breton/Scottish-style step dancing and his new book, One with the Music, will no doubt enhance his standing as a primary academic authority on this fascinating and vibrant tradition. His book offers meticulous academic analysis of the dance’s history, transmission and stylistic development in Cape Breton alongside a warm affection and respect for the tradition bearers who have been so generous as to share their knowledge and friendship with him and others over the years.
Guided by the discipline of ethnochoreology, Melin utilizes frameworks such as linguistic theory, phenomenological hermeneutics and developments in neuroscience to offer new insights into the dance tradition. Despite this more ‘academic’ approach, however, Melin’s writing style is clear and concise and the book will be accessible and engaging to academic and non-academic readers alike.
The first part of the book examines the contexts of home, class, square-dance and concert and explores these through visual, aural and kinaesthetic channels of transmission. The second half deals with dance style and aesthetics and offers biographical sketches of the main dancers who are quoted at length throughout the book. In doing so, it seems Melin is striving to honour the exponents of the tradition in allowing them to speak for themselves.
At its heart, One with the Music is a celebration of a beautiful dance style rooted in the homes and local gatherings of the Cape Breton community. As such, it will be of use and interest to those within the tradition as well as those exploring step dance for the first time. As a step dancer and a student within the field of ethnochoreology and folklore studies I have found it exceptionally informative and enjoyable. I hope others will also, and I thank Melin and the Cape Breton dance community for giving us this valuable resource.
Màiri Britton 16/03/2016 (appears on : www.amazon.ca/One-Music-Cape-Breton-Step/ )