A blog sponsored by the Michigan State University Museum's Michigan Traditional Arts Program, a partnership with the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs. Sharing news and information about the Great Lakes Folk Festival, Quilt Index, the MSU Museum's traditional arts activities, Great Lakes traditional artists and arts resources, and much more. Development of content for this blog supported by funding from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Introducing Two New MTAP Fieldworkers

The Michigan Traditional Arts Program (MTAP) was founded by the mission of preserving, documenting, and presenting traditional arts and folklife in Michigan. Fieldwork undertaken by MTAP staff is an integral step in staying true to our mission. We document through interviews with artists, observation of events, and collecting objects; the fieldwork data and reports are then deposited in the MTAP Research Collections which preserves the traditions documented; fieldworkers write books, articles, and blog posts and create multimedia resources like radio shows and YouTube videos to present the research to the general public. This, of course, is a simplification of all fieldwork-related activities at MTAP, but the pursuit of knowledge about traditional arts, folklife, and everyday culture in Michigan is foundational to MTAP.

I’m excited to welcome to some new members of our fieldwork team for 2016-2017. MTAP has contracted two fieldworkers, Nic Gareiss and Dave Langdon, who have some excellent areas of research planned. Both Nic and Dave are performers, practitioners, and scholars of traditional dance and music. They are deeply committed to their communities of practice and research, and care about reciprocity when undertaking fieldwork.

I wanted to introduce Nic and Dave to Great Folks blog readers because they will be writing blog posts on their fieldwork. Without further ado…


Nic Gareiss

Nic Gareiss is a professional performer, teacher, and dance researcher living in Lansing, Michigan. His interests include vernacular dance traditions from many locations, especially Appalachia, Quebec, and the Irish diaspora. Nic holds a degree in Anthropology from Central Michigan University and a MA in Ethnochoreology from the University of Limerick. He has written on the intersections of dancing bodies, gender, sexuality and nationhood. Gareiss' MA thesis based upon his ethnographic work with LGTBQ competitive Irish step dancers was the first piece of scholarship to query the experience of sexual minorities within traditional Irish dance. Other publications include “An Buachaillín Bán: Reflections on One Queer’s Performance within Traditional Irish Music & Dance” in The Meanings and Makings of Queer Dance edited by Clare Croft on Oxford University Press (June 2017) and “The Lion, The Witch, and the Closet: Heteronormative institutional research and the queering of ‘Traditions’” co-written with Aileen Dillane in Queering the Field: Sounding Out Ethnomusicology, edited by William Cheng and Gregory Barz on Oxford University Press (forthcoming). Gareiss’ present research seeks to illuminate issues of national identity, gender, and sexual orientation via ethnography and embodied practice. As a performer, Gareiss has concertized in fourteen countries and continues to tour and teach internationally, working with dance communities and presenting solo percussive dance choreography.

Michigan sustains many remarkably rich traditional dance communities throughout our state. Within these diverse communities bodies become sites of cultural practice as dancers create, transmit, theorize, and engage their heritage through their physical selves. Because of dance's corporeality, moving bodies often become politicized when the communities in which they exist are marginalized. However, dance remain a powerful and transcendent means by which tradition-bearers maintain their cultures, subvert subjugation, and both imagine and enact brighter futures. Nic's research focus lies at the intersections of traditional dance and marginality; in the ways that intangible cultural dance heritage is sustained in communities that are subject to systematic oppression due to race, indignity, national origin, disability, gender, and sexuality. Through the Michigan Traditional Arts Program, Nic hopes to bring both attention and resources to dancers in our state that may be experiencing this kind of marginalization. Whether it takes the form of African-American vogueing in Detroit, Yemeni dance in Dearborn, Appalachia clogging in Bellaire, or Indian Kathak in Midland, Nic is looking forward to helping connect Michigan State Museum to Michigan's vibrant jiving, bouncing, shuffling, gesturing tradition-bearers.


Dave Langdon

Dave Langdon is a left-handed fiddler and collector of traditional Michigan music and dance materials and recordings. He is originally from Owosso, MI, and has played the fiddle since 1977 and has been collecting since 2011. He is a long time member of East Lansing’s Pretty Shaky String Band (an old time jam open to the public) and has played upright bass with the Lansing based Scarlet Runner String Band for over 25 years. Dave worked with Karl Byarski of Kinde, MI for many months to index and organize Karl’s extensive collection of recordings of Thumb area musicians and fiddlers. He also nominated Karl for a Michigan Heritage Award, which was awarded to Karl in 2014. In recent years, Dave reinvigorated the Michigan Folklore Society (MFS) as its president. One of the goals of the MFS is to make traditional music and dance (especially fiddle music) more accessible to the public via the internet. Now retired, Dave worked as an information systems professional and manager after graduating with a B.S. in Computer Science and later earning a M.S. in Computer Science both from Michigan State University.

Dave will be looking into hammer dulcimer music in Michigan. Michigan is one of the major states for hammer dulcimer playing and is also the home of the Original Dulcimer Players Club (ODPC) Funfest held at the Osceola County Fairgrounds in Evart, MI, each year. There are several dulcimer clubs and also music jams attended by hammer dulcimer players and others. Dave will be attending several of these jams and documenting the music and musicians at these club meetings and jams. This might include making audio recordings, doing interviews, taking photos, making video, etc. The end result will be a written report of activities and findings.


I look forward to hearing about the work Nic and Dave produce and I know you will too! Got any tips for traditional artists we should interview or topics we should document? You can send them to msum.mtap@gmail.com.

Thanks to Nic and Dave for providing biographies and summaries of their research plans.


Molly McBride coordinates contract fieldworkers and undertakes her own fieldwork on traditional music and other various topics for MTAP. She is currently learning to knit.