This history of Scissortail was written by Noel Osborn, with contributions by Carol Barry and Louise Siddons. Updates and additional information are always welcome!
In the 1980s, a local band, the Friends of Tradition (consisting of Dennis Jowaisas, Lee Agnew, Earl Hearn, and others) periodically sponsored community dances at the First Unitarian Church. Dennis Jowaisas called mostly circle mixers and square dances. Sometimes he would try a contra dance, but they never worked very well. I had done some contra dancing in Georgia, and I wanted to introduce it to our community.
To this end, I organized a contra dance workshop and dance in June, 1988. In preparation for the workshop, I began gathering materials on calling contra dances and attended a couple of workshops and dances. Jack and I found out about the contra dance group in Dallas, and, with fellow dancers Matthew and Jean Hill, drove down to their annual English May Festival (later replaced by the “When in Doubt Swing” dance weekend). There we met caller Martha Skalnik (now Quigley), who we approached about calling our first dance.
Sponsored by Oklahoma City International Folk Dancers (OKCIFD) the workshop consisted of 3 on Monday evening sessions. Teachers of the workshop were myself, Dennis Jowaisas, Jean Hill, and Alice Harrell. The workshops were a challenge: although all of us had done some contra dancing, none of us were experienced callers–and none of the dancers had a clue! The workshop culminated in a Saturday night contra dance called by Martha Skalnik. Two bands played separate sets: the Friends of Tradition and Heavy Village, our OKCIFD bandconsisting of Matthew and Jean Hill, Jack Alley, Noel Osborn, and Joan Chambers.
The dance was a huge success. With the dancers begging for more, OKCIFD sponsored quarterly workshops and dances. In June, 1989, they started having monthly workshops and quarterly dances; in 1990 they moved to bi-monthly dances; and in September, 1990, the group began monthly dances. Jean Hill was instrumental in coordinating the early dances and musicians.
By 1990, the contra dances and workshops were organized and conducted by the Caller and Dance Committee, which consisted of Jean Hill (coordinator), Carol Barry, Noel Osborn, and John Rapp. With the dedication of Jean Hill and support of the Oklahoma City Traditional Music Association, one of the first contra dance bands was the Well Strung String Band, consisting of Jean and Matthew Hill, Dana Morrow, Jacqui Rapp, Phil Reid, and Jackie Smith.
OKCIFD sponsored the contra dances and subsidized the dances with more than $300/year for the first few years. The contra dance group became completely autonomous around 1992.
In 1991 or 1992, caller and OKCIFD dancer Carol Barry went to an English Country Dance workshop in Dallas/Waxahachie, Texas, led by Pat Talbot. This introduction to ECD led her to Little Rock, Arkansas’s 12th Night Weekend (a mixed Scottish/ECD event), which she began attending regularly. Carol started the Oklahoma City ECD group in 1998.
The group originally called itself the Oklahoma City Traditional Dance Society. Wanting a more interesting name, a contest was held, and the winning name was Scissortail Traditional Dance Society.
Scissortail sponsored annual New Year’s Eve contra dances from 1992-1998, featuring Dallas musicians Mimi Rogers and Alison Hicks. To celebrate the millennium, Mimi organized a special weekend dance at Lake Texoma in 1999, which began a new tradition—Fiddlers Dream.
In April 2011, the first student-organized community contra dance was held in Stillwater, on the campus of Oklahoma State University; later that year, University of Oklahoma students and faculty helped create a community dance in Norman. The Stillwater and Norman dances joined Scissortail soon thereafter, starting our shift toward being a statewide organization. In 2012, following the tragic death of caller and dance organizer G. Wesley Brown, the Tulsa community also joined Scissortail.
Over the years, Scissortail has been served by many dedicated individuals. Some of the early presidents include Randy Cain, Jock Campbell, and Martin Coady.