Lawton and Sally Harris


Danish, Scandinavian, international

Lawton Harris



Sally Harris Lawton Harris was born in a small town in Missouri in 1900. He is one of the real pioneers of the folk dance movement. He started out teaching play-party games in 1934, gradually adding more and more folk dances. He used these as part of a social recreation program at his church. His wife Sally at first used to play piano for all their classes and Lawton, who claimed that in the early days he had no feeling for rythm and had three left feet, did the teaching.

Then in 1937, after some experimentation, Sally began to teach and they began to use phonograph records. At that time, Lawton started the Square Steppers folk dance club of Oakland and he assisted with the organization of the Berkeley Folk Dancers. Also in 1937, Lawton made his first contact with the College of the Pacific in Stockton, California. On his days off from his job in Oakland, he taught a folk dance class there. In 1942 the couple moved to Stockton and soon after their arrival organized the Stockton Polk Y Dots.

In 1946, Lawton helped in the forming of the Folk Dance Federation of California, Inc., organized the Pacific Area Recreation Lab, and brought to California the first outstanding folk dance teacher from the East Coast, Mary Ann Herman. Out of this recreation lab grew the folk dance camp idea and, in 1948, the Folk Dance Camp on the College of the Pacific campus was organized with Lawton Harris as director and guiding spirit. Lawton brought to California the outstanding folk dance personalities from around the world and through them and their many interesting dances helped keep the folk dance movement alive.

Lawton worked intensively with the Danish groups in the state and taught a number of Danish dances. About him was written, "Lawton Harris is one of the finest personalities in our movement, . . . you could not meet a more congenial, more considered, and a fairer person to work with, and [without him] the Folk Dance Movement in California would not be what it is today."

Lawton's library of folk dance material, begun in 1947, is one of the largest ever compiled, and goes back nearly 200 years. This material and his knowledge in the field was very useful to him when he served two years as editor of "Let's Dance: The Magazine of Folk and Square Dancing" in Northern California. After his death in 1967, his collection of folk dance records and dance descriptions were donated to the Stockton Folk Dance Camp committee. Eventually, they found their way to the University of Pacific Libraries. The collection contains:

Dances Lawton and Sally taught include 'S Trommt em Babeli, Alabama Gal, Am Inn (At the Inn), Bachelor's Waltz, Berliner Contra, Bingo, Bitte Man i Knibe (Little Man in a Fix), Bow Belinda, Bridge of Avignon, Brown Eyed Mary, Captain Jinks, Carrousel, Chestnut Tree, Children's Circle, Children's Polka, Chimes of Dunkirk, Christ Church Bells, Circassian Circle, Circle Dance, Circle Virginia Reel, Cissy in the Barn, Come My Love, Cylinder Kontra, Danish Family Circle, De Kolom, Dinky One Step, Doppl Quadrille, Down the Lane, Eight Hand Jig, Esperano, Familie Sekstur, Feder Mikkel I, Feder Mikkel II, Fig in the Parlor, Firetur, Flachsernten, Greensleeves, Grosse Runde, Gypsy Polka, Halve Kaede, Harvest Time Jig, Hatter, Heel and Toe Polka, Here Comes Sally Down the Alley, Hol-Di-Ri-Di-A, Hornfiffen, I Want to Be a Farmer, I've Been Working on the Railroad, Ionnsai na L Innse, Irish Washerwoman, Jennie Crack Corn, Jingle Bells, John Brown, Jolly Miller, Judeo, Jump Jim Crow, Kerry Dance, Kettengalopp, Keielder Schottische, Klapptanz, Lamb's Fold, Marine Four Step, Matros, Mulberry Bush, Nobody's Business, Oh Susanna, Otočte Kolem Mě (Turn Around Me), Parisian Polka, Patty Cake Polka, Pease Porridge Hot, Ping Pong Schottishce, Polka Sekstur, Pop Goes the Weasel, Push the Business On, Puttjenter, Red River Valley, Retsch Ratsch, Rheinlander Polka, Ribbon Dance, Rig-a-Jig Jig, Schrittwalzer, Seige o' Ennis, Sekstur, Sent My Brown Jug Downtown, Shoo Fly I, Shoo Fly II, Shoo Fly Swing, Sisken, Somebody Waiting, Spinnradl, Square Tango, Swedish Dance, Swing, Swingola, The Hatter, The Herdsman, The Three Sea Captains, To Ting, Tra La La La Ja Saa, Trekante, Trekantet Sløjfe, Tretur, Trommelvalsen, Vesterbopolsk. Waves of Tory, and Yankee Doodle for Three.