The Life of Dr. John Martin Ramsay

As almost everyone reading these notes knows, our beloved Dr. John Ramsay passed away during the early morning of Wednesday, May 8, 2024. We will all miss this wonderful, astonishing dancer, who chose to grace the world with “amity, joy, civility” through his love of English Country Dance.

John was born in 1930 in the southern United States. He attended Berea College in Kentucky, where he joined the Berea College Country Dancers. John danced wherever he lived, and he led innumerable groups to draw others into the joy of dancing—at Celo Community in North Carolina while he was farming and teaching public school; at Iowa State University while he was getting his Ph.D. in genetics; at the John C. Campbell Folk School at Brasstown in North Carolina, where he was Director; then back at Berea where he became the Director of Recreation Extension. In the process, John took dancers all over the world, including to Denmark, Japan, Korea, Guatemala, Czechoslovakia, China, and on and on.

John’s impact on dance in St. Louis has been profound. Beginning in 1995, John and his wife B Meyer introduced hundreds of homeschoolers to English Country Dancing. They also trained about fifty dancers via a CDSS Young Leaders Workshop in 2008. Moreover, they founded Dance Discovery, an historical dance performance troupe to mark the bicentennial of the 1804 Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery Expedition. Dance Discovery is still much in demand and still in operation—twenty years on.

John also wrote and self-published a number of books—fiction and nonfiction—about people, dogs, etc. His deftly veiled autobiography Life of a Don: Life Stages from a Male Perspective is frank and spicy. It also, with characteristic honesty, looks at the whole span of life, including its end.

From all the ECD dancers in St. Louis, dear Dr. John Ramsay: Rest in Peace

R. Taylor
St. Louis English Country Dancers
May 10, 2024

Dance Discovery members

Dance Discovery, a performance dance troupe based in St. Louis, Missouri, brings festivity and merriment to celebrations by researching and performing historically faithful social dances from the 1600's to the present, including those of American, English, French and Spanish origins.

Originally formed to participate in the celebration of the bicentennial of the Louisiana Purchase and Lewis and Clark's Corps of Discovery expedition, Dance Discovery has also now focused on French and American dances from the Napoleonic era, and on the dances from the American Civil War era, in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.

Be sure to see the video of our performance of Les Quatre Berceaux.

Dancers doing a star

"I can think of no more fitting image of social conduct than an English dance, composed of many complicated figures and perfectly executed.  A spectator in the gallery sees innumerable movements intersecting in the most chaotic fashion, changing direction swiftly without rhyme or reason, yet never colliding. 
"Everything is so ordered that the one has already yielded his place when the other arrives; it is all so skillfully, and yet so artlessly, integrated into a form, that each seems only to be following his own inclination, yet without ever getting in the way of anybody else.  It is the most appropriate symbol of the assertion of one’s own freedom and regard for the freedom of others.

~Friedrich Schiller, 18th century German poet, philosopher and historian

Where can you try out dances like these for yourself?

The Childgrove English Country Dancers and Saint Louis English Country Dancers both dance with live music at least once a month. Click the links for their schedules.

Or check our calendar page for an integrated calendar of several groups, with their events in chronological order.

We make it easy for you to learn to do these dances yourself! Purchase our Lewis and Clark Dance Manual and CD and receive dance notes, sheet music and a CD by Tu'penny Uprights with dance-length music tracks.

Dance Discovery is an affiliate of the Country Dance and Song Society.