History can be become rather long so we'll try to keep it short.
We don't want you to go off the boil.
Dancing is as old as mankind itself. I guess we can't be sure if Adam and Eve
danced because of the lack of historical records (who at the back said it was
the dance of love?). There are records showing the dancing of squares, lines
and circles in the early history of the American West, which is where the Square
Dancing that we dance today evolved from.
Square Dancing is really the authentic barn dance of those American
pioneering days. These dances were Country Dances which came from where the many immigrants
originated, that is, most European countries. Therefore, many of the
dances were from English shores. Though
Square Dancing's form has
changed over the years certain basic moves still remain to indicate those mixed
origins of the basics .
Which is why we call it American Square Dancing.
Modern Western American Square Dancing - Today
You may not expect "today'" to include fifty or more years ago but
it is compared with several centuries ago.
In the early history of the American West, square dances were often impromptu
affairs, when all that was needed was space to dance, music provided by a violin
or squeeze-box, sufficient people to form a "set" (4 couples) and
an M.C. who was known as the Caller.
When larger dances were organised and people went to their local Saturday night
dance (in some rural communities this was the only entertainment), probably
held in a barn, each square would have a caller, calling to that square. When
public address systems came along only one caller was needed.
Although the square dance of modern times has become more sophisticated and stylised, the
party sprit, infectious music and rhythms of the old dances are still there.
In the 1900's square dancing faded a little but in the early 1920's it was given a boost by Henry Ford.
Yes, Henry Ford of
Ford cars fame. He supported and helped promote dancing with one of the dance
leaders of that time. In the mid-1930's another dance leader emerged who
collected much of the history of the dances. This was Dr. Lloyd 'Pappy' Shaw. With this American Square Dancing gained a new
popularity. Today, the history of square dance is preserved by the Lloyd Shaw
As the modern highways and the automobile enabled people to move around much
more so this popularity gained momentum. Callers were being more creative and found to be
creating more patterns and movements. Square Dancing was also helped along
throughout the 50's by American service personnel at their many Air Force Bases.
When in the 60's people were travelling even more, dancers found they did
not know some of the moves being danced in the other areas they were visiting.
Around 1970 a number of callers joined together and formed an organisation called
Callerlab, a membership of callers. By 1972 many of the moves had been put into
lists called "programmes", a guideline by which you could travel anywhere, to any
country, and be
able to dance to an announced programme. Where ever you travel the commands are
spoken in English. (Something the EU can't take away from us).
So there you are, did I keep it short? If you think I didn't, believe
me, there is so much more which could be written.
Back to Top
last updated - 28th July 2001