Square Dance History Project
The rich story of North American square dance finally has a home in the digital age.

About the Square Dance History Project

Square dancing has been an integral part of American social life for centuries. Traditional square dance was vital for generations of Americans, especially in rural communities; in the post-World War II era, modern square dance similarly enjoyed participants numbering in the millions.

Despite its popularity, the history of square dance has not been well documented. Scores of books explain specific figures and calls, but there is no current source that offers a detailed discussion of the development of this form of American social dance. We hope this site helps to fill that need.

Sound

Two singing squares - Fenton "Jonesy" Jones

1) Solomon LeviFrom his series of Square Dances by Jonesy, this singing square features a simple figure that appears in other traditional dances.2) Darling Nellie GrayFrom the same album. As one… View item
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Hey Lei Lee Lei Lee (clip) - Bob Ruff

California caller Bob Ruff sings the calls set to a popular song at the time. This clip includes the introduction plus once through the figures. Vic and Debbie Ceder has information about Ruff on… View item
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Progressive Squares - Jerry Helt

This half hour recording comes from a 1998 CALLERLAB session led by Jerry Helt, widely known for his use of progressive squares. (We appreciate CALLERLAB giving permission to share the material here.… View item
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Progressive Squares - introduction

This article from the Experimental Lab of Sets in Order magazine documents the introduction of progressive squares by Ed Gilmore. The article explains that he "developed an unusual collection of calls… View item
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Ralph Page – Sets in Order tribute

Bob Osgood, editor and publisher of Sets in Order, actively promoted modern square dancing, while for his part Ralph Page used the pages of his Northern Junket magazine to editorialize against the new… View item
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Cowboy Dance Tunes – excerpt

This was first published as a separate booklet in 1940 to accompany Lloyd Shaw's Cowboy Dances, which appeared in 1939. Shaw provides an introduction.Jim Saxe notes, "The same tune collection,… View item
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Don Beck - square dance background

This is Don Beck's account of how he got interested in square dancing. View item
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Promenade - Seven Cowboy Dances

This little booklet plays on the popularity of square dancing as introduced by Lloyd and his Cheyenne Mountain Dancers. The booklet was released by Women's Home Companion, a popular monthly magazine… View item
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Pop Sweet

This item recounts a chance encounter between Margot Mayo, the leader of the American Square Dance Group, and Pop Sweet, a traditional fiddler/caller from western Massachusetts. Her excitement at… View item
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A Callers' Association? - 1952 discussion

CALLERLAB, the association of modern western square dance callers, was established in 1974. However, discussions about creating caller associations had been going on for many years before that. This… View item
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Social Dance in the Mormon West

Detailed look at the role that social dance played (and still plays) in Mormon society. The publication includes a lengthy essay by Larry Shumway looking at dance throughout Mormon history, including… View item
Sound

Frazee's Nightmare - Les Gotcher, 1954

Commercial recordings bring us excellent sound quality and precise calling. In contrast, one of the delights of live recordings is hearing the caller deal with real-life challenges on the dance floor.… View item