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Square Dancing in Western New York

The New York Folklore Society produced a number of five-minute radio documentaries featuring the folklife (skills, traditions, stories, music, dance, folk art and material items) found in New York State. This one focuses on the square dance traditions of western New York and the efforts being made to keep those traditions vibrant.The Folklore…

Hilton Kelly, Catskill fiddler and caller

Hilton Kelly, of Fleischmanns, New York, is a Catskills fiddler and square dance caller. He started playing in 1932, at age 5, and started calling in 1937. By the time he was 15, he had a regular band and was playing regularly at house parties, schools, and public events throughout the region. In 1953, Kelly says he was doing 6 or 7 dances a week,…

Darling Nellie Gray - Ralph Page (clip)

This dance was Ralph Page's signature closing dance for an evening program. Compare it with Happy Hale, whom some think was Page's source for the dance. There are many examples of this classic singing square on our website.

Darling Nellie Gray - Happy Hale

Happy Hale was a caller from Bernardston, MA, and some have speculated that Ralph Page patterned his style as a singing caller on Hale's technique. Other Happy Hale recordings at the Library of Congress are a mix of contras and squares: Hull's Victory, Pop Goes the Weasel, Morning Star, Miss McLeod's Reel, Merry Widow, a Quadrille, Lady Walpole's…

Pistol Packin' Mama, with jitterbug - Bob Livingston

Bob Livingston, caller, with the Falltown String Band: Jack Arensmeyer, acoustic guitar and mandolin; Jason Burbank, keyboard, fiddle; Jack Nelson, bass; Champ Dickinson, electric guitar, and Linwood Clark, drums. Recorded in Chesterfield, CT, November 16, 2013. During the swing, the dancers adopt a jitterbug style.Livingston writes, "Those…

Dip and Dive / Redwing - Bob Livingston

Bob Livingston, caller, with the Falltown String Band: Jack Arensmeyer, acoustic guitar and mandolin; Jason Burbank, keyboard, fiddle; Jack Nelson, bass; Champ Dickinson, electric guitar, and Linwood Clark, drums. Recorded in Chesterfield, CT, November 16, 2013. The classic dip and dive figure here is set to the song Redwing. A search on this site…

Four Poster / Soldier's Joy - Bob Livingston

Bob Livingston, caller, with the Falltown String Band: Jack Arensmeyer, acoustic guitar and mandolin; Jason Burbank, keyboard, fiddle; Jack Nelson, bass; Champ Dickinson, electric guitar, and Linwood Clark, drums. Recorded in Chesterfield, CT, November 16, 2013. The tune is Soldier's Joy.

Heads go Forward, & Back with you – Forward again and…

Engine #9 - Bob Livingston

Bob Livingston, caller, with the Falltown String Band: Jack Arensmeyer, acoustic guitar and mandolin; Jason Burbank, keyboard, fiddle; Jack Nelson, bass; Champ Dickinson, electric guitar, and Linwood Clark, drums. Recorded in Chesterfield, CT, November 16, 2013.

As the lead couple starts to promenade around the square, the next two couples fall…

Climbing Up the Golden Stairs - Bob Livingston

Bob Livingston, caller, with the Falltown String Band: Jack Arensmeyer, acoustic guitar and mandolin; Jason Burbank, keyboard, fiddle; Jack Nelson, bass; Champ Dickinson, electric guitar, and Linwood Clark, drums. Recorded in Chesterfield, CT, November 16, 2013.Here done as a circle mixer, the dance is often done as a four-couple square. Some…

Buffalo Gals - Bob Livingston

Bob Livingston, caller, with the Falltown String Band: Jack Arensmeyer, acoustic guitar and mandolin; Jason Burbank, keyboard, fiddle; Jack Nelson, bass; Champ Dickinson, electric guitar, and Linwood Clark, drums. Recorded in Chesterfield, CT, November 16, 2013.

Comin' Round the Mountain - Bob Livingston

Bob Livingston, caller, with the Falltown String Band: Jack Arensmeyer, acoustic guitar and mandolin; Jason Burbank, keyboard, fiddle; Jack Nelson, bass; Champ Dickinson, electric guitar, and Linwood Clark, drums. Recorded in Chesterfield, CT, November 16, 2013. Another video of this dance, with NH caller Lester Bradley, can be found here.

Florilla Perkins Ames, Vermont

Florilla Perkins Ames was 102 years old when she recorded this interview. She lives in northern Vermont, and remembers her father calling dances. Before that, her mother's grandfather used to play fiddle for dances: "In fact, in this house where I am right now they used to dance squares upstairs, in the 1800s."