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Today's Whirling Confuses Old-Time Square Dancers

This 1957 newspaper story from central Massachusetts describes a dance culture in transition, as traditional New England square dancing was meeting up with -- and in some cases being replaced by-- the new modern Western style.

Square dancing at Augusta Heritage Festival - 1994

An evening dance at the Augusta Workshops in Elkins, West Virginia on July 15, 1994. Larry Edelman calls the figures to the music of the New Dixie Entertainers: Mike Bryant, Marcia Bryant, Brett Riggs, Pan Riggs, Morgan Simmons, and Tim Rogers.The scatter mixer shown at the start of this clip is one that Larry created using the Harlem Rosette…

Big circle dance - Manny Wiener & American Square Dance Group

Caller Manny Wiener leads a big circle dance—here introduced as a Kentucky running set—with members of Margot Mayo's American Square Dance Group. This is a portion of a half hour radio broadcast on WNYC in February, 1941, part of a series called "America Tells Its Stories." The program can be heard in its entirety here.The Related Items…

Arkansas Traveller variations

After several opening paragraphs in which the author decries the tendency toward ever more complex figures, he does admit that experienced dancers enjoy "a little variation." He takes one standard set of figures, the Arkansas Traveler, and introduces variations that make the figure more complicated. Throughout, he stresses the importance of timing…

Swamp Country Dance

This is a first-person account of attending a country dance in Georgia in the mid-1950s. The author describes the big circle formation in detail:

"A single dance would go like this; The orchestra would give a fanfare, the couples would quickly assemble on the floor in one big circle with the Caller at the head of the circle, his back to the…

Do Squares Come from Quadrilles?

This item starts with a 1957 article by Rod La Farge that takes a strong stand: "the assumption that our present day square dance is derived from the formal quadrille is completely false." Instead, he argues, "the square dance is a DIRECT descendent of the 18th Century Cotillion."

Several issues later, the magazine printed numerous responses…

A Brief History of "Hash"

This is a chapter from Instant Hash that appeared in American Squares magazine. Litman and Holden define hash as "a mixture of figures which come one after another so quickly that often there is no real figure pattern but merely one movement on top of another," and go on to describe several kinds of hash. They trace different regional styles of…

Cape Breton - Washabuck set

Cape Breton square dance: Three figures of the Washabuck set, recorded at Boisdale, Nova Scotia

Cape Breton - Inverness Set

Cape Breton square dance: this is the Inverness set, recorded in Brook Village, Nova Scotia. The video contains three figures.

Silver and Gold - Ted Sannella

Ted Sannella wrote this dance in 1952, specifically to accompany the tune of the same name. In Balance and Swing, Ted writes, "This simple dance is a favorite of mine, one that I use with any group that is able to do a right and left through. Sometimes I use it as a teaching aid after explaing that figure to beginners. This works out well because…

Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight - Ted Sannella

Ted Sannella rarely called singing squares, but in this example of Hot Town in the Old Town Tonight, he mixes patter with a little big of singing to create a hybrid of singing and patter.The SDHP site contains many other examples of Ted Sannella's calling.

Do-Si-Do and Face the Sides - Ted Sannella

Ted Sannella calls his dance, Do-Si-Do and Face the Sides, in a live recording from c. 1958. In Balance and Swing, Ted explains, "I wrote this dance in February, 1953 for a dance exhibition at the 1953 New England Folk Festival. It shows off very nicely the circles, lines and stars so typical of square dancing." More than 60 years after its…

Learn Square Dancing - Ed Gilmore

This is a track from Ed Gilmore's instructional square dance LP, "Learn Square Dancing," released on Decca in 1956. The album included instructional segments such as this with short practice pieces set to music, as well as four full called dances. The record came with an 8 page booklet, with liner notes by Chuck Jones. A search for "instruction"…

Settin' the Woods on Fire - Bob Ruff

Borrowing the tune from the popular Hank Williams song of 1952, this excerpt features caller Bob Ruff with music by the Buckboard Busters on the Sets in Order label. The "lady 'round two and the gent around one" figure also appears in southern Appalachian mountain square dance as "lady round two and the gent cut through" or simply a figure known as…

I Only Want a Buddy - Herbie Gaudreau

Singing square, I Only Want a Buddy Not a Gal, by Massachusetts caller Herbie Gaudreau

Hurry, Hurry, Hurry - Herbie Gaudreau

Classic singing square, here in a live recording (1960s?) with caller Herbie Gaudreau. Today's contra callers probably know Gaudreau better than do contemporary square dance callers; his Becket Reel is the source for today's "Becket formation" in contras, with long lines of couples, each facing another couple across the set. Tony Parkes comments:…

Vermont square dance festival - children

These are photographs of school groups participating in the big square dance festivals held in Vermont in the 1950s in Northfield and Montpelier.

Contra Corners Canon

The dance was composed by Pittsburgh caller and choreographer Ron Buchanan. In this video, it's being called by Lisa Greenleaf.

Big Circle square dance - Glenn Bannerman

Glenn Bannerman, caller, leads a big circle at MerleFest, 2014

Ralph Piper - Teaching the Waltz, 1953

This is a handout by caller Ralph Piper for use at a class during the American Squares week at Camp Ihduhapi, MN, in 1953. He provides a brief description of different styles of waltz, then outlines in detail the steps he suggests using to teach the waltz.