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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.

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…

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…

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.

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.

Brussels World's Fair - 1958

This article describes the square dance presence at the 1958 World's Fair in Brussels.

Vermont Country Dance Festival - 1953

Program from a 1953 Vermont dance festival, whose avowqed purpose was "To strengthen Vermont's heritage of square and contra dances and to bring together country dance enthusiasts from every section of the state for a wonderful time." The program, which was sponsored by the State Recreation Office. As years went by, the event was attended by huge…

What's New in SD? (1955)

This 1955 article takes a brief look at some figures that were considered new at the time. Among them: Pass Through, Allemande Thar, Dopaso, Box the Gnat, Rollaway, and Throw in the Clutch.

The Caller - Jonesy

A list of qualifications and items to consider for would-be square dance callers

Aqua Barn

Article describing Seattle's Aqua Barn, a floating dance hall. The hall was created by Jack Riley, who obituary can be found here.

Daisy Alamo patter - Robby Robertson

This is a live recording of Robby Robertson teaching a "Daisy Alamo" combination of a Daisy Chain and an Alamo Style progression, followed by calling a dance with those figures. (The dance itself starts at 1:23.) The recording was made by Eric Clamons at the Fifth Annual (1956) Minnesota Square Dance Convention.Robertson was a prominent caller on…

Patter - Clarence Haller

This is the last dance of an evening program hosted by Clarence Haller in Evansville, Indiana. Haller calls a succession of traditional figures including Cut Off Six, Arkansas Traveler, and Take a Little Peek.

Patter Call - Bruce Johnson

This is a short clip from a dance called by Bruce Johnson in 1957. The figure is the Right Lady High, Left Lady Under routine that was very common at that time.

False Hearted Girl - Les Gotcher

This is a short clip from a dance called by Les Gotcher in the mid 1959 at the Newton Pavilion in Newton, New Hampshire. The record is probably Kalox #1004