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An Invitation To Dance: A History of Social Dance in America

This online exhibit on the history of social dance in America draws on documents in the collection of the American Antiquarian Society to offer a multi-faceted portrait of the changing nature of American social dance. Items in the exhibit include the cotillion, the quadrille, and other related square dance forms.

Call & Answer - Amanda Lovelee

Minneapolis based artist, Amanda Lovelee believes finding, preserving and constructing a space for physical connection is an urgent issue. As a society that faces the collapse of communities how do we continue to form face-to-face connections? This is why she began The Call and Answer Project, a project that creates a fun, interactive space for…

Comin' Round the Mountain - Eric Clamons

Third of three clips from Minnesota caller Eric Clamons, this one a traditional singing square.

Arkansas Traveler - Eric Clamons

Second in a series of three clips of Minnesota caller Eric Clamons. There are other examples of Arkansas Traveler on this website for comparison.

Forming squares - Eric Clamons

Eric Clamons was a square dance caller in Minnesota in the 1940s and 1950s. A chance conversation with his son in 2013 revealed that Eric had taped numerous recordings of square dances from the early and mid-1950s, some 50 of which were donated to this project. (The collection also included many boxes of printed matter, festival programs,…

American Square Dance - Coronet Films, 1947

This 1947 instructional film, produced by Coronet Films, was created in collaboration with the Chicago Parks District. (Note that Lloyd Shaw's Cheyenne Mountain Dancers performed in Chicago in 1939 on their return home from their first trip east. Shaw also made a presentation to American Association for Health, Physicial Education, and Recreation…

Square Dance Patterns - Joan Bennett

This 1969 film was created by Joan Lockhart Bennett as part of her master's degree project for Ilinois State University, Normal, IL.. As an instructional tool this film covers a lot of ground: formation, honors, balance, swing, shoes, walking step, hand positions, posture, circles, dosado, Figure 8, all around left hand lady, weave the ring, grand…

Square Dance (with Corky Calkins)

This 1955 film, produced by Roger Tilton, features Corky Calkins and his band. Calkins was a popular caller in the Springfield, MA, area. Among the dances shown here are Nellie Bly, The Route and the Virginia Reel.

Ralph Sweet comments: "When we first moved into this area [near Springfield, MA] Corky Calkins was going strong. He had regular…

Westchester's Famous Square Dance Expert

Article describing Elisha Keeler's approach to calling squares

Square Dance Tonight - with Elisha Keeler

This 1949 film features caller Elisha Keeler of South Salem, NY. Keeler was featured in The New Yorker in a brief "Talk of the Town" piece in 1949 and then was given a lengthy profile (some 5,000 words) in The New Yorker (February 9, 1957). That portrait apparently inspired choreographer George Balanchine to create his ballet "Square Dance," and…

Saturday Night Square Dance - Jim Boyd, 1949

"Saturday Night Square Dance" was released in 1949 as a Soundie; the footage included here is all that we have been able to locate. (We would appreciate information from anyone having a complete copy of the film.)

Featured here are Jim Boyd and His Men of the West. Jom Boyd was the brother of Bill Boyd, well known for western swing music, and…

North Carolina Cloggers

Clogging in square dancing has a long history, going back at least as far as Sam Queen's Soco Gap Dancers. It is a form of dance that deserves its own detailed site, but we are including a few examples in the SDHP collection.

This clip includes footage from four television performances; in the first they are introduced as the "North Carolina…

Jubilee Promenaders 1

The dancers had received national acclaim as the Lake of the Ozarks Dancers in appearances on the Ted Mack Amateur Hour (see Related Item). Their fast tempo, fancy jig steps, and lively performances were a crowd pleaser, and they picked up, renamed as The Jubilee Promeanders, and became regular performers with caller L. D. Keller on the Ozark…

Lancers, 5th figure - Wayside Inn, 1932

This home movie is one of eight reels filmed in the 1930s at the Wayside Inn, Sudbury, MA. (More information about these films is available here.) The Inn at the time was owned by Henry Ford. Ford had encountered dancing master Benjamin Lovett at the Inn and hired him to come to Michigan to teach dancing there to his employees. This is the earliest…

Don Messer - souvenir booklet

The Don Messer Jubilee Show toured extensively, bring Down East music, song, and dance to audiences throughout the US and Canada. Messer was well known thanks to his weekly television show broadcast and three-times-a-week tadio broadcasts.

The short biography below came with his Messer's induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame in…

On the Road to Boston - Don Messer

The dances on the Don Messer show were choreographed by Gunter Buchta; he created two new dances each week for the show.

Maple Sugar - Don Messer and His Islanders

No calls, just a choreographed routine from Messer's popular television show; The dances on the Don Messer show were choreographed by Gunter Buchta; he created two new dances each week for the show.

Two related items show other choreography set to the same well-known tune.

Kentucky Set Running - 1914 firsthand account

After graduation from Vassar and a summer holiday with family, Marguerite Butler, at age 22, headed for Pine Mountain Settlement School in a remote area of eastern Kentucky to try to make some satisfactory contribution to a 1914 world where few such opportunities were allowed for women. A few nights after her arrival at the school, folks gathered…

Class Notes - Jim Mayo, 1963

Unlike traditional square dance, modern SD is based on a series of classes that teach the basic figures. As the activity has increased its vocabulary of figures, the number of suggested classes has grown over the years, from six to 30 or more weeks. In addition to the instruction at classes, some teachers have given their students handouts with…