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Neil Barden - Square & Contra Dance Figures & Definitions

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Square & Contra Dance Figures & Definitions

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Neil Barden - Square & Contra Dance Figures & Definitions

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(The underlined link above will take you to the website of the Square Dance Foundation of New England, where you can download a copy of Barden's booklet.)

Square & Contra Dance Figures & Definitions
was an early effort to present organized definitions of the various figures in use in square dance communities. Barden, a caller in Lebanon, NH, wrote the first edition of his book in 1957 (with a revision in 1960 that included 8 additional pages of figures that had been created in those intervening years.) At 62 pages in length, it's a fairly complete glossary of calls as they existed at that time; Jim Mayo has described it as "an early version of Burleson's Square Dance Encyclopedia." (Burleson's collection went on to describe more than 5,000 figures!) As such, Barden's booklet provides a good look at the square dance vocabulary in use before the floodgates opened.

(For another look at the proliferation of calls, see the presentation on "Call Evolution" by Clark Baker and Don Beck at CALLERLAB 2011.)

Barden's son, Nelson, writes: "I think Barden's Barn started around 1950 when I was still in high school. I remember Neil spending a year practicing calls in the evening, and by 1952-56 when I was away at UNH they were going strong. There may have been advertising for the Barn, but I don't recall any. I think my folks thought word-of-mouth was the best publicity. It's amazing how many people danced at Barden's Barn. For years, Neil and Isabelle ran dances five or six nights every week for hundreds of couples. After the dance craze petered out, Neil converted the barns to pottery studios and the crowds kept coming."

Jim Mayo writes: "Neil Barden was an important early dance hall owner. Many groups made the Knothead trip to there because it was a convenient 100 miles from Nashua and other Southern NH areas (even though I-89 didn't exist). Barden's Barn had most of the significant traveling callers of the time on the schedule."

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1957, 1960

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Item Relations

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