Square Dance History Project
The rich story of North American square dance finally has a home in the digital age.

MWSD calling - changes over five decades

The Square Dance Foundation of New England has a collection of live recordings of dances by four callers in each of five decades. This collection of tips from those tapes provides an interesting illustration of the changes that have taken place in the activity since 1950 which, most agree, is when MWSD began to take on a different form than its traditional sibling. Our first exhibit here looks at the changing choreography used by caller Red Bates.

In the beginning callers used memorized routines repeated, usually four times, followed by singing calls that were presented with the same choreography with which they were originally recorded. The tempo was fast, as can be heard in many other audio clips on this web site. As new calls were created, they were included in both the patter and singing part of the tips. The patter calling departed from set routines as the “hash” style gained popularity. By the time the CALLERLAB call lists were established in the late 1970’s the repetition of routines in patter calls was going away. Callers were creating the dance as they called it.

It is possible that the tempo change that we see in the later years was a recognition of the aging of the dancers but it may also have been an attempt to make the dancing smoother in spite of the much larger call vocabulary and dance complexity.


Created by Jim Mayo, September, 2014