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Items from "Traditional western": 102

Square dance photos, Austin, TX, 1948

Two photographs taken at a square dance in Austin, TX

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Ladies to the Center

This short article by Texas dance historian Olcutt Sanders looks at the role played by women in that state's dance history. Sanders notes the early absence of women:

"A scarcity of woman and a general sparseness of settlement in the Texas cattle country until late in the Nineteenth Century (the frontier broke about 1886) made any kind of…

Herb Greggerson bio

This profile of El Paso caller Herb Greggerson was written in 1946. It mentions Greggerson's Blue Bonnet Set heading off on their first US tour in 1939; this was after the team triumphed over Bob Sumrall's Abilene Set in winning a square dance competition. More info is here.

Chain Lightning - Butch Nelson (clip)

Another example of Butch Nelson's calling, with fast-paced patter keeping dancers moving briskly. Again, the patter clearly shows the caller's western roots.

"And the coyotes howl and the birdies sing,
Pick up your own and you make a little ring..."

Half Sashay - Butch Nelson (clip)

"Pull up your pants and tighten the tracesAll join hands, we're off to the races."With opening patter like this, we know we're in traditional western square dance territory. Thirty seconds later, when partners meet for a swing, there's barely enough time in the patter to swing once around. We're not in New England!The figure has first couple out to…

Sally Goodin variations

Sally Goodin is a square dance based on picturesque names for the other dancers in your set. (See Carl Herzog diagram). The active dance turns other dancers in a particular sequence, occasionally following a hand turn with another dancers by turning your partner. In general, when the callers say to "swing" someone else, they are expecting dancers…

Rural Leaders' Guide for Square and Group Dances, 1951

From the forward: "This circular is designed to assist rural leaders in teaching square and group dancing and in conducting organized recreational dancing activities." After several pages of introductory material, including selection of records and guidelines for teaching, the booklet begins with "Socializers for Square Dance Parties," a collection…

Syllabus of Square Dances, Rickey Holden 1949

This is a syllabus created by Rickey Holden for a callers' workshop held in San Antonio in 1949. The course was 2-1/2 hours each night for five days. It's a useful primary source document showing the state of square dancing at that time and place. The dance descriptions in the appendix (starting with A1) are especially for historians because Holden…

"The Good Ole Days" - Olcutt Sanders, 1949

Dance historian Olcutt Sanders asks, "As you unwound yourself from the mazes of the latest square dance concoction introduced at your club meeting, did your ever wonder how people ever got along without the inventive genius of today's callers? Did dancers of an earlier generation actually keep coming back for more even without a new trick or twist…

Suzy Q - Grand Cuttyshaw - Rickey Holden

Holden's name for this dance was the Grand Cuttyshaw, which he published as "traditional New Mexico" in his 1992 booklet, "Square Dances of West Texas." A note there reads, "This traditional figure, with this title, was sent from Texas to caller Jack Hoheisal in California, who renamed it "Suzy Q"; so much for tradition vs. the power of the press!"…

Texas Whirlwind - Rickey Holden

Holden teaches the figures, starting with a review of Catch All Eight, a traditional figure from West Texas that became part of modern square dance: right hand turn halfway around, then left hand turn once and a half. Holden leads dancers through some introductory figures to practice just this piece. After a few minutes, he teaches the figures for…

Cowboy Square Dances of West Texas

This booklet provides an introduction to West Texas square dances. After a detailed glossary, complete with diagrams, the author provides a sample of dances as they might be called. The patter is marked in italics to separate it from the crucial dance figures, and the author notes that he has attempted to include a wide variety of patter. Each…

Spinning Wheel - description and audio

This figure appears here in two formats. The written description comes from Betty Casey in Foot 'n' Fiddle managzine; Casey published several collections of square dance figures and decades later helped the young Green Grass Cloggers incorporate square dance figures into their clogging routines. The calling here is by Rickey Holden from his…

Texas Square Dance Festival regions

Texas had a history of square dance contests going back to pre-World War II days. The dance festivals and contests continued into the late 1940s, evidenced by these articles from Foot 'n' Fiddle magazine in 1947. The Dallas festival visited by the author had some 5,000 visitors!

Alamo Style

This 1949 description of "Alamo style" balances comes from Rickey Holden, who coined the term to describe the figure. Holden points out that the action itself had been around for a while. Alamo style can be heard in one of the audio files in the Related Item.

Bob Sumrall

Bob Sumrall was the leader of the Abilene Set, a group that he started around 1938 (when he was 20); this group of Texas square dancers won the Texas square dance competitions year after year, and they popularized the "Abilene lift" style of footwork. This is an account from the Texas square dance journal Foot 'n' Fiddle.

Texas Squares at Pinewoods

In the late 1940s, the Country Dance and Song Society was best known for its work focused on English country dances and ritual dances. Starting in 1949 (see cover of the CDSS newsletter) and then at early Pinewoods camp sessions in 1951 and 1952, Texas squares were included in their programs, which featured caller Ray Smith. Here are some items…

Early Dance Houses

This piece about Texas dance halls is a companion to the author's article on Texas dance history.

Early Texas Dances

This article was written by Olcutt Sanders, a dance caller and historian who was among the founders of Foot 'n' Fiddle magazine, an early square dance magazine in Texas.

Teacup Chain - 1948 publication

This may be the first publication of the Teacup Chain figure. It appeared in Foot 'n' Fiddle magazine, an early square dance magazine founded and edited by Anne Pittman, Marlys Swenson and Olcutt Sanders.