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Dancing's Dilemma - Dancing Around Denver

Dianne Gum hosted a public access show in Denver for some 15 years. In this hour-long program, recorded in 1996, she is joined by veteran caller Cal Campbell to discuss challenges facing modern square dancing. Many of the comments and disturbing trends that the two discuss have been borne out in subsequent years.Cal Campbell notes, "It’s now…

Marlbrouk Cotillion

This dance turns up in the Revolutionary War years of the United States. Here it's danced by a group of students from Brigham Young University. Note the bouncy rigadoon step, which originated in French dance of the 17th century. The tune is known by generations of young children as "The Bear Went Over the Mountain."This video clip is part of the…

"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 - Jim York (clip)

Taking the Grand Cuttyshaw figure from Rickey Holden and renaming it the Suzy Q, caller Jim York released an album and this figure to a wide audience in the early 1950s. The basic figure is the same as the Georgia Rang Tang from southern Appalachian square dancing: opposite person right hand turn, partner left hand turn, etc.

Texas squares

Caller Rickey Holden is well represented on this site by clicking this link. A playlist of many Holden videos posted by SDHP on YouTube can be accessed here. It includes these dances from his repertoire in Texas in the late 1940s: Denver Wagon Wheel (triple duck) Texas Whirlwind Texan Whirl Suzy Q (Grand Cuttyshaw) Spinning Wheel Four in…

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…

New-Fangled Dance Craze Hits Hollywood Bars Hard

Sherman Sanders was an actor who played a square dance caller in Hollywood movies starting in the early 1940s. His credits include Bowery Buckaroos, The Devil And Daniel Webster, Lure Of The Wilderness, Ride 'Em Cowboy, Roseanna McCoy, Star Spangled Rhythm, A Stolen Life, and The Andy Griffith Show. Described in the article as "Hollywood's No. 1…

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…

A Tennessee Square Dance

Caller David Hendrix presents a overview of typical figures that he would use in a "square dance" in his region of East Tennessee.He notes that the dances in his region are related to the so-called Kentucky running set, although the style has changed over the years.

Appalachian Circle

A brief look at southern Appalachian circle dances. The author points out how unfamiliar four-couple squares would be to a dance from that region:---A native of the Appalachian Circle country which includes most of Southeastern United States, does indeed find the four couple set of the North and West and Southwest quite different from the home…

Catskill Mountains square dance - 1950s

Short clip showing teenagers dancing; the caller plays accordion, joined by a fiddler and a drummer. You can see the men turning the ladies under as they pass them on a grand right and left.

Larry Edelman - roots of early modern square dance

At a 1992 workshop in Denmark, caller and dance historian Larry Edelman explains influences that created the early forms of modern square dance in the years after WW II. Callers drew on figures from both New England and southern Appalachian traditions, used them in new ways, and created new figures (in this dance, a cross trail), leading to a new…

Chaney scrapbook & photo album

Duane and Shirley Chaney (Council Bluffs, Iowa) were enthusiastic square dancers in the early 1950s. They attended Square Dance Institutes with Les Gotcher at Kirkwood Lodge (Osage Beach, Missouri) in 1953, 1954, and 1955. Shirley collected photographs and documents from their square dance events and assembled a scrapbook and photo album, including…

IOCA Barn Dance 1942

Events sponsored by the IOCA, the Intercollegiate Outing Club Association, provided the introduction to square dancing for many young dancers. Students from colleges and universities in the Northeast would go off on trips-- backpacking, rock climbing, hiking-- and evening activities were often built around square dances. The repertoire in this…

Nebraska Dance Calls - series 3

Third in the series of square dance calls collected in Nebraska in the 1930s, with roots going back to the previous century.

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Nebraska Dance Calls - series 2

This is the second in a series of three booklets of square dance calls collected in Nebraska in the late 1930s. As with other booklets in the series, the authors provide background information about the different callers, most of whom learned to call from parents or grandparents going back to the 1800s.
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"Towns were few and far between in…

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Pioneer Dance Calls - Nebraska 1

This is the first in a series of three booklets of square dance calls collected in Nebraska in the late 1930s. (The larger series looks at Nebraska Folklore.) Each volume presents background information about callers, local customs and occasional anecdotes, along with descriptions of the dances. Many of the dances go back two or more generations,…

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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…

Quadrille #1 - Gene Gowing

Gene Gowing, here accompanied on piano by Willa Semple, prompts a quadrille to the tune of "Turkey in the Straw." Gowing was an associate of Ralph Page for many years, a co-producer of their Monadnock Folkways dance school, although in later years the two men had a falling-out.