Show Menu

Colorado dancing - Cal Campbell

Dublin Core


Colorado dancing - Cal Campbell


Dance caller Cal Campbell started dancing at age 6 in 1943; he has written a series of reminiscences of his experiences growing up in a small Colorado town and the vital role that dancing played in the social life of that community.

"Dancing in Uruvan and Rifle" begins with his parents meeting at a dance in 1934; "The Girl in the Gingham Dress" is a fictionalized account of danc in elementary school, told by a nine year old boy. Two other essays look at dancing in the 1950s, both in the community as a whole and in the world of high school students. "A Good Start to Life" deals with college years, where the Aggie Haylofters were the second largest club on the campus of Colorado A&M.

A member of the Governing Board of CALLERLAB, Campbell has argued that modern square dance needs an easier entry point. His "Dancing for Busy People" book and materials outline a community dance program built around 25 basic dance movements.

In correspondence with the coordinator of this website, Campbell writes:

I grew up on the Western Slope of Colorado in the 1940's and 50's in a small town named Rifle.  The main entertainment was going to a dance.  Dancing strongly shaped who we became and how we behaved.  In my case, dancing affected who I was all the rest of my life.

I went to a Saturday night dance almost every week from the time I was born until I graduated from High School.  These were danced in places that are now Ghost towns (Uravan, Co) to obscure lodge halls and school gyms up and down the Colorado River around Rifle.

Now, understand that the Saturday night dance and really all of Saturday afternoon in these small communities was the main social time for people from miles and miles around.  There were miners, farmers, ranchers, merchants, and everyone else there.  The dances were a mixture of ballroom, square dances, honky tonk, you name it.    

The bands were always local musicians.  The callers were often drunk.  The dancing went on until dawn and were sometime rowdy. Everyone danced with everyone and everyone went home dead tired.

There was a great deal of difference between what happened in the Western part of Colorado and what happened on the eastern plains of Colorado and along the Front Range.  Pappy's experience  was mainly with the traditional square dancing that he found in eastern Colorado and was largely gathered from dances in the eastern half of Colorado.

Western Colorado was a vastly different environment.  The people who first populated the mountains and the western part of the state were a lot more hardy and restless breed.  They had to survive with far fewer amenities clear up into the 1960s.  The economy was based around mining and energy and not agriculture for the most part .  The whole culture was different on the east side and west side of The Rockies.  This strongly affected what happened in entertainment and other social activities including square dancing.

Once you got into New Mexico, the environment was different still.  Life in a predominately Hispanic and Indian culture dictated a different type of dancing and social contact.  That in turn strongly affected how square dancing developed in New Mexico.  

We lived in New Mexico from 1964 to 1980.  I matured as caller during those years.  What I can tell you will be very personal and certainly not academic.  I got to meet and visit with a lot of the callers like Poncho Baird, Herb Greggerson and others.  Judy and I danced all over the State.

My personal experience was mostly with the transition from Traditional Square Dancing to Modern Western Square Dancing.   It's not much about the "Traditional Square Dance" movement.  It's will be about the evolution of square dancing from what Pappy found on the Eastern Slope of Colorado in the 1930's to what it became in Colorado and New Mexico from about 1945 on. I was right in the middle of all of that.


Date Created



Spatial Coverage

Temporal Coverage

Item Relations

This Item is related to Item: Frontier Dances - Bob Cook
Item: A Look at Square Dancing in Colorado is related to This Item
Item: Western Square Dances at Fox Creek, Colorado (ca. 1880-1930) is related to This Item
Item: American Country Dancing on Colorado's West Slope is related to This Item