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Traditional square dance

Traditional square dance

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Encyclopedia
Traditional square dance is a generic term for any style of square dance
Square dance
Square dance is a folk dance with four couples arranged in a square, with one couple on each side, beginning with Couple 1 facing away from the music and going counter-clockwise until getting to Couple 4. Couples 1 and 3 are known as the head couples, while Couples 2 and 4 are the side couples...

 other than modern Western
Modern Western square dance
Modern Western square dance is one of two types of square dancing, along with traditional square dance. As a dance form, modern Western square dance grew out of traditional Western dance...

. The term can mean (1) any of the regional styles (broadly, Northeastern, Southeastern, and Western) that existed before around 1950, when modern Western style began to develop out of a blend of those regional styles, or (2) any style (other than modern Western) that has survived, or been revived, since around 1950.

There are a few communities in the United States and Canada where one may find dance events consisting primarily of traditional squares, or of traditional squares alternating with some form of couple dancing (such as waltz
Waltz
The waltz is a ballroom and folk dance in time, performed primarily in closed position.- History :There are several references to a sliding or gliding dance,- a waltz, from the 16th century including the representations of the printer H.S. Beheim...

, foxtrot, or country/western dance
Country/western dance
Country/western dance, also called Country and Western dance, encompasses many dance forms or styles, which are typically danced to country-western music, and which are stylistically associated with American country and/or western traditions...

). In addition, many contra dance
Contra dance
Contra dance refers to several partnered folk dance styles in which couples dance in two facing lines...

 events include traditional squares, and many callers
Caller (dancing)
A caller is a person who prompts dance figures in such dances as line dance, square dance, and contra dance. The caller might be one of the participating dancers, though in modern country dance this is rare....

who preside at parties for people who do not square dance regularly (such parties are known in the trade as “one-night stands” or “fun nights”) draw their square dance repertoire partly or entirely from the traditional side.

Traditional square dance can be distinguished from modern Western square dance by the following characteristics:
  1. A limited number of basic movements, or “calls,” enabling the average dancer to join the group by assimilation rather than by taking a series of lessons.
  2. Dance figures (sequences of basic movements) that are called in a set order and repeated, rather than improvised by the caller.
  3. The use of live music as the norm (except at “one-night stands,” where custom varies).


In addition, because there is no governing body to set standards for traditional square dancing, each caller decides which basic movements and dance figures he or she will use. There are regional variations in how dancers execute the basic movements, usually having to do with hand or arm position. The same dance figure may have different names in different regions; the same name may refer to different dance figures, or even (in the case of "do-si-do") different basic movements. This lack of standardization does not present a problem to the dancers, because at least one of two conditions is always true: either the caller walks the dancers through the figures before calling them to music, or the event is attended almost entirely by local people familiar with that caller's repertoire.

Social mores at traditional square dances vary widely. Where squares are incorporated into contra dance events, the contra dance customs of casual attire and frequent partner changes are followed. At some events consisting mainly of traditional squares, the dancers dress up a bit, and they may attend and dance exclusively with a spouse or other regular partner. It would be a major social blunder for a contra dancer visiting such an event to ask a stranger to dance without first being introduced. In some other dance communities, the social customs are closer to the modern contra dance norm.

External links

  • Square Dance Resources, a section of the Country Dance and Song Society website. Contains overviews of regional styles and history, directories of groups and callers, and links to audio and video clips including 80 videos of specific dances. Retrieved May 18, 2011.
  • "Explaining Traditional Squares and Contras to MWSD folks", by Clark Baker, January 2002, retrieved October 27, 2005.
  • "Dance in Appalachia: A Pathfinder", by Philip A. Jamison for Appalachian State University Library, December 2004, retrieved October 4, 2007.
  • New River Old Time Music and Dance Association - website includes directory of traditional square dance events in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. Retrieved November 1, 2007.
  • Canadian Olde Tyme Square Dance Callers' Association - website includes directory of traditional square dance events in Canada. Retrieved October 22, 2007.
  • West Virginia Square Dances, by Robert G. Dalsemer for Country Dance and Song Society, May 1980 - descriptions of Saturday night dances in five rural communities, with audio samples and transcriptions of calls and tunes. Retrieved October 23, 2007.
  • Traditional Square Dancing at bubbaguitar.com - website includes descriptions and audio samples of Southeastern square dance figures and calls, as well as links to websites of traditional square dance events in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. Retrieved November 1, 2007.
  • Traditional and Old-Time Square Dance Links - includes links to events in many areas, primarily in the United States. Retrieved November 2, 2007.
  • Inverness County Square Dances - a page of the official county tourism website listing traditional square dance events in Inverness County, Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, Canada. As of 2011, there were square dances in the county every Saturday and Sunday year-round and four additional weekly dances during the summer months. Retrieved November 24, 2011.
  • The Old-Time Herald - music magazine, established in 1987, with regular "Dance Beat" column describing traditional square dance musicians, callers, figures, and events, past and present. Retrieved November 2, 2007.
  • Northern Junket - magazine, edited and published by Ralph Page from 1949 to 1984. Contains articles, music, and dance descriptions for traditional square dance, contra dance, and international folk dance. All pages have been scanned by the University of New Hampshire Library and are accessible online, indexed by subject. Retrieved November 8, 2007.
  • Old-Time Fiddling: A Traditional Folk Art with Four Ozark Musicians, by Allen Gage, Bittersweet, Volume IX, No. 3, Spring 1982.
  • Old-Time Ozark Square Dancing, By Karen Mulrenin, Rita Saeger and Terry Brandt, Bittersweet, Volume II, No. 1, Fall 1974.
  • Fiddlin' Around, By Diana Foreman, Bittersweet, Volume V, No. 2, Winter 1977.