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Square Dance Legislation Collection

The Square Dance Legislation Collection consists of manuscript materials (1975-present) documenting the history of legislation to designate the square dance as the national or state (folk) dance. The bulk of the materials concerns the public hearing on House Resolution 1706 held June 28, 1984, before the Subcommittee on Census and Population of the…

Clarence Haller - Ralph Page correspondence

These letters were sent from Lucile and Clarence Haller, Indiana square dance caller, to Ralph Page, the dean of New England dance callers at the time. They are clearly interested in learning more about the contra dances that Page knows well.

An Invitation To Dance: A History of Social Dance in America

This online exhibit on the history of social dance in America draws on documents in the collection of the American Antiquarian Society to offer a multi-faceted portrait of the changing nature of American social dance. Items in the exhibit include the cotillion, the quadrille, and other related square dance forms.

Call & Answer - Amanda Lovelee

Minneapolis based artist, Amanda Lovelee believes finding, preserving and constructing a space for physical connection is an urgent issue. As a society that faces the collapse of communities how do we continue to form face-to-face connections? This is why she began The Call and Answer Project, a project that creates a fun, interactive space for…

East Is East - Pat Pending

Pat Pending was the pen name under which Ed Moody contributed numerous poems to Ralph Page's magazine, Northern Junket. In this one, the poet looks at two distinct styles of dance calling and implores callers not to mix them.

Square Dance in Schools

This short article explains the successful square dance program at a small public school in Fairlee, Vermont. (A side note, not mentioned in the article: Ed Durlacher was brought up from New York to teach and call dances with the demonstration groups. The related item looks at Durlacher's work with young dancers in a very different setting.)

Cowboys' Christmas Ball controversy - Anson, Texas

Square dancing is not just about a dance; as a social activity, the subject inevitably reaches into broader questions about society at large. So it is with the Cowboy's Christmas Ball, the preceding item. The Ball continues to this day. An entire book looks at the town of Anson, Texas, where the Ball originated, and how it came to be that laws were…

Cowboys' Christmas Ball - Anson, Texas

Poem written in 1890 describing the Cowboys' Christmas Ball in Anson, Texas. For more information about the author, see this website on cowboy poetry. The Ball continues, following the original rules requiring women to wear skirts and men to check their hats and spurs. Chittenden's poem was set to music and included in John Lomax's Cowboy Songs and…

Texas Cowboys - dance poems and lore

A collection of pieces related to square dance in southwest cowboy culture, published in 1925

Pardners - Jerry Lewis square dance

The 1956 film Pardners, starring Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, originally had a square dance sequence with Jerry Lewis as the caller, testimony to the role that square dancing had in American popular culture at that time. Bob Osgood coached Jerry Lewis in the art of dance calling. This short clip is from the trailer, but the actual dance sequence…

"How We Do It In Our Town" - Emmette Wallace

This is a series of articles comparing how basic figures are taught and danced in different parts of the country. The first segment appeared in October, 1949, in American Squares, and the series continued occasionally until October, 1951.

Fifty Miles from Times Square

This is an excerpt from John Cohen's 1972 film, used here by permission of the filmmaker.

caller: Herb Strickland
musicians: Bud Snow, Jay Ungar, Lyn Hardy, Abby Newton, Tom Allen

Fiddler Jay Ungar, seen in the dance footage, writes: "The dances were started by the Concerned Democrats in Putnam County, NY to raise money for the McGovern…

Dancing with Style - Lloyd Shaw

Lloyd Shaw's Cheyenne Mountain Dancers took the country by storm on their many cross-country trips; their stylish dancing, and Shaw's ideas on the subject, influenced subsequent generations of dancers, especially in the new movement to what we now term modern square dancing. In his Shaw attempts to explain what he means by stylish dancing.

The Lloyd Shaw Foundation in Action

This 1972 film describes the many activities of the Lloyd Shaw Foundation at that time. The movie was written and narrated by Don Armstrong, and produced and edited by Truett Myers.

In addition to dance sequences—squares, contras, rounds—there are scenes of caller training classes, teaching dances to children, and singing.

Malcolm McLaren, Buffalo Gals

Hip hop video riffing on square dancing, released in 1982

Using squares at a contra dance - Beth Molaro

Caller Beth Molaro, of Asheville, NC, is a well-known caller who loves calling both contras and squares. In this clip, talking with Dennis Merritt, she explains some of her thinking that goes into deciding when to call a square at a contra dance, when in the program to put squares, what sorts of squares she uses, and how different kinds of music…

Pearl Beer square dance commercial

This mid-1950s advertisement for Pearl Beer features San Antonio television personality Thomas Reynolds. The square dancers are dancing in the West Texas style popularized in the 1930s by caller Bob Sumrall. Known as the "Abilene lift," the dance style has dancers doing a 1-2-3 shuffle step with a slight lift during the brief pause after the third…

History of Square Dancing - Ralph Page

Between 1972 and 1974, Ralph Page wrote a series of essays entitled A History of Square Dancing. For ease in downloading, we have collected them into "chapters" that group together similar topics. The essays were published in the magazine Square Dancing as follows:Dancing In New England 11/1972The Revolutionary Era 1/1973Direct Ancestors…

Shall We Dance? - Maine, 19th century

This article, written by theMaine Memory Network Curator and Historian for the Maine Historical Society, takes two mid-19th books as a focal point for looking at etiquette and social status as reflected on the dance floor. H.G.O. Washburn's 1863 Ball-Room Manual of Contra Dances and Social Cotillions with Remarks on Quadrilles and Spanish Dance…