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Square Dance Tonight - with Elisha Keeler

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Square Dance Tonight - with Elisha Keeler


This 1949 film features caller Elisha Keeler of South Salem, NY. Keeler was featured in The New Yorker in a brief "Talk of the Town" piece in 1949 and then was given a lengthy profile (some 5,000 words) in The New Yorker (February 9, 1957). That portrait apparently inspired choreographer George Balanchine to create his ballet "Square Dance," and Keeler was featured on stage as the caller in the opening performances of that ballet. The New Yorker profile calls him "one of the nation's best-known square-dance callers."

This film was recorded in at The Hobby Barn on Stone Hill Road in Pound Ridge, Westchester County, NY. The barn was renovated by Hiram Halle, who renovated many houses in Pound Ridge, and who allowed the community to hold regular dances in the barn. A trustee of the Pound Ridge Historical Society adds, "The Barn had a very distinctive double door entrance with bulls-eye glass.  I think the doors were from an old church. It is now a private home."

A brief biography of Keeler in American Squares magazine reports, "Mr. Keeler was chosen for the star role upon recommendation of radio and motion picture executives who were familiar with his work." A second film, "Country Rhythms," was recorded in 1950; if any viewer knows where we can locate a copy of that film, please contact us.

More biographical information about Keeler is available here.

We have not identified the musicians in the film and would appreciate any information that viewers can provide.

This film includes three dances:
• Divide the Ring (or Cut Off Six / Cut Off Three)
• Listen to the Mockingbird (Birdie in the Cage, with younger dancers)
• Forward Six and Back (Right Hand Over, Left Hand Under)

Note: In the first and third dances, which are done two times through, the "2nd couple" is across from the 1st couple, not to their right as is more common today.


The original 35 mm film is in the collection of the Library of Congress , Motion Picture/Broadcast Division. Thanks to the copyright owner, Eric Saltzman, for permission to digitize the footage and share it with others.

Date Created

September, 1949


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Item: Westchester's Famous Square Dance Expert is related to This Item