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American Squares

Charley Thomas edited the early issues of American Squares. The April 1952 issue marks the transition to Rickey Holden as editor. Later issues were edited or overseen by Rod LaFarge and Frank Kaltman and then Arvid Olson. A major effort was to digitize and make available online a complete set of American Squares and its successor publications, New…

Texas Whirlwind (clip) - Rickey Holden

Starting with a simply RH star in the center, Holden ups the complexity with a series of Catch All Eight calls around outside of the circle.

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TEXAS WHIRLWIND (Folkraft 1073A) – Rickey Holden
(original figure by Fenton Jones, Los Angeles, California)

( prelim) Ladies to the center and back to the bar
Gents to the center and form a…

Texas Square Dances - Rickey Holden

This is a detailed description of three Texas squares, presented by Rickey Holden as an exhibition dance at the fourth annual New England Folk Festival, November 15–16, 1947. Holden based much of his material on Herb's Blue Bonnet Calls (Herb Greggerson, 1946).Holden had originally wanted to present three dances intact, as they are described…

Six Styles of Square Dance - Rickey Holden

Trying to categorize the different varieties of square dance can be a challenging task. Noted caller and dance historian Rickey Holden published his thoughts in this 1955 article in his American Squares magazine.Other items in the Square Dance History Project examine the classification of squares: Phil Jamison: southern Appalachian squares…

Denver Wagon Wheel / Triple Duck - Rickey Holden (dance)

Caller Rickey Holden teaches the "triple duck" figure, also known as the Denver Wagon Wheel. (In his "Square Dances of West Texas" book, Holden credits the figure to Joe Lang, of Denver.) Another video on this site video shows that figure being taught. Recorded in Denmark, 1999.

Four Poster Bed / goal post - Rickey Holden

Caller Rickey Holden calls the a variation of the goal post figures at a workshop in Taastrup, Denmark, August 19, 2005. Instead of having dancers immediately go around one, as in goal post, Holden directs them to swing behind, before they repeat the pattern. In his book "Instant Hash," co-authored with Lloyd Litman, Holden writes, "In 1945 Charley…

"Abilene lift" - Rickey Holden

Caller Rickey Holden calls and dances the "Abilene lift," a style of movement created and popularized by west Texas caller Bob Sumrall. The 1-2-3 shuffle of feet gave the dancers a smooth movement; Holden has written that "at one time, at every dance, the entire floor could be heard to move, everyone, in unison, with an almost mystical, magical…

Four in Line You Travel - Rickey Holden

Caller Rickey Holden teaches the figure for "Four in line you travel," and then calls a square dance using that figure. The figure is described in detail in the notes for Ed Gilmore's Square Dance Callers Instruction Course, 1949. Recorded in 1999 in Denmark.

Texan Whirl - Rickey Holden

Rickey Holden calling the Texan Whirl figure attributed to caller Bob Sumrall, an influential caller starting in the 1930s in Abilene and other West Texas communities. The distinctive part has the women circling left underneath the men's arms making a right hand star, and then each woman rolls back around the gent behind her to reform the circle.…

Square Dance Institute - Rickey Holden, 1950

Syllabus of a workshop led by Holden in Massachusetts in 1950, introducing Texas style square dancing to New England dancers. In addition to notes on figures and styling, this handout included directions for some sample Texas dances. From the introductory remarks:

"One of the most common misconceptions about Western square dancing is that all of…

Abilene Lift - Rickey Holden

An early description by Rickey Holden of the so-called "Abilene lift," a distinctive style of incorporating a two-steps into square dance movement.

Three Ladies Chain - Rickey Holden

Instead of the women chaining over and back within their own square, in this variation of Three Ladies Chain, caller Rickey Holden has the women leaving their square and chaining all the way over the hall and back again. The basic dance figure can be found in disparate traditional settings, ranging from a singing square set to Red River Valley or…

The Route - Rickey Holden

Rickey Holden calling a classic square dance figure, alternately called The Rout or The Route. Rather than a full walkthrough, he gives only a general introduction, setting up the dancers for some lively confusion partway through. In addition to the usual right and left through and ladies chain, he finishes with a series of dip and dive figures.…

Alamo Style

This 1949 description of "Alamo style" balances comes from Rickey Holden, who coined the term to describe the figure. Holden points out that the action itself had been around for a while. Alamo style can be heard in one of the audio files in the Related Item.

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…

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!"…

Syllabus of Square Dances, Rickey Holden 1949

This is a syllabus created by Rickey Holden for a callers' workshop held in San Antonio in 1949. The course was 2-1/2 hours each night for five days. It's a useful primary source document showing the state of square dancing at that time and place.

The dance descriptions in the appendix (starting with A1) are especially for historians because…

A Brief History of "Hash"

This is a chapter from Instant Hash that appeared in American Squares magazine. Litman and Holden define hash as "a mixture of figures which come one after another so quickly that often there is no real figure pattern but merely one movement on top of another," and go on to describe several kinds of hash. They trace different regional styles of…

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…