Square dancing is not native only to the United States, there are importation's from the British
Isles. The Square dance is relatively a modern term (1870s
& up) to describe Country or Contra
dances (Contredanse Anglais) of the past such as Lancers, Quadrilles,
Basse, Hautes dances, Circle dances, String dances, Longways, plus
and Wing, Jigs,
etc. The Quadrille which originated in 1740 is considered the
start of traditional Square dancing.
There are different styles and mannerisms in
square dancing throughout the world. Originally these dances were
primitive dances done in lines (columns) and circles, then
modified to Squares or Quadrilles (see Quadrilles
for more info). Square dancing which is basically a "Sequence
dance" was one of the popular of activities in colonial
times. In the southern Appalachians, America would make its only
real contribution to Square dancing called Running Sets.
The term Square dance can be
applied to many types of American folk
dances in which an even number of couples participate, arranged
so that they form a square, as in square set and Quadrille (four
couples), or in two lines facing each other called a Contra
or as in a Longways set (Side By Side) or in a circle as
in a running set. In Squares and Rounds, the term square dance
is used for any type of dance that is not done by individual couples.
Round dancing is a form of choreographed ballroom dancing with
a cuer, like ballroom dancing, is done in couples. Clog dance is another form but is done as an individual. Most of the original
square dances / steps were brought to the US (importation's)
from England. Today there are basically two types of Square dances:
1) Traditional Square Dance
2) Modern Western Square Dance.
The square dance is made up
of many figures that are called out during the set by a trained
caller who was originally a dance master
These callers or 'Prompters' as they were originally known would
call out the steps to remind the dancers what to do next, with
the traditional caller originating with the Cotillions
and Contredanse's of an earlier, mostly forgotten time. Square
dancing became a part of the early 20th century barn
dance scene, unfortunately this would add a hillbilly or Hick
stereotype with the public towards Square dance.
During the early 1920s, the
car maker Henry Ford, a lover of Square Dancing, would take on a campaign to bring many of
these dances back into popularity, although he failed at his attempt,
he did a lot to help a later boom with Lloyd Shaw in Colorado creating
new styles of Square dance choreography which evolved with a ton
of new calls and dances. It's popularity was ripe for the new introduction's of the Amplifiers, Microphones
and the 45 rpm records that would make Square dancing a new and also fun experience
dances (Contredanse) have sets with some couples
being "active and some being inactive." Contra dances
have a beginning and end.
* Square dances have no inactive
or active couples, instead there are head couples (backs to
caller) and side couples.
* Circle dances such as the big circle
or big set, there is an "active couple" and an "inactive
couple" who face each other, which are called "odd and
even." Circle dances have no beginning or end.
dances or Hoe Downs consisted of Waltzes,
Reels, Corn Husking Dances, Jigs,
General Square Dance Time Frame:
* Colonial: - 1700's|
* Quadrille 1810's|
(English country dance), 1820's|
* Southwestern (Contradanza), 1820's|
* Barn Dances, early 1850's|
* Frontier Farmer & Frontier Cowboy, 1880s|
* Henry Ford era, 1920's |
* Western era (Lloyd Shaw) - 1930/40's|
* Modern Square Dancing 1950's. |
In 1976 the US Post office used cancellation stamps entitled: 25th National Square Dance Convention Anaheim, June 24 - 26.