The New England Square Dance Convention, alone, had just short of 10,000 dancers in
Providence, RI in the early 1970s. (year?)The CT Convention at Newington ('72, I
think! My first year) drew 3,200.....and the dancers were young. They had kids in
elementary school. There were teen clubs. The May '77 issue of the NE Caller lists
101 club dances in CT for the month. Not all clubs listed their dances.
The Trail Town Twirlers in Greenfield, MA danced at the Grange. Twice, for caller Dick
Leger they moved to the Stoneleigh-Burnhamprep school gym....But the cultural wheel slowly
turns - It seemed like a national "folk" dance at the time. "Folk"
defined as social dance withmultiple couples. Traditional dance was the
"eastern" squares, also ubiquitous once throughout the Northeast. It included
chestnut contra and "folk" depending on the venue, sponsor, etc. but
"square dance" was the usual umbrella term. Think of Ralph Page, noted in
Magazine May 11, 1946 as "the country's foremost singing caller." He was
the featured speaker the Sunday I joined the CT Callers Association.
Modern contradance is about two decades behind MWSD. In CT fresh faces calling to an
older floor but unable be begin new venues.
But the general public still sees the dance as a square dance - participating at a
community level, maybe tied to a church chili fest - seems popular now - or other
celebrations. They dance circles and whole sets, few squares, no true contras and the
Virginia Reel. The advertising calls it a squaredance (or barn) Western wear is in
Bob LivingstonMiddletown, CT
On Friday, November 24, 2017, 7:56:19 PM EST, Tony Parkes tony(a)hands4.com
[trad-dance-callers] <trad-dance-callers(a)yahoogroups.com> wrote:
Michael Dyck wrote:
Quigley wrote the paper in 1992, about hearings held
A look at
suggests that little has happened on that front since then.
Some years ago, after the 1988 bill failed to pass, I heard (from several sources I
consider reliable) that the modern square dance (MSD) people had decided to take a
breather from lobbying Congress and to concentrate their efforts at the state level. When
a majority of states had passed laws naming the square dance as their state dance, the MSD
people planned to go back to Congress and say “See, the American people want this.”
I’m sorry to say that quite a few states have gone this route – “sorry” because, in a way,
having so many states with the same “official” dance is worse than having a national
dance. The state level is where diversity should manifest itself. For the most part, each
state has its own flower, tree, bird, song, food, etc. and is proud of them and their
On the bright side, MSD has undergone such a decline that its advocates may not have even
the clout they did in 1988. (Attendance at the National SD Convention used to routinely
approach and often exceed 20,000; lately it’s hovered around 3,000. Most of the clubs in
New England that existed 20-30 years ago have folded.)
To be clear, I’m fine with the existence of MSD; what annoys me is when its practitioners
refer to it as “_square_ dancing” (with a definite accent on the first word) and speak and
act as if it’s the only dance form entitled to the name. (For those of you who weren’t
active in the ’80s: The MSD people at that time spoke out of both sides of their mouths.
When traditionalists complained that “square dance” in the wording of the bill really
meant MSD, MSDers added a line to the bill saying “square dance” included “square, round,
clogging, contra, and heritage dance,” “heritage” being their made-up term for traditional
squares plus Colonial and other period dances. But outside of those lobbying efforts, many
MSDers continued fighting to exclude traditional dance forms from the public’s image of
square dancing. Bob Dalsemer, who was an esteemed traditional caller even then, spoke to
this point in his testimony against the 1988 bill.)
I take no pleasure in seeing clubs disappear, but I do feel some relief that MSD’s
influence on American culture seems to be waning.
New book! Square Dance Calling: An Old Art for a New Century
(to be published real soon)