Sandy Bradley called it with all swinging: the "pushers" push people out of the
way so they can swing the "pushee's" partners. Kathy Anderson says she
always teaches it that way.
There are a whole lot of callers that grew out of Portland's square dance scene under
the guidance of the late Bill Martin. It's my suspicion that he taught it the way Jim
describes below. I think it's much more fun to steal those swings. But then again,
that's how I learned it...
From: trad-dance-callers(a)yahoogroups.com [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Sunday, January 28, 2018 4:06 PM
To: trad-dance-callers(a)yahoogroups.com List <trad-dance-callers(a)yahoogroups.com>
Subject: [trad-dance-callers] Query about "Push Pa" square dance
I have a question about the square dance "Push Pa, Shove Ma" (or
"Push Ol' Pa", "Push Your Pa", "Ma and Pa", etc.).
I've recently looked at various videos and text descriptions of the
routine, including these:
(also at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V4BHoCfdqE0
and note correction to choreography starting at 1:15)
(Starts with a break; "Push Pa" figure begins about 1:20)
(taken from _75 More Square Dances_ by Wes McVicar)
(_American Squares_, July, 1952, with earliest description
of the routine I know of on page 14)
In the videos and descriptions listed above, when "Pa" and "Ma"
get pushed into the middle, they swing each other, moving into the
empty spot in the ring, while the other six dancers simply stand in
I seem to recall doing a version with more swinging thirty years
ago or so. Specifically, IIRC, on the call "Push Pa, shove Ma,
swing the gal from Arkansas" the dancers who did the pushing would
swing the "gal (or guy) from Arkansas"--that is, Pa's (or Ma's)
*** Have any of you encountered the version just described--with
six dancers swinging instead of just two? If so, can you tell me
anything about where/when you learned it?
I don't recall the dance being in the repertoire of any of the
regular trad square callers in Pittsburgh when I lived and danced
there in the early to mid 1980s. I think I must have danced it
to some visiting caller during those days, but I can't say for
sure which one.
It's possible that the extra swinging was an embellishment that
I made up (and that others could easily have discovered as well),
but the words "swing the gal from Arkansas" seem to be addressed
to the dancers who just did the pushing, and not to "Pa" and "Ma".
The "gal (or 'girl' or 'one') from Arkansas" also shows up in
patter for the visiting couple figure "Swing (your) Ma." See, for
example, page 17 of Patrick Napier's _Kentucky Mountain Square
Dancing_, linked from
Lest anyone presume that my own faulty memory has taken a bit of
patter from that figure and erroneously attached it "Push Pa",
note I've found several instances of other callers using the
"Arkansas" line in patter for "Push Pa":
1. Michael Ismerio's notes at
include the line
Push Pa, Shove Ma, Swing that girl from Arkansas,
but don't supply a description of the intended action.
2. Chelle Terwilliger's patter in this videa
includes the words "Swing that gal from Arkansas". The editing
of the video makes it hard for me to track the action, but just
after she gives that call, I see an awful lot of people who are
3, Zach Hudson also uses the "Arkansas" patter in this video.
The camera is aimed at the caller and band, with only a few
dancers partially visible at the far right. However, as best
I can make out, the man who pushes "Pa" into the center at
0:21 does not swing with "Pa"'s erstwhile partner (in what I
take to be the #1 place), whereas the woman who pushes "Ma"
into the center at 0:34 *does* swing in (what I take to be)
the #2 spot. Note, however, that the latter point is when all
dancers have their original partners back.
The "gal from Arkansas" also occurs in some versions of patter
for "Sally Goodin" (see
for examples), but that routine seems otherwise unconnected
with "Push Pa".
I've found a couple sources for "Push Pa" that have more swinging
than the versions cited near the top of this message, in that the
ctive gent swings each of three ladies before leading them through
the opposite couple. _Alex Mulligan's Collection of Square Dance
Calls_ gives the patter
Stand behing Ma and Pa
Push them into the centre of the ring
When they meet they'll take a little swing
Same old gent with a brand new girl
First you bow, then give her a whirl
Down the center, divide the ring.
and _On the Beat with Ralph Sweet_ has a version with similar
choreography. Note that these version don't have the "swing
the gal from Aerkansas" patter. The call for the active gent
and his current partner to swing is separated from the call for
"Ma" and "Pa" to swing in the center.
I have not so far discovered any source for "Push Pa" that
gives the "gal from Arkansas" patter line and that explicitly
says the dancers who do the "pushing" are then to swing the
partners of the dancers they pushed. Do any of you know of
one (besides this message)?