Square Dance - History and More

The name "square dance" comes from the formation of eight people, two on each side of a square. The dance movements performed by all the dancers are prompted by a Caller. It is to be noted that Round Dancing and Ballroom Dancing are performed as individual couples, whereas Square Dancing is performed by all the eight people in a square responding to the "call".

Square dancing traces its ancestry to many early English and French dances, including reels, quadrille and contra dances. In the United States, folk dancing evolved into the New England Country Dance, which eventually became the Eastern Square Dance, and the Appalachian Mountain Dance, which became the Western Square Dance. Henry Ford was an avid square and round dancer and built a dance hall for his employees. Ford, together with Benjamin Lovett, published the book "Good Morning" in 1926 that popularized these dances. The book "Cowboy Dances" by Lloyd Shaw in 1939 was the definitive work on Western Square dancing. Shaw traveled all over the United States documenting the dances he saw. The first large square dance was the Diamond Jubilee in Santa Monica, California, in 1950. At this event 15,200 dancers participated and there were more than 35,000 spectators. Today national square dance conventions draw dancers from every state and many countries.

Square dancing began its current form in the 1950s. The basic movement "square thru" was introduced in 1955. The international organization of callers named Callerlab was formed in 1971 to facilitate exchange of square dance information and standardize square dance steps. Today square dancing is performed to a wide variety of music styles, including oldies, country, western, pop, rock, gospel, and even Christmas music.

There are several "levels" of square dancing which reflect different degrees of expertise. Beginning lessons are at the Basic and Mainstream levels, with successive levels at the Plus, Advanced, and Challenge levels. Mainstream and Plus are danced worldwide. Wherever you go in the world (Japan, Germany, Italy, Canada, Sweden, etc.), the dance steps are the same as in the United States and the calls are in English.

Square dancing is often called "friendship set to music". Square dancers are a family unto themselves. Wherever you go in the world, a square dance club will welcome you as family.

A "Yellow Rock" is a hug in square dancing.