The nationwide popularity of square dancing is once

                  again on the increase as a pleasant hobby, and as a social media

                  for both individuals and couples to enjoy a common interest.

                  With this popularity, there is astonishingly little information

                  available that connects current dance activities with past

                  practices and the origin of some of the fundamental movements.

                  We often think of square dancing as a uniquely American form of

                  folk dance. While it is true that in the United States this is

                  a particularly popular form of recreational dance, and that

                  specifically traditional customs have been developed, i.e., a

                  caller sing-songing dance figures to music, with the dancers

                  obeying his cues as commands, it is also true that the square

                  dance formation has a long history in other parts of the world.

                                Training of young men for military service in ancient

                  Greece, included drill actions performed in the square forma-

                  tion and following the commands of a drill master. The square

                  symbol was considered by many of the ancient religious orders

                  to have fertility significance and, therefore, was included

                  in many of the ritual and folk dances. However, it is more

                  probable that the line and square formation provided a better

                  measure of precision in executing specific movements, and

                  also easier for the dancers to guage their movements.

                               Square dancing or dancing in a square was highlighted

                  in the French court ballet, earty in the eighteenth century.

                  At that time the dances were called “Quadrilles”. As the

                  name implies, these are precision “dril1” type dances, per-

                  formed by couples in a “quadrangular” formation. A “prompter”,

                  or “caller” as he is known today, was used to provide the cues

                  essential to maintaining a flowing pattern of steps executed

                  with perfect timing. The dance steps were fixed and memorized

                  by the dancers,.and were carefully taught by the dance masters

                  to be smooth, flowing and decorously performed. Continuously

                  flowing patterns, that were graceful to perform and enjoyable

                  to watch from an elevated position, distinguished the masters

                  from the teachers.

                                  Quadrilles were originally divided into five parts,

                 each with the characteristic steps and music, and four brief

                  intermissions, each just long enough to catch one’s breath

                  and perhaps flirt a little. An evenings program included

                  from six to ten of these five part quadrilles. Many of the

                  quadrilles were characterized by specific music or melodies

                  often borrowed from operatic or other classical sources. In

                  many instances, the music defined the dance and the sequence

                  of steps, a characteristic of traditional folk dances. To

                  provide an element of challenge or variety in an evening’s


                  dancing, the specific dance patterns and combinations of step

                  movements were left to the promptet’s discretion and his

                  judgment of the capabilities of the dancers on the floor.

                      Many of the good prompters could go a full, evening without

         repeating a particular pattern of basic calls.

                           The music used for the original quadrilles allowed

         two counts, or steps, to each measure, and eight measures

         for each dance figure. The tempo ranged between what is

         known today as the two-step and the polka. Four and sixteen

         measures for a figure were less often used, and generally

         reserved for the more experienced dancers or professional.

         troupes. All of the music carried a distinct rhythm, and

         it was difficult to keep from tapping out the beat provided.

         Through the years there were many variations to the original.

         quadriles. With the introduction of the different round

         dances like the waltz, the polka, the mazurkas and the

         schottische, the quadrilles took on some of the round dance

         figures and adopted some of the associated styling.

                           The quadrilles so fascinated everyone who watched

         them, that their acceptance was immediate and their popularity

         spread like ice cream at a child’s birthday party. These

         dances quickly spread across the channel, and after becoming

         well established in the British Isles, they found their way

         to America • With basic changes in the French government, as

         a result of the French Revolution, the formation and rapid

         growth of the United States, and the industrial growth of the

         major world countries, only the basic or plain quadrilles

         remained. The “Contras” or Longways dances are an offspring

         from the square dance, developed to utilize the same basic

         dance steps, but allow more couples to dance in a given floor


                           As the United States grew, many of the French and

         English dance masters migrated to gain or regain their fortunes.

         However, the ruggedness of the new country and its people

        offered the dance masters little opportunity to teach fancy

         ballroom dancing. Quite a few joined traveling theatrical

         troupes that wandered about the country. As a sideline, these

         men gave dancing instructions as the opportunities presented

         themselves. Others became farmers, shopkeepers and traders,

         and teaching dance figures was more for entertainment than

         for any monetary return.

                           In the large cities, like Boston, New York and Phila-

         delphia, the fancy ballroom dancing in all of its grandeur

         was retained. However, as the years passed, the traditional

         quadrilles were replaced by the minuets and mazurkas, later

         by the polkas, schottische and the waltz, on into the foxtrot,

         rhumba, tango and cha-cha, etc. In the urban areas, the old-

         time dances were seldom seen, save for a few scattered clubs

         and societies which kept up their practice.

                           The old-time dancing, primarily square dancing, has

         remained a popular social outlet in many rural sections through

         out the country. In church halls, barns and fire-houses the

         weekly square dances, usually held on a Saturday night, was

         the time for the whole family to drive many miles to get

         together with their friends and neighbors to gossip and have

         fun. With the advent of radio and television, the presence

         of children has dropped off noticeably. However, an evening

         of dancing with liquid refreshments to maintain the energy

         level, followed by a coffee, cake and gossip period to wind

         up the evening is still the way-of-life. At many of these

         affairs, long tables are set up after the dancing, and large

         platters of sandwiches, cakes and cookies with gallons of

         cof fee and coke are served to facilitate the gossip talk.

                           Most of the couples attending the rural dances, not

         having any formal dancing instructions, danced their own

         versions of quadrilles, which, doing away with the French

         terms, they called square dances. They replaced the prompters

         by “callers” who were not professionals, but the ‘man next door’

         who had a strong yet pleasing voice. The local callers, them-

         selves not having any formal dancing instructions, lead the

         dancers to the tune of a lone fiddle or accordion player,

         commanding specific figures to be danced. The music was

         generally the tunes popular at that time and had a distinct

         cadence rhythm. To make up for deficiencies in the music,

         and to lighten the drill type tenor of the dancing, the caller

         would keep up a continuous patter as the dance went on.

         Frequently, he would interrupt his patter to poke fun at some-

         one on the floor.

                           The square dances of New England and some of the souther

         states differ in several respects from the square dances of the

         southwestern and western states. In many instances the dances

         bear the same title, the calls are similar, and the same basic

         step patterns and figures are used. The primary differences lie

         in the style of performance and in the manner in which the calls

         for the various steps and figures are given. These differences

         are attributed to regional influences. The New England square

         dance retains the quiet, smooth and somewhat uniform style of

         performance which characterizes the English country quadrilles.

         This style also reflects the reserved and conservative temper-

         ment associated with individuals in the particular section of

         the country. The calls are generally short, simple and concise

         to the minimum degree necessary to acquaint the dancers with

         what movements they are to perform.

                           The southwestern and western square dances, on the

         other hand, are vigorous and hardy in style, permitting a

         great deal of movement on the part of individual dancers.

         This style is considered by many to reflect the rugged individual.

         which characterized the pioneers who settled this section of the

         country. Today the dances are divided into two main types, patter

         or hash and the singing calls. In the patter calls, the caller

         acquaints the dancer with the specific movements to be followed,

         and fills in the call, itself with a “patter” of words which

         usually rhyme, following the music almost count for count

         with relatively few pauses interspersed throughout the dance.

         Ingenious callers often make up their own “patter” or “hash”

         thus injecting a great deal. of humor and many colloquial

         expressions into the calls themselves. Hash calling generally

         does not follow any repeating pattern of steps, although the

         caller may have established a specific sequence of steps in

         advance to provide a smooth flowing choreography to the dance.

         Singing calls have an element of repeating dance patterns,

         generally formulated by the caller. The singing call dances

         are a bridge between the vigorous patter or hash dances and

         the reserve New England style dances.

                Along with American styling of these square dances,

         any names of specific dance steps and figures were Americanized

         or changed. “Alemande” is a French dance term adapted from

         the German hand holding type dancing, but the callers said

         it in an American pronunciation. The callers did the same

         with “chassez” (foot—chasing) which became “sashay” and “dos-

         a-dos” (back to back) which he pronounced “do-si-do”. Names

         were changed to facilitate directing the dancers and to f it

         the sing-song patter of the caller.

                          Simplifying the dancing from the well organized

         quadrilles with their many intricate flowing figures to the

         free style of the American version, but retaining the funda-

         mental steps provided the commonality that allowed callers

         and couples to be guests at dances in other parts of the

         country. Many of the tunes popular fifty to one hundred years

         ago, like Golden Slippers, Captain Jinks, Arkansas Traveler,

         Red River Valley and many others, with their catchy toe-tapping

         rhythm added to this commonality.

                          The plain “Eastern style square dances were popular

         on Long Island through the 1940’s, During the 1950’s square

         dancing gained tremendously in popularity, and at the same

         time created a big demand for callers. In this area, the new

         callers, in general, leaned toward the western style dancing,

         and the dancers as a whole favored this style since it added

         both more life and challenge to the dance. The calls described

        herein are those used at western club-level. dances in~the

         metropolitan area.