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new American square dance web resources

Desert Dancer 11 Jan 12 - 12:36 AM
Mo the caller 11 Jan 12 - 08:06 AM
Desert Dancer 12 Jan 12 - 11:30 AM
Desert Dancer 02 Oct 12 - 12:26 PM
open mike 02 Oct 12 - 01:06 PM
Desert Dancer 02 Oct 12 - 04:06 PM
AllisonA(Animaterra) 03 Oct 12 - 08:28 AM
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Subject: new American square dance web resources
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 11 Jan 12 - 12:36 AM

There are some great new resources available online about traditional American square dancing (and "modern western" as it relates to traditional), arising from a re-revival that's been building in the U.S. in the past two decades. (See this seminal article in the Old Time Herald, of Winter 1988-1989.)

I know that there are a few of us Mudcat callers (in both the U.S. and the U.K.) who are plugged into this through the "trad-dance-callers" Yahoo Group, but since Mudcat comes up well in Google searches, I thought I'd add this post to help spread the word.

First, Nils Fredland, a young contra and square dance caller (and musician and singer) who is now based in New Hampshire, has assembled a great collection of links as the CDSS Square Dance Resources web guide at the Country Dance and Song Society's web site. Included are

- What Is Square Dancing? — A friendly intro
- Styles — Overview of six major categories of American squares
- History — Links to articles and websites focused on square dance history
- Caller Resources — Advice and commentary, dance figures, reference sites
- Organizations — Proponents of square dancing in the US and Canada
- Traditional Groups — Local groups in the US that promote or host traditional squares
- Traditional Callers — Directory of traditional square dance callers
- Video & Audio — Video of events from the 1940s to today, video/audio of specific dance figures

The other items are referenced among the above, but deserve their own highlighting:

In the SquareDanceHistory channel on YouTube, the initial videos (100 to date) are examples from the "Dare To Be Square" weekend held November 2011 in Brasstown, North Carolina. (They are also duplicated at, if you want less YouTube clutter.)

This DTBS weekend (there have been other independently organized events sharing the "Dare To Be Square" name) featured five of the nation's top callers (Larry Edelman, Bill Litchman, Jim Mayo, Tony Parkes, and Phil Jamison, and Bob Dalsemer) demonstrating five different regional styles of square dance, including traditional western squares, New England squares, Appalachian squares, and modern western squares.

The Brasstown DTBS weekend and the YouTube channel are associated with the Square Dance History Project. The Project's web site is under development, with the ultimate aim of assembling "many sources of information in one well-organized digital library with a robust web portal ... . In addition to helping us appreciate our rich square dance heritage, the site will include ample resources to inspire current callers, musicians, and dancers, in order to serve the living tradition." David Millstone, another New Hampshire dance caller, who is also a videographer, is a central mover in this project.

I'm one caller/dancer/folkie-nerd who is thrilled with this development in the dance scene.

~ Becky in Long Beach

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Subject: RE: new American square dance web resources
From: Mo the caller
Date: 11 Jan 12 - 08:06 AM

Anything that spreads information about us, and enables callers to do things better is good.

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Subject: RE: new American square dance web resources
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 12 Jan 12 - 11:30 AM

I might clarify that by "traditional" American square dances, I mean the sort that are done at community dances, as opposed to "Modern Western" or "club style" dances. No sets of lessons required, no special costumes, generally done live music.

~ Becky in Long Beach

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Subject: RE: new American square dance web resources
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 02 Oct 12 - 12:26 PM

an update: the Square Dance History Project web site is now officially up and running. Here is their announcement, via CDSS:
A group of square dance enthusiasts has launched a digital library and website that takes a broad look at square dancing now as well as the historical antecedents of today's squares. Please share this news and the link with others who might be interested!

The project's primary focus is to collect good examples of moving images—more than 400 videos so far—that document square dancing in its many forms. This includes New England dosido and western docey-do, barn dances and hoedowns, stately quadrilles and rip-roarin' squares of the 1950s, as well as modern square dance programs from Mainstream to Challenge. The site also includes interviews, text, photographs, audio files, and much more.

Among the many treats awaiting you:

•        Rare footage of the Lloyd Shaw's Cheyenne Mountain Dancers, plus a black and white silent film (1955) showing square dances in Central City, Colorado
•        A set of 100 high-definition videos filmed in 2011 at the Dare To Be Square weekend at the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, NC, with six nationally-known square dance callers, and a set of 25 additional videotaped interviews.
•        More than 150 items related to MWSD [modern western square dancing], including an article by Jim Mayo looking at the early years, illustrated with live recordings from the 1940s and 1950s
•        Elizabeth Burchenal's silent footage of southern Appalachian mountain squares from the early 1930s
•        A curated assortment of more than 400 videos showing dancing from Newfoundland and Quebec to the American Southwest
•        Exhibits showcasing items in the collection, on such diverse topics as the pioneering work of Lloyd Shaw in Colorado to an in-depth look at dances from Maryland Line, Virginia

The site is a work in progress, and additional material will be added regularly to the collection. The home page offers a way to contribute additional items; the organizers are especially interested in locating home movie footage from decades past.

As part of its financial contribution, CDSS co-sponsored the Dare To Be Square weekend and provided funding for the weekend's documentation. This includes the videotaped dances plus the CD-ROM disk (syllabus and complete audio files) that is in the CDSS store. CDSS also administers the fund that supports the project; the other fiscal supporters include the Lloyd Shaw Foundation, CALLERLAB, and The ARTS (Alliance of Round, Traditional, and Square-Dance).

~ Becky in Long Beach

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Subject: RE: new American square dance web resources
From: open mike
Date: 02 Oct 12 - 01:06 PM

I have found that square dances are often danced to recorded music, in my experience. The Contra Dances always have live music, and for that reason I prefer them! I will post another thread with Contra Dance info and links! (I played in a "contra-band" for several decades!)

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Subject: RE: new American square dance web resources
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 02 Oct 12 - 04:06 PM

Laurel, these projects have grown in large part from interest in the form by folks who are also contra dancers/callers (as I am). This is about square dancing that uses live music and, like contras, is always open to beginners.

When I started dancing in the '70s, there was more of a mix of styles in an evening of dancing among the crowd who developed into today's contra dancers. In fact, in a lot of places, the evening was a "square dance", regardless of the specific content. Nowadays, great callers like Kathy Anderson, Lisa Greenleaf, Nils Fredlund (who's been involved with both projects), and others retain that mix.

The Square Dance History Project includes some examination of how modern western square dancing (MWSD) came to be, so there is some recorded music there. But I know that part of the interest of the site organizers in the topic is to learn lessons of how to keep all traditional dancing fun and accessible - something that MWSD lost, in many ways, by losing the "traditional" aspects, the live music, and requiring lessons/qualifications.

~ Becky in Long Beach

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Subject: RE: new American square dance web resources
From: AllisonA(Animaterra)
Date: 03 Oct 12 - 08:28 AM

Thanks for posting this info, Becky! In recent years I have been calling more and more family dances, then contras and now squares (and I'm also entering the seamy underworld of English Country Dance calling!) and have found the Square Dance History Project to be an invauable resource!

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