In 1988 the State of California became the ninth state to adopt an official state dance: in fact, it designated two official dances. The west coast swing dance was named the "official dance" of the state and the square dance was named the "official folk dance" of the state.
California also became the second state, after South Carolina, to designate a dance other than the square dance as an official dance and the eighth state to bestow honor on the square dance.
The square dance is a popular type of folk dance in the United States. This dance for four couples, or groups of four couples, is performed in a compact framework of a square, each couple forming a side. Traditionally accompanied by a fiddle, accordion, banjo and guitar, the couples perform a variety of movements prompted by the patter or singing calls (instruction) of a "caller". Cooperative movement is the hallmark of well-executed square dancing.
Square dancing is to be distinguished from related dances called contra or longways dance where couples stand double file in a line and from round dances where couples stand in a circle. The origin of the square dance can be traced to English derivation and to the stately French cotillion performed in square formation that was popular at the court of Louis the fifteenth later replace by the quadrille (another square dance).
Before you proceed with the story of the designation of the California state folk dance, it might be a good idea to review this brief article about the efforts of modern western-style square dance clubs to designate the square dance the "national dance" of the Untied States of Americas. Efforts to adopt the square dance as the official state dance of each state were and are directly related to activity at the national level.
Designating an official state dance in California was not a new idea in 1988. Some years prior, an attempt to declare the square dance the official state folk dance of the state had been introduced in the Senate. The measure, however, failed to gain traction.
The road to official status for the square dance began with a proposal from Senator Quentin Kopp, San Francisco. He introduced Senate Bill No. 2460 to the 1987-1988 State Legislature recommending that west coast swing dance be named the official state dance of California.
Sen. Kopp, at the behest of state swing dance leaders, claimed that west coast swing dancing, originating in the 1930s, was the only surviving dance that was "native" to California. He further went on to say that the dance
Senate Bill No. 2460 was passed by the California Senate and forwarded to the State Assembly for consideration. It was in the Assembly that Senate Bill No. 2460 ran into some solid resistance.
Square dancers across the state, led by George and Ann Hosler and the California Square Dance Council, Inc., saw a new opportunity and set in motion a concerted effort to derail the swing dance legislation.
Square dancers and sympathetic legislators refused to let the bill proceed and re-launched a full scale push to name square dancing as the official dance of California. In the end, they were able to force an amendment to Senate Bill No. 2460 that specified that, in addition to the designation of an official state dance, west coast swing dance, the square dance would be named the official state folk dance.
The amendment was accepted as a compromise motion and Senate Bill No. 2460 was sent on to the governor for his signature.
1987-1988 Regular Session
DESIGNATION OF OFFICIAL STATE DANCE AND FOLK DANCE
( Became law without Governor's signature. Filed October 1, 1988 )
S.B. 2460, KOPP. Official state dances.
AN ACT to add Section 421.5 to the Government Code, relating to state dances.
Existing law designates an official state flower and an official state tree, among other things.
This bill would designate the West Coast Swing Dance as the official state dance.
This bill would designate Square Dance as the official state folk dance.
THE PEOPLE DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS:
SECTION 1. The Legislature finds and declares, as follows:
(a) West Coast Swing, also known as Swing, Whip, or Jitterbug, came into being in the early 1930's in response to new musical forms then sweeping the land. It was created at the grassroots level of our people. Devotees of this art come from every conceivable ethnic, religious, racial, and economic background. Age is no factor, nor is gender. Among the ranks of swing dancers, one can find Judges, School teachers, Lawyers, Waitresses, Salesmen, Doctors, Students, and so on.
West Coast Swing dancing is an intricate dance, requiring a great deal of coordination, good timing, and intelligent application. It is healthy and a joyful activity that belongs to all our people. They created it, they nurtured it, and they kept it alive.
West Coast Swing is an American dance which is done to American music. It originated in California and is danced in competition nationally and internationally.
(b) Square Dancing is an American folk dance which is called, cued, or prompted to the dancers, and includes Squares, Rounds, Clogging, Contra, Line, and heritage dances.
The Square Dance has a long and proud history. It is an exciting art form that is truly an original of our country, and has been danced continuously in California since the "Gold Rush Days."
As our state's population has grown, so has the Square Dance activity. California leads the nation with more than 200,000 residents square dancing weekly. It conforms to our ever changing lifestyles and appeals to people of all ages.
SEC. 2. Section 421.5 is added to the Government Code, to read:
421.5 (a) West Coast Swing Dance is the official state dance.
(b) The Square Dance is the official state folk dance.
Governor George Deukmejian was not at all enthusiastic about state government's participation in the designation of official this and thats. After vetoing a proposal, by a group of Blue Birds and Camp Fire Girls, to make the banana slug the official state mollusk, he allowed the square dance and west coast swing dance to become official dances of California "without his signature."
According to the California State Library:
Square Dancing is the American folk dance which is called, cued, or prompted to the dancers, and includes squares, rounds, clogging, contra, line and heritage dances. The Square Dance has a long and proud history. It is an exciting art form that is truly an original of our country, and has been danced continuously in California since the "Gold Rush Days."
As our state's population has grown, so has the square dance activity. California leads the nation with more than 200,000 residents square dancing weekly. It conforms to our ever changing lifestyles and appeals to people of all ages, races, and creeds. Class distinction is forgotten when people join together to enjoy the true fellowship of the Square Dance.
A brief description of the efforts to declare the square dance the national folk dance of the United States of America can be found here.
The following information was excerpted from the California Government Code, Title 1, Division 2, Chapter 2, Section 421.5.
TITLE 1. GENERAL
DIVISION 2. STATE SEAL, FLAG, AND EMBLEMS
CHAPTER 2. STATE FLAG AND EMBLEMS
421.5. (a) West Coast Swing Dance is the official state dance.
(b) The Square Dance is the official state folk dance.
(Added by Stats. 1988, Ch. 1645, Sec. 2.)
Alice, Matthew. "What's the Official State Dance of California?" San Diego Reader. San Diego Reader, 3 Oct. 2002. Web. 1 Feb. 2016.
Associated Press. "Deukmejian burns midnight oil to OK, veto bills". Ukiah Daily Journal [Ukiah] 2 Oct. 1988, A: 5. Web.
Associated Press. "Deukmejiam squashes slug as state mollusk". The Walla Walla Union-Bulletin [Walla Walla] 31 Aug. 1988, 6. Web.
Associated Press. "Swinging into Action." Altoona Mirror [Altoona] 21 Apr. 1988, sec. A: 3. Web.
"California Code." California State Legislature. State of California. Web. 16 Jan. 2005.
"Council History." California Square Dance Council. California Square Dance Council (CASDC), Inc. Web. 9 Feb. 2016.
"Chapter 1645, Senate Bill No. 2460." Sonny Watson's StreetSwing.com. Sonny Watson. Web. 28 Feb. 2005.
"How West Coast Swing Became the State Dance of California." Sonny Watson's StreetSwing.com. Sonny Watson. Web. 28 Feb. 2005.
Kerr, Jennifer. "California changes the rule book". Appeal-Democrat [Marysville, Yuba, Sutter] 31 Dec. 1988, D: 1. Web.
Shearer, Benjamin F. and Barbara S. State Names, Seals, Flags and Symbols: A Historical Guide Third Edition, Revised and Expanded. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 3 Sub edition, 2001.
"State Symbols." California State Library. State of California. Web. 16 Jan. 2005.
Square Dancing 101: Square dancing basic including positions, formations, moves, and a glossary.
Video Square Dance Lessons Online: Video Square Dance Lessons Online and on DVD from Cyberpoint Marketing, LLC.
A Brief History of Square and Round Dancing: by Herb Egender.
Square Dancing: The Historical Geography of an American Folk Custom: by Richard M. MacKinnon, Allan Hancock College, Santa Maria, California.
Square Dance History Project: Website devoted to the documenting the history of square dancing with historical documents and an emphasis on imagery as much as possible.
History and Heritage of Modern American Square Dancing: A summary of the essays by Dorothy Shaw, Bob Osgood and Kenny Reese.
The State Folk Dance Conspiracy: Fabricating a National Folk Dance: by Judy Mangin - Originally published in the Old-Time Herald, v.4(7) p.9-12, Spring 1995.
Square Dancing designated as "The Official National Folk Dance" - good or bad idea?: Article by John Bryant: Square Dance Article Co-Op.
National Folk Dance Effort Moves Forward: We're On Our Way Now, So Let's Make a Lot of Noise!: United Square Dancers of America National Folk Dance Committee.
The Square Dance Legislation Collection: American Folklife Center 1984/024, Compiled by Michelle Forner, Library of Congress, Washington DC, December 1994
Official website: California Square Dance Council, Inc. (CASDC).
Official website: Norther California Square Dancers Association (NCSDA).
Official website: Central California Square Dancers Association (CCSDA).
Official website: San Diego Square Dance Association (SDSDA).
State dances: Complete list of official state dances from NETSTATE.COM
More symbols & emblems: Complete list of official California state symbols from NETSTATE.COM.
Square Dance Fundamentals, John W. Jones. 208 pages. Publisher: BookSurge Publishing (February 5, 2007)
While there have been countless fun books written on square dancing, Squaredance Fundamentals was the first to cut to the chase. There is no interesting history of square dancing, there are no entertaining anecdotes, just the nuts and bolts of how to square dance. Revolutionary illustrations show the dancer’s point of view, not just the spectators’ viewpoint. Dancers can, without turning on their heads, glean from the detailed illustrations exactly what they need to be doing with their hands, feet, etc. Each dancer can effortlessly grasp the material and easily retain it. Renowned master caller/teacher, Marshall Flippo, assiduously assisted the author in establishing the very first guidelines for standardized “Basic Maneuvers” which would enable square dancers to dance gracefully with any group, anywhere.
No one shows you better how to execute the maneuvers than John W. Jones with his super simplified instructions and state-of-the-art illustrations in Squaredance Fundamentals - the gold standard for over 37 years.
The American Square Dance, by Margot Mayo. 116 pages. Publisher:Music Sales American (September 1, 2006)
You can have fun square dancing and you'll learn how to dance the figures and even learn how to call a square dance with Margot Mayo's classic manual, The American Square Dance. Here is the basic book for square dancers containing all of the essentials for many hours of enjoyment. An illustrated glossary of square dance terms shows all of the basic square dance figures – promenade, allemande left, do-si-do, etc. Complete instructions, calls and illustrated figures for 13 of the most popular American square dances appear, plus the music all ready for your pianist and fiddlers to play.
The Square Dance and Contra Dance Handbook: Calls, Dance Movements, Music, Glossary, Bibliography, Discography, and Directories, by Margot Gunzenhauser. 320 pages. Publisher: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers; annotated edition edition (July 28, 2010)
This comprehensive guide to traditional style square and contra dancing, sometimes referred to as "country dancing," covers both music and style and gives background information on various dance types and calling techniques. Ninety dances, presented in chapters according to type (mixers, progressive circles, contra, Southern mountain style, squares and others), in a wide variety of formations are described with drawings and diagrams for many of the movements. A glossary of terms, a directory of addresses (organizations; vendors of books, recordings and audio equipment; and dance camps), and an annotated discography and bibliography are also provided.
A glossary of terms, a directory of addresses (organizations; vendors of books, recordings and audio equipment; and dance camps), and an annotated discography and bibliography are also provided.
The Complete Book of Square Dancing (and Round Dancing), by Betty Casey. 208 pages. Publisher: University of North Texas Press (June 1, 2000)
This book includes: 50 basic movements, 35 advanced movements, variations, dances that are a part of the American heritage, Contra and Round Dances, polkas and reels, and calls, past and present.
“Square dancing is friendship set to music,” says author Betty Casey. Just take four couples, old or young, put ’em on a good floor, turn on the music, and you’re all set. Whether you’ve done it before or you’re just starting out, this book tells you everything you need to know—85 basic movements used all over the world, the spirited calls unique to square dancing, the costumes and equipment that are best, and music (from “Red River Valley” to “Mack the Knife”) that will set your feet in motion.
Square Dancing Made Easy, Grade level: K-6. Audio CD (September 1, 1995), Number of Discs: 1, Label: Educational Activities, Inc.
All Time Favorite Square Dances with Calls, Audio CD (September 8, 2009), Number of Discs: 1, Label: KADO, Run Time: 60 minutes.
Square Dance Music & Calls, Audio CD (November 21, 2006), Number of Discs: 1, Label: Collectables Records.
I LOVE TRADITIONAL SQUARE DANCE Black Metal Car Accessories License Plate Frame, This high quality license plate frame is made of metal, and it's the best quality item of its kind in the market. The lettering and art work are done by waterproof vinyl on the license plate frame and it will last for many years without any damage. It will not get brittle or cracked. It fits on all USA and Canada vehicles. It measures 12.5" X 6.5" and is durable to last under all weather conditions.
MY HEART BELONGS TO TRADITIONAL SQUARE DANCE, This is a high quality pre-shrunk t-shirt that will not shrink or fade. It's comfortable, casual and loose fitting and will quickly become one of your favorites. It wears and looks well on anyone. It is cured with a heat treatment process to ensure lasting durability.
Brand New High quality preshrunk tee-shirt that will not shrink or fade. Double-needle stitched hemmed sleeves and bottom. Highest quality printing materials. 50% Cotton, 50% Polyester preshrunk blend. Soft, comfortable and weighs 6 oz.
Social Dancing in America: A History and Reference (Volume One), by Ralph G. Giordano. 380 pages. Publisher: Greenwood (November 30, 2006)
Social Dancing in America examines the role of social dancing in daily life from the first settlements in 1607 through the birth of the nation in 1776 and into the beginning of the 21st century. This two-volume set provides a history of American social dances including the Virginia Reel, Square Dancing, the Lindy Hop, Rock 'n' Roll, the Twist, Disco, Breakdancing, and Hip-Hop. Social Dancing in America places social dancing in a historical, social, cultural, and political context.
Volume 1 explores the integral role that social dancing played in the lives of Americans from the first settlements in 1607 through the 19th century, often in the most unlikely of ways. For example, readers may be surprised to learn that George Washington was a well-known aficionado of social dancing, and that he incorporated the etiquette and manners of dances such as the Minuet as a means of diplomacy to secure European allies during the Revolutionary War. After his death, Americans continued to celebrate his birthday with a grand ball that included dancing.
Social Dancing in America: A History and Reference (Volume Two), by Ralph G. Giordano. 428 pages. Publisher: Greenwood (November 30, 2006)
Volume 2 places social dance in a 20th-Century context, illustrating how social dancing itself paralled the social, economic, and cultural traditions of each era. For example, segregation and the Jim Crow mentality was cemented in place all over the United States, and for much of the century, dancing and dance halls were strictly segregated. Segregation forced a mass migration north, and with it came the transformation of Delta Blues music into an American original—Jazz. Jazz gave birth to the Charleston, and later evolved into Swing, which created the Lindy Hop. Later, with the advent of television, programming such as American Bandstand, Soul Train, Dance Fever, and MTV greatly influenced dance styles and modern trends such as Rock 'n' Roll, Freestyle, Disco, Breakdancing, and Hip-Hop.