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American Folk Dance of Missouri

Square Dance

Adoption of the American Folk Dance of Missouri

Modern western square dance clubs across the country have collaborated to have the square dance declared the state dance in all fifty states. They have also been active in efforts to make the square dance the national folk dance. There is some controversy over their efforts, which can be read about in the "Additional Information" section below.

House Bill No. 98, proposing the square dance as the American folk dance of Missouri, was prefiled by State Representative Bill Luetkenhaus on December 15, 1994.

On March 15, 1995, the bill was approved by the House and forwarded to the Missouri Senate for consideration.

In April, action was taken in the Senate Committee on Conservation, Parks & Tourism to combine bills to name the American folk dance of Missouri (House Bill No. 98) and an official state animal (House Bill No. 84). This substitute bill was approved in committee, then by the full Senate on May 9, 1995.

The House agreed to this substitution on May 10, 1995.

The final bill was printed, signed by the Speaker of the House and the Senate President Pro Tem and forwarded to the Governor on May 18, 1995.

On May 31, 1995 the legislation was signed by Governor Mel Carnahan and the square dance became the official American folk dance of Missouri and the Missouri mule was declared the official state animal of Missouri.

About the American Folk Dance of Missouri

Square dance graphic

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).

Missouri Revised Statutes

The following information is excerpted from the Missouri Revised Statutes, Title II, Chapter 10, Section 10.120.

    (L. 1995 H.B. 84 & 98)

Additional Information

A Brief History of Square and Round Dancing: by Herb Egender.

Square Dancing: The Historical Geography of an American Folk Custom: Richard M. MacKinnon, Allan Hancock College, Santa Maria, California.

English and French Influence on Square Dancing: By Don Ward and John Brant.

Square Dance History in the U.S.: from the Mid-Atlantic Challenge Organization.

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.

National Folk Dance Effort On Hold: 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

Source: Missouri General Assembly, (, February 25, 2005


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