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American Folk Dance of the State of New Jersey

Square Dance

Adoption of the American Folk Dance of the State of New Jersey

The web site of The Square Dance Council of New Jersey lists their purpose:

"The Square Dance Council of New Jersey was founded in 1983 to preserve and promote the square dance activity throughout the State and surrounding areas. The Council is interested in all forms of the square dance activity; present membership consists of organizations primarily associated with modern square dance (also known as modern western square dance) and round dance activities.

With the support of The Square Dance Council of New Jersey, the following Joint Resolution was proposed in the New Jersey Legislature. Joint Resolution No. 1 of 1983 reads:

Joint Resolution No. 1 was approved on January 19, 1983.

Modern western square dance clubs across the country have collaborated to have the Square Dance declared the state folk 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.

About the American Folk Dance of the State of New Jersey

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).

New Jersey General Statutes

Because it was approved by Joint Resolution rather than an Act of the New Jersey Legislature, the square dance is not documented in the New Jersey Statutes as the American folk dance of the State of New Jersey.

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 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

Source: New Jersey State Web Site, (, February 26, 2005
Source: The Square Dance Council of New Jersey, (, February 26, 2005


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