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The Oregon State Dance

Square Dance

Adoption of the Oregon State Dance

Earlier than most states and departing from the standard "Folk Dance" or "American Folk Dance" designations, the Oregon Legislature adopted the square dance as Oregon's official dance. This was accomplished by Senate Concurrent Resolution in 1997.

Oregon also defines square dancing in more accurate terms than other states. According to the Oregon Blue Book:

"In 1977 the legislature declared the Square Dance to be the official state dance. The dance is a combination of various steps and figures danced with four couples grouped in a square. The pioneer origins of the dance and the characteristic dress are deemed to reflect Oregonís heritage; the lively spirit of the dance exemplifies the friendly, free nature and enthusiasm that are a part of the Oregon Character."

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 Official Oregon State Dance

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).

Oregon Revised Statutes

The following information is excerpted from the Oregon Revised Statutes, Title 19, Chapter 186. Though the state dance is referenced in the Statutes, it was adopted as a Concurrent Resolution and not as an Act of the Oregon State Legislature resulting in a documented law.


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: Oregon Revised Statutes, (http://www.leg.state.or.us/ors/ors_info.html), February 26, 2005
Source: Oregon Blue Book, (http://bluebook.state.or.us/), February 26, 2005


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