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Tennessee State Folk Dance

Square Dance   Adopted: April 23, 1980
Tennessee state folk dance
Tennessee State Folk Dance: Square Dance
Tennessee state folk dance
Saturday Night Square Dancing (1942)

Adoption of the square dance as the official state folk dance of Tennessee does not appear to have had an easy ride.

The bill, House Bill No. 1620, introduced on January 10, 1980 in the Tennessee House of Representatives by Rep. Bill Covington of Nashville, originally proposed that the square dance be designated Tennessee's official state dance.

When the Tennessee Association of Dance and the Nashville Ballet Association distributed letters opposing the legislation on the grounds that it improperly singled out one form of dance, above others, to represent the state, it looked like the bill was dead.

An amendment to the legislation may have taken some of the sting out of the opposition of the two dance associations. The amendment called for naming the square dance, Tennessee's official "folk dance" rather than its official "dance."

This change did not sit well with black legislators, however, describing it as discriminatory toward forms of African-American folk dance. A proposed amendment to name the square dance the official "chicken folk dance" failed.

Despite opposition in the Tennessee House of Representatives, the bill did finally pass, on March 24, 1980, with a vote of 77-9.

Further, legislation won approval in the Senate and a signature, in April 1980, from Governor Lamar Alexander.

Passage was undoubtedly supported by the scheduling of the National Square Dance Convention slated for Memphis at the end of June, 1980. It was suggested that this convention could bring in 23,000 visitors and their dollars.



By Covington, Bragg
Substituted for: Senate Bill NO. 1889
By Cutrer

AN ACT to designate the Square Dance as the official state dance.

WHEREAS, throughout Tennessee's two centuries of growth and development, the forces of time have left few vestiges that reflect accurately the personality and culture of our ancestore; and

WHEREAS, among the traditions that have survived intact is the Square Dance, a uniquely attractive art form that remains a vibrant and entertaining part of Tennessee folklore; and

WHEREAS, it is fitting that we acknowledge the role of the Square Dance, both in the past and present culture of Tennessee; now, therefore


SECTION 1. The Square Dance is hereby designated as the official state folk dance.

SECTION 2. This Act shall take effect on July 1, 1980, the public welfare requiring it.

PASSED: April 17, 1980



APPROVED: April 23, 1980


According to the Tennessee Blue Book:

Chapter 829 of the Public Acts of 1980 designated the square dance as the official state folk dance stating, “Among the traditions (of our ancestors) that have survived intact is the Square Dance, a uniquely attractive art form that remains a vibrant and entertaining part of Tennessee folklore.”

("Tennessee Blue Book")

Tennessee state dance
Traditional Square Dance Musicians

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).

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.


Associasted Press. "Square Dance Leads List In Tennessee." Indiana Evening Gazette 24 Mar. 1980: 34. Web.

Associasted Press. "Tenn. House Votes Square Dance State Folk Dance." The Sun [Lowell] 25 Mar. 1980: 34. Web.

"Folk Dance." Tennessee Blue Book. State of Tennessee. Web. 26 Feb. 2005.

Moore, Phillip. "Round the World of Square Dancing." Square Dancing Dec. 1980: 21. Print.

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.

"Tennessee Code Annotated, Section 4-1-312 State Folk Dance." Tennessee General Assembly. LexisNexis®, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.. Web. 26 Feb. 2005.

Additional Information

Tennessee state folk dance
Tennessee State Folk Dance: Square Dance
Posters and Photographs

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.

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: Tennessee State Association of Square and Round Dance Clubs, Inc. (TSASRDC)

State dances: Complete list of official state dances from NETSTATE.COM

More symbols & emblems: Complete list of official Tennessee state symbols from NETSTATE.COM.

Square Dance Fundamentals
Square Dance Fundamentals
John W. Jones

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. Renown 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
The American
Square Dance

Margot Mayo

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, allemand, 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
The Square Dance and
Contra Dance Handbook

Margot Gunzenhauser

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)
The Complete Book
of Square Dancing
(and Round Dancing)

Betty Casey

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
Square Dancing
Made Easy

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
All Time Favorite
Square Dances

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
Square Dance Music
& Calls

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
Black Metal
License Plate Frame

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.

  • Heavy Duty High Quality Metal License Plate Frame.
  • Perfect Gift idea And Easy Installation.
  • Rust, Corrode And Fade Free For Many Years.
  • Fits all US and Canada License Plates.
Traditional Square
Dance T-Shirt

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)

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)

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.