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).
The square dance was adopted as the official square dance of the State of Oregon through the extraordinary efforts of modern western-style dance clubs. To better understand how the square dance became a symbol of the State of Oregon, we think it's important to see a larger picture that began at a national level.
Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 8 was the direct result of lobbying by the Oregon Federation of Square and Round Dance Clubs. The measure was sponsored by Senator Blaine Whipple of Beaverton.
Lobbying, or promotional, activity to encourage state legislators to support Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 8 was coordinated by Ed and Mary Warmoth, publicity chairmen of the Oregon Federation of Square and Round Dance Clubs. Club members participated in committee hearings in the Senate and in the Oregon House of Representatives. They organized square dance demonstrations in the capitol rotunda. Legislators were swamped with supportive letters and petitions from all corners of the state. The club mailed their newsletter, Oregon Federation News, to all legislators and even provided a special taped square dance call to be used by Senator Whipple when he presented the measure to the legislators for a vote.
Senate State and Federal Affairs Committee Chairman E.D. Potts claimed that he recieved more mail, petitions and contacts than "I've worked on in my 18 years at the legislature."
On July 1, 1977 the Oregon State Legislature approved Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 8 making the square dance, the state's official state dance.
Oregon became the first state to adopt an official state dance.
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 Oregon’s heritage; the lively spirit of the dance exemplifies the friendly, free nature and enthusiasm that are a part of the Oregon Character.
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 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.
TITLE 19 - MISCELLANEOUS MATTERS RELATED TO GOVERNMENT AND PUBLIC AFFAIRS.
Chapter 186. State Emblems; State Boundary.
Square dance declared to be official dance, SCR (1977)
Associated Press. "Panel Eyes State Dance." Walla Walla Union-Bulletin [Walla Walla] 11 May 1877: 6. NewsPaperArchive.com. Web. 22 Jan. 2016.
"Oregon Revised Statutes." Oregon State Legislature. The State of Oregon. Web. 24 Oct. 2004.
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." Oregon Blue Book. Oregon State Archives. Web. 27 Feb. 2005.
Warmoth, Ed, and Mary Warmoth. "Official Dance of Oregon." American Square Dance 1977: 69. Digital Collections. University of New Hampshire Library. Web. 22 Jan. 2016.
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: Oregon Federation of Square and Round Dance Clubs.
State dances: Complete list of official state dances from NETSTATE.COM
More symbols & emblems: Complete list of official Oregon 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. 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, 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: 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.
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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.