History And Origins Of The Modern Square Dance
America was born out of thirteen colonies and transformed into a nation of 50 states. Americans lived in small isolated communities in the seventeenth century through the nineteenth century. As new immigrants came to America, they stayed in the original colonies or moved west with other settlers. Pioneer communities moved west with people of comparable ethic backgrounds. The ethic country-dances of our ancestors migrated west with the settlers. Forget the effective forms of communication and travel that we know today. These early pioneers were secluded from the rest of the original 13 colonies because of remoteness and lack of modern communication apparatus. Over time, pioneer communities and their styles of country-dance deteriorated into a watered down adaptation of the original. This watered down trend extended to the original colonies too.
By the early part of the 20th century, the basic dance forms in America were rapidly dying out. The traditional Contra, Quadrille, Polka, Schottische, Square Dance, and two step Waltz were mangled dance forms that America had practically given up on at this time in history. There was no formal system in place for instructors to educate the American public in the correct style of dancing. Over time, the above forms of dance from Europe slowly disintegrated in American society to the point of almost disappearing.
A revival of the traditional Square Dance began with two prominent men in the beginning of the 20th century. Henry Ford, the founder of the Ford Motor Company and Doctor Lloyd 'Pappy' Shaw, superintendent of Broadmoor District's Cheyenne Mountain School on the outskirts of Colorado Springs, Colorado. The evolution of the traditional square dance into the Modern Square Dance began with these two men. They refined other forms of traditional dance into the Modern Square Dance style.
Henry and Clara Ford loved to dance! They often vacationed at the Wayside Inn in Sudbury, Massachusetts where they met master dance instructor Benjamin Lovett. Henry Ford requested that Mr. Lovett return to Dearborn, Michigan under Ford's employment to teach dance. Floyd countered that he was contractually bound to the Wayside Inn. Ford bought the Wayside Inn and Mr. Lovett's contract, which left Lovett's argument moot.
Ford and Lovett returned to Dearborn, Michigan with their families where Lovett trained numerous others in the correct form of old time dance. Henry Ford was one of the wealthiest men in America and had considerable political influence in America at this time in history. Ford and Lovett saw eye to eye on dance as a means to teach America society to be polite, have fun, and instill manners all at the same time. In 1926, Ford and Lovett produced a book, 'Good Morning After a Sleep of Twenty-Five Years, Old Fashioned Dancing is being revived by Mr. and Mrs. Henry Ford'. The book described old style dances in content and quality that the majority of Americans forgot.
Under the influence of Henry Ford, the Dearborn Ford Company had 22,000 students learning dance. The Detroit school system and the New York public school systems instituted country-dance in its school curriculum under Ford's influence. Ford also exerted his influence in colleges at Temple, Michigan, Radcliffe, Stevens, and North Carolina to include country-dance in their curriculum. Overall, Ford had 34 universities, colleges, and schools institute country-dance in their school curriculums.
Lloyd 'Pappy' Shaw read 'Good Morning' and burned with excitement, but he realized that Henry Ford and Benjamin Lovett had only one-half of the country-dance stories. Shaw mastered international folk dance under the instruction of Elizabeth Burchenal and became a committed lifetime dancer, researcher, and instructor. Lloyd Shaw became a pilgrim in the west, where he went from one small town or community to another to listen and record their dances in his notebooks. His conversations with local dancers and their dance leaders gave Lloyd the other half of the story of country-dance.
Lloyd Shaw published 'Cowboy Dances' in 1939; from his many notes and conversations with people throughout the west. Lloyd taught summer classes for instructors in the complete American folk dance for many years thereafter. Shaw trained teams of dancers from his school system and traveled throughout America with his exhibition teams to show case this revised art form and teach it to others. Through Lloyd Shaw's work, new centers of modern square dance sprang up throughout America.
Time moves forward and we now have automobiles, microphones, telephones, radio, and television. A square dance caller stood by each square, in the past, to be heard by the dancers. In this new era, a square dance caller uses a microphone and speakers to communicate with the audience of modern square dancers.
Through Shaw's work, many new modern square dance callers came into being. The competition and creativity of the new callers created new issues for modern square dancers. They would master a new call or series of moves from one caller, but would dance to many callers who created their own new call as well. The proliferation of new calls created confusion for modern square dancers.
New square dance calls needed an authoritative source to master the confusion for modern square dancers. Bob Osgood introduced CALLERLAB in 1971 to 11 hall of fame callers. Their initial goals were 'to put the dance back into square dancing, establish standardization for calls, and provide adequate training for callers'. In 1974, CALLERLAB held their first convention. In 1975, CALLERLAB became the authoritative source for their list of modern square dance mainstream calls. They are now the authoritative source throughout the world for all levels of modern square dance calls.
Author: Jody Starling
Date: February 12, 2012
Copyright in affect on the above article
Caller Jim Mayo as recorded at Dare To Be Square, Brasstown, NC, November 19, 2011
- Country Dance and Song Society (CDSS)
- European Association of American Square Dance Clubs
- Judy's Home Page
- Lloyd Shaw Foundation
- Square Dance Foundation of New England, Inc.
- Al Brundage (History of Square Dancing)
- Written by: Johnny Wedge
- Posted: 10/1/2010
- Dixie Squares Florida