Square dance

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Square dance is a folk dance with four couples (eight dancers) arranged in a square, with one couple on each side, beginning with Couple 1 facing away from the music and going counter-clockwise until getting to Couple 4. Couples 1 and 3 are known as the head couples, while Couples 2 and 4 are the side couples. Each dance begins and ends each sequence with "sets-in-order" in the square formation. The dance was first described in 17th century England but was also quite common in France and throughout Europe and bears a marked similarity to Scottish Country Dancing. It has become associated with the United States of America due to its historic development in that country. Nineteen US states have designated it as their official state dance.

The various square dance movements are based on the steps and figures used in traditional folk dances and social dances of the various people who migrated to the USA. Some of these traditional dances include Morris dance, English Country Dance, Caledonians and the quadrille. Square dancing is enjoyed by people around the world, and people around the world are involved in the continuing development of this dance. Square dancers are prompted or cued through a sequence of steps (square dance choreography) by a square dance caller to the beat of music. The caller leads, but usually does not participate in the dance.

Contents

Two main types of square dancing

There are two broad categories of square dance:

  • Traditional square dance, which is also called "old time square dance". Traditional square dance is not standardized and can be subdivided into regional styles. The New England and Appalachian styles have been particularly well documented; both have survived to the present time. There are several other styles; some have survived or been revived in recent years, some have not. Traditional square dance is frequently presented in alternation with contra dances or with some form of freestyle couple dancing. One ancestor of New England style square dances is the quadrille, and older New England callers occasionally refer to their squares as “quadrilles.”
  • Modern Western square dance, which is also called "Western square dance", "contemporary Western square dance", or "modern American square dance". The basis of modern Western square dance was established during the 1930s and 1940s by Lloyd Shaw, who solicited definitions from callers across the country in order to preserve traditional American folk dance. Since the 1970s modern Western square dance has been promoted and standardized by Callerlab, the "International Association of Square Dance Callers". Modern Western square dance is sometimes presented in alternation with round dances.

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