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If this isn't square dancing, what is it?

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Jun 22, 2019 - 11:33:46 PM
1106 posts since 7/26/2015

I learned to call square dances with a similar structure to the dances in these books. A friend into contras who had danced some four-couple squares told me something like "That's not square dancing." If it's not square dancing, what is it? The old folks in my region have referred to the Southern Big Set style as "square dancing" for decades.

Edited by - soppinthegravy on 06/22/2019 23:36:21

Jun 23, 2019 - 5:33:03 AM
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cepitch

USA

9 posts since 12/19/2009

I played fiddle for square dances for over 15 years. I think your friend may be misinformed.

Jun 23, 2019 - 6:38:28 AM
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2305 posts since 9/13/2009

For many folks Squares are strictly 4 couples in form of a "square" - all the figures involve just those within your square.

Big circle sets; are not in form of a square, but often using many of the same 2 couple figures from squares; but then progress to meet new couple. 

Jun 23, 2019 - 9:14:05 AM
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gapbob

USA

593 posts since 4/20/2008

I did not read through the links you posted, but there is a different style of square in Contraland (Northern Square dancing), where it is timed to the music and only works with four couples. Southern squares are more of the visiting couple types, where having eight people dancing is not essential to the dance, nor is the timing linked to the tune as much.

It has always seemed prudent to me to try to have dances used where the most people can dance, so if a square dance can accommodate five, six, or seven couples, that is pretty fine (if you have 8, do two squares).

Lots of folks are unable to stretch beyond their limited exposure to accept other experiences and realities.

It would be interesting to have more than a "that isn't square dancing" in the explanation of what is different than what your friend expected in square dancing.

I have called squares, contras, and English country dances on and off over the last 32 years.

Edited by - gapbob on 06/23/2019 09:19:55

Jun 23, 2019 - 9:26:50 PM
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1106 posts since 7/26/2015

Right. How in the blazes do I make beginners understand the visiting aspect of the dances? Odds move on to the next even on your right. Don't stay with the same circle all night. Hey. That rhymes. :)
Here's a video of me. I don't always sing the calls. That usually only happens if I'm feeling pretty happy about the dance. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IJFxOctc-b0 

 

Edited by - soppinthegravy on 06/23/2019 21:33:13

Jun 24, 2019 - 5:28:20 AM

DougD

USA

9133 posts since 12/2/2007
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Thanks for the links, Daniel. I hadn't seen those.
We include the Carcassonne, KY monthly dance as part of the "Seedtime on the Cumberland" festival in Whitesburg, which was two weeks ago. A good crowd had fun dancing the style you described. They call it a "square dance," but what do they know compared to someone "into contras?" I usually just ignore people like that, unless we're in New Hampshire or Massachusetts, where they belong.
As far as describing the differences in the styles of squares I thought Mr. Lunsford did a prety good job. Maybe you could take some hints from him.

Edited by - DougD on 06/24/2019 05:31:39

Jun 24, 2019 - 5:30:18 AM

1106 posts since 7/26/2015

 
 
Well, I think she is used to the type that Alaska described where they stay in the same square.
quote:

It would be interesting to have more than a "that isn't square dancing" in the explanation of what is different than what your friend expected in square dancing.

 


Jun 24, 2019 - 9:15:23 AM
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4134 posts since 9/26/2008

It is one of the many dances that make up what we call around here, a barn dance. We do long line dances (contras), circle dances (Sicilian circle?), 4 couple squares, broom dances, and on a rare occasion one of these visiting couple squares.

Jun 24, 2019 - 6:27:31 PM

1106 posts since 7/26/2015

I wonder why visiting-couple squares are dying out. Yeah, there's an Old-Time music and square dance revival going on, but Middle Tennessee styles appear to be on the back burner.
quote:
Originally posted by ChickenMan

It is one of the many dances that make up what we call around here, a barn dance. We do long line dances (contras), circle dances (Sicilian circle?), 4 couple squares, broom dances, and on a rare occasion one of these visiting couple squares.


Jun 24, 2019 - 7:08:58 PM
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DougD

USA

9133 posts since 12/2/2007
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I think its because contra dancing has swept over the land like kudzu, McDonald's or Walmart. Its hip - I don't think many of those dancerx would cross the street for a "square" dance.
Just from my experience - I moved to East Tennessee in 1978 from upstate NY, where we played for mostly four couple dances, from small town schools to hippie communes. Our local fire hall had dances combining squares and "round dancing" - I mean just freeform modern couple dancing. When I go to the square dance history site I see a picture of Floyd Woodhull, who was still playing for dances occasionally in our county, although the big days of those dance halls were long gone.
When I moved here we could dance once a month in Carter county, to the music of the Roan Mountain Hilltoppers or the Corklickers, with Robert Dotson leading the kinds of dances you describe. Robert even buit a little building across from his house for dance parties, with one room for dancing and another as a kitchen. There were several stoves, with ham, green beans, potatoes, other greens, corn bread and biscuits brought by the dancers. An affectionate tribute to Robert: youtu.be/k7Cyd3-3EYg
That's long gone now. Other than a few places like the Carter Fold, the main dances are contras like the "Historic Jonesborough Dance Society" - so named for the town's antiquity, not because of any connection with previous dancing. It was started by someone who'd been to a contradance somewhere, liked it, and thought it would be neat to have one in the area. I don't think he knows anything about the dance traditions in the area, and probably doesn't really care. It's like most other contra dances, and many of the musicians come from the vibrant musical scene in Asheville. At intermission they have Klondike bars instead of green beans and fat meat, but they think its very cool.
So on the one hand, we still have people getting together to socialize and dance to live music (often inventive and quite good in its way) but a local tradition has more or less completely disappeared. Oh well!

Edited by - DougD on 06/24/2019 19:16:01

Jun 25, 2019 - 4:18:02 AM

1106 posts since 7/26/2015

That's the stuff. I'd say we probably see eye to eye on a lot. I suppose I'm a bit of a misfit in the dance revival, because I want to revive the music and dances the old folks in my area grew up with rather than make new neo-traditional stuff for the kids. Also, while most nowadays want to attract a young, hip crowd and don't care if the old folks show up, I'm the opposite. I want to get the old dancers back into it and don't care if the hip crowd shows up. LOL
quote:
Originally posted by DougD

I think its because contra dancing has swept over the land like kudzu, McDonald's or Walmart. Its hip - I don't think many of those dancerx would cross the street for a "square" dance.
Just from my experience - I moved to East Tennessee in 1978 from upstate NY, where we played for mostly four couple dances, from small town schools to hippie communes. Our local fire hall had dances combining squares and "round dancing" - I mean just freeform modern couple dancing. When I go to the square dance history site I see a picture of Floyd Woodhull, who was still playing for dances occasionally in our county, although the big days of those dance halls were long gone.
When I moved here we could dance once a month in Carter county, to the music of the Roan Mountain Hilltoppers or the Corklickers, with Robert Dotson leading the kinds of dances you describe. Robert even buit a little building across from his house for dance parties, with one room for dancing and another as a kitchen. There were several stoves, with ham, green beans, potatoes, other greens, corn bread and biscuits brought by the dancers. An affectionate tribute to Robert: youtu.be/k7Cyd3-3EYg
That's long gone now. Other than a few places like the Carter Fold, the main dances are contras like the "Historic Jonesborough Dance Society" - so named for the town's antiquity, not because of any connection with previous dancing. It was started by someone who'd been to a contradance somewhere, liked it, and thought it would be neat to have one in the area. I don't think he knows anything about the dance traditions in the area, and probably doesn't really care. It's like most other contra dances, and many of the musicians come from the vibrant musical scene in Asheville. At intermission they have Klondike bars instead of green beans and fat meat, but they think its very cool.
So on the one hand, we still have people getting together to socialize and dance to live music (often inventive and quite good in its way) but a local tradition has more or less completely disappeared. Oh well!


Jun 25, 2019 - 6:27:19 AM
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2305 posts since 9/13/2009

quote:
Originally posted by soppinthegravy
I wonder why visiting-couple squares are dying out. Yeah, there's an Old-Time music and square dance revival going on, but Middle Tennessee styles appear to be on the back burner.

We mostly do regular squares (4 couple), but those includes visiting couple.

Probably kept to 4 couple, often involve break figures involve 4 couples, This might be influence of Western squares. 

Callers often do loose floor visiting couple they call mixers; a couple promenades randomly and just finds another couple, circles 4... does some figure with other couple... then promenades finds another... might be different figure. Sometimes morph into bigger group or big circle.

That said, in our local dance community, like other places; squares have become an issue... there "some" dancers are very vocal that just don't like squares, whine/complain; and really like modern urban contras (and the music that goes with it); and have been putting pressure on callers. 

The appeals for contras is they are the exact same repeated AABB phrased figures... at some point no longer need pay attention to call, or to think about figures... can just melt into the dance and flow. Squares have to pay attention, think. 

Jun 25, 2019 - 12:38:59 PM

1106 posts since 7/26/2015

Interesting. How do the couples visit in your regular squares? I usually only have 4 couples on the floor. I wish there were more.
quote:
Originally posted by alaskafiddler
quote:
Originally posted by soppinthegravy
I wonder why visiting-couple squares are dying out. Yeah, there's an Old-Time music and square dance revival going on, but Middle Tennessee styles appear to be on the back burner.

We mostly do regular squares (4 couple), but those includes visiting couple.

Probably kept to 4 couple, often involve break figures involve 4 couples, This might be influence of Western squares. 

Callers often do loose floor visiting couple they call mixers; a couple promenades randomly and just finds another couple, circles 4... does some figure with other couple... then promenades finds another... might be different figure. Sometimes morph into bigger group or big circle.

That said, in our local dance community, like other places; squares have become an issue... there "some" dancers are very vocal that just don't like squares, whine/complain; and really like modern urban contras (and the music that goes with it); and have been putting pressure on callers. 

The appeals for contras is they are the exact same repeated AABB phrased figures... at some point no longer need pay attention to call, or to think about figures... can just melt into the dance and flow. Squares have to pay attention, think. 


Jun 25, 2019 - 4:15:10 PM
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2305 posts since 9/13/2009

quote:
Originally posted by soppinthegravy
Interesting. How do the couples visit in your regular squares? I usually only have 4 couples on the floor. I wish there were more.

 


in each square; couple 1 moves to right; does figure  with couple  2; then to 3, then to 4.  Get back home and swing and/or has breaks/chorus between; with all 4 couples.  Same progression.... with couple 2 going to couple 3, 4 and 1... and so on.

Edited by - alaskafiddler on 06/25/2019 16:17:15

Jun 26, 2019 - 12:01:04 AM

1106 posts since 7/26/2015

Ok, that makes sense. What do 3 and 4 do while 1 is dancing with 2?
quote:
Originally posted by alaskafiddler
quote:
Originally posted by soppinthegravy
Interesting. How do the couples visit in your regular squares? I usually only have 4 couples on the floor. I wish there were more.

 


in each square; couple 1 moves to right; does figure  with couple  2; then to 3, then to 4.  Get back home and swing and/or has breaks/chorus between; with all 4 couples.  Same progression.... with couple 2 going to couple 3, 4 and 1... and so on.


Jun 26, 2019 - 5:05:20 AM

4134 posts since 9/26/2008

quote:
Originally posted by soppinthegravy
Ok, that makes sense. What do 3 and 4 do while 1 is dancing with 2?
quote:
Originally posted by alaskafiddler
quote:
Originally posted by soppinthegravy
Interesting. How do the couples visit in your regular squares? I usually only have 4 couples on the floor. I wish there were more.

 


in each square; couple 1 moves to right; does figure  with couple  2; then to 3, then to 4.  Get back home and swing and/or has breaks/chorus between; with all 4 couples.  Same progression.... with couple 2 going to couple 3, 4 and 1... and so on.


 


To use a phrase from those manuals you linked, they mark time. 

Jun 26, 2019 - 5:50:15 PM
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2305 posts since 9/13/2009

quote:
Originally posted by soppinthegravy
Ok, that makes sense. What do 3 and 4 do while 1 is dancing with 2?

Group social dancing  - Inactive couples participate by watching the active couple(s) in their group take turn doing/leading some figure. 

It's a group social thing. All in the dance together.

Yes, marking time while watching is also part of the group participation; simple moving in place to the beat - swaying, bouncing, rocking... perhaps clapping. 

Jun 26, 2019 - 7:53:42 PM

4134 posts since 9/26/2008

Clapping can go both ways. Lately, the groups I've been playing for (a lot of overlap with folks who travel to all of the regional dances) have gotten really good at clapping in time. Thank God. :-)

Jun 26, 2019 - 10:14:12 PM

1106 posts since 7/26/2015

In my neck of the woods, they do this:  https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=ebF5Rh1HT5Y There are some who just mark time. The best ones play the tune with their feet. At Clifftop, they call it flatfooting. Bascom Lamar Lunsford said "The dancing is knocking out the tune all the way through the square dance."  
quote:
Originally posted by alaskafiddler
quote:
Originally posted by soppinthegravy
Ok, that makes sense. What do 3 and 4 do while 1 is dancing with 2?

Group social dancing  - Inactive couples participate by watching the active couple(s) in their group take turn doing/leading some figure. 

It's a group social thing. All in the dance together.

Yes, marking time while watching is also part of the group participation; simple moving in place to the beat - swaying, bouncing, rocking... perhaps clapping. 

 


Jul 14, 2019 - 8:25:31 PM

1106 posts since 7/26/2015

Hey, alaskafiddler. You said "The appeals for contras is they are the exact same repeated AABB phrased figures... at some point no longer need pay attention to call, or to think about figures... can just melt into the dance and flow. Squares have to pay attention, think." How does this compare to a contra in terms of having to think?

Let's say the dance is "Right Hands Across and Left Hands Back".

Couple up four. Right hands across and left hands back. Swing your corner lady. Now, swing your honey baby, and on you go to the next couple. Couple up four. Right hands across and left hands back. Swing your corner lady. Now, swing your honey baby, and on you go to the next couple, ... etc.,

The format is the same with all of them. I just call one figure all the way around. It's kind of a fill-in-the-blank thing. You could replace "Right Hands Across and Left Hands Back" with pretty much anything. A contra aficionado said my "circle dances" were too simple. Thoughts?

Edited by - soppinthegravy on 07/14/2019 20:27:51

Jul 15, 2019 - 5:58:29 AM
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carlb

USA

2135 posts since 2/2/2008

Now this is square dancing on one of the best floors ever built (now expanded to 24 x 80 feet); three hours each night; no teaching, just listen to the calls; all ages; also a class in Square Dance 101 for the very young. There is also the square dance trail, during the year, where there can be some teaching before each dance. Let's square dance.

https://www.wvstatefolkfestival.com/square-dance
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bm0TQxTSGm8
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YliCzYb0zAE
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3L75HPWqpgk

https://mountaindancetrail.org/dance-schedule/

Jul 15, 2019 - 10:23:41 AM

1106 posts since 7/26/2015

I'm glad to know that's still going on. I wish there were more festivals like the one in Glenville.
quote:
Originally posted by carlb

Now this is square dancing on one of the best floors ever built (now expanded to 24 x 80 feet); three hours each night; no teaching, just listen to the calls; all ages; also a class in Square Dance 101 for the very young. There is also the square dance trail, during the year, where there can be some teaching before each dance. Let's square dance.

https://www.wvstatefolkfestival.com/square-dance
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bm0TQxTSGm8
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YliCzYb0zAE
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3L75HPWqpgk

https://mountaindancetrail.org/dance-schedule/


Jul 16, 2019 - 4:22:46 AM
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DougD

USA

9133 posts since 12/2/2007
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alaskafiddler said "at some point no longer need pay attention to call, or to think about figures... can just melt into the dance and flow." I've seen this but never really thought about it.
For quite a few years I did sound for the Christmas Country Dance School at Berea College. This featured really top notch musicians and callers and an evening dance with a full gym of dedicated dancers. I still remember one contra set where everything just clicked. The caller dropped out and the dance flowed on with just the music, almost like a trance. At the end there was a moment of silence, a collective exhalation, and then huge applause. Everyone knew it had been somrthing special. We also had traditional squares, and I saw plenty of enthusiasm and enjoyment, but never anything quite like that.

Jul 16, 2019 - 7:19:44 AM
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4134 posts since 9/26/2008

And that, Doug is the appeal of the contra.

Jul 16, 2019 - 7:31:03 AM

DougD

USA

9133 posts since 12/2/2007
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Yes I know - that's just what alaskafiddler was saying. I was only providing an example.

Jul 18, 2019 - 3:51:46 PM

2305 posts since 9/13/2009

quote:
Originally posted by soppinthegravy

Hey, alaskafiddler. You said "The appeals for contras is they are the exact same repeated AABB phrased figures... at some point no longer need pay attention to call, or to think about figures... can just melt into the dance and flow. Squares have to pay attention, think." How does this compare to a contra in terms of having to think?

Let's say the dance is "Right Hands Across and Left Hands Back".

Couple up four. Right hands across and left hands back. Swing your corner lady. Now, swing your honey baby, and on you go to the next couple. Couple up four. Right hands across and left hands back. Swing your corner lady. Now, swing your honey baby, and on you go to the next couple, ... etc.,

The format is the same with all of them. I just call one figure all the way around. It's kind of a fill-in-the-blank thing. You could replace "Right Hands Across and Left Hands Back" with pretty much anything. A contra aficionado said my "circle dances" were too simple. Thoughts?


Not sure what you are asking. My comment was about typical difference between that and non-AABB phrased dances, like squares. If dances that repeat same 64 beat AABB phrased figures it doesn't matter if it's in a circle or contra lines. 

A contra aficionado said my "circle dances" were too simple. Thoughts?

I agree your call is pretty simple... not much movement or flow, especially for experienced contra dancers. Might want to check your math, doesn't seem to fit AABB. Seems just simple 8 beat move and  then a lot of looong swings. 

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