Square Dance History Project
The rich story of North American square dance finally has a home in the digital age.

About the Square Dance History Project

Square dancing has been an integral part of American social life for centuries. Traditional square dance was vital for generations of Americans, especially in rural communities; in the post-World War II era, modern square dance similarly enjoyed participants numbering in the millions.

Despite its popularity, the history of square dance has not been well documented. Scores of books explain specific figures and calls, but there are few current sources that offer a detailed discussion of the development of this form of American social dance. We hope this site helps to fill that need.

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Cape Breton Caller Interviews

Jørn Borggreen is author ofRight to the Helm, a detailed study of Cape Breton square sets as observed in 14 communities. The book, now in its 4th edition, provides documentation of the figures for… View item
Sound

Cumberland Square Dance - Frank Kaltman

Editor's note: We have classified this as Northern / New England but in reality the dance is a traditional English square.Tony Parkes comments: The dance is Cumberland Square. The caller is Frank… View item
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Bill McAdoo - notes on the recordings

These are Bob Dalsemer's notes about the Bill McAdoo field recordings in the Related Item. In addition to transcriptions of McAdoo's calls, Dalsemer notes variations in the dances, describes… View item
Sound

Bill McAdoo – Independence, PA – 1979

These are recordings of caller Bill McAdoo at the Independence, PA dance in 1979. Bob Dalsemer writes, "Most are from 4/21/1979 and a few from 9/8/1979. I always thought Bill was one of the best of… View item
Website

Ed Thrall and the Story of His Most Contentious Hall

Thrall Hall in East Windsor is a lot of things. By most accounts, it's a fascinating example of vernacular or folk architecture, a 70' x 100' facility with a floor resting on tires that could be… View item
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Three Styles of Squares - 1951

This 1951 article describes a large and successful square dance festival in Chicago. View item
Website

Caller Hesse Reese - live recording, 1985

Caller, musician, and collector Larry Edelman describes this as "a 2.5 hour audio file that I recorded of Hesse Reese, an auctioneer and square dance caller at an evening square dance on October 11,… View item
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Revival of American Square and Country Dancing - 1949

This article documents the change on American dance floors in Michigan state in the late 1940s, where, in the author's words, "croonersare replaced bycallers." She cites the work of Grace Ryan in… View item
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Jack Arehart's calling booklet

Esther and Jack Arehart were the proprietors of Arehart's 1000 Acres, a "Ranch Resort" (aka Dude Ranch) in the Adirondacks region of northern New York state. The resort ("famous… View item
Still Image

Vermont square dancers, 1950s - children

This collection of photographs from the 1950s shows children dancing, mostly at the large square dance festivals held in Northfield or Montpelier, Vermont. View item
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Lloyd Shaw Christmas Letter

Lloyd and Dorothy Shaw sent out a post-Christmas letter to members of their "Square Dance Fellowship," participants in the summer institutes and others whom they met. The poetic language… View item
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George & Betty Greene - dance history

This two-page summary was prepared by Betty Greene, wife of St. Louis dance organizer George Greene. In it she outlines the couple's ten-year dance history, and mentions some of the many… View item