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.
This is a two-part lengthy interview conducted and recorded by Bob Nisbet with Hilton and Stella Kelly. First Parthttps://youtu.be/jZdsYz2TspMSecond parthttps://youtu.be/4Cud_VlbyLI View item
Hilton Kelly, of Fleischmanns, New York, was a Catskills fiddler and square dance caller. He started playing in 1932, at age 5, and started calling in 1937. By the time he was 15, he had a regular… View item
Nell Boucher is the archivist at the Mohonk Mountain House, a classic resort near the Catskills, about 90 miles north of New York City. She responded to a request for more information about these… View item
This is the sheet music for the song recorded by Carolina Cotton and Fenton "Jonesy" Jones. The dance begins with a "Rebel Yell" and is supposed to be played "Brightly, with Hill Billy swing." The… View item
The song by Irving Berlin comes from Call Me Madam, a 1950 production. The plot of the musical is, according to a London review, "nonsensical fluff," concerning a Washington society matron appointed… View item
This account from the early 1950s describes the Vermont Country Dance Festival, an annual event that drew some 6,000 participants. Daytime events focused on school groups, with adults-- 800 coiuples… View item
Jim Kimball is a well-known historian who focuses on the music and dance traditions of upstate New York. The James W. Kimball Traditional Music and Dance in New York State Collection is a curated… View item
This is a record with music of the right length for producing radio spots. See the related item for three examples. View item
These are three radio ads that promote "modern American square dance." Each features a different well-known caller at the time:
They were created… View item
from the website of the Sgt. Alvin C. York State Historical Park "I was born August 24, 1894, in Fentress County on the Three Forks of the Wolf. Alvin York was our next door neighbor. His daddy was a… View item
Three photos of Catskills square dance caller George Van Kleeck. The third one was taken at the Catskills Folk Festival, c. 1941.
For more information about Camp Woodland, see this site. The… View item
Today, it's easy to think of Al Brundage and Pete Seeger as inhabiting two different world, Brundage the popular caller of modern square dances and Seeger the singer and banjo player associated with… View item