Show Menu

Browse Exhibits : 13

3rd National Square Dance Convention 1954

The 3rd National Square Dance Convention in 1954 was held April 8–10 in Dallas. Through the generosity of Dean Clamons we have a collection of very high quality tape recordings of the calling at that event. The tapes were in a set that belonged to his father, Eric Clamons, who at that time was a caller in Minnesota. The complete set is now part of the collection of the Library of Traditional Music and Dance at the University of New Hampshire.

The tapes let us hear several of the callers who were most involved at that time and went on to take an active part in the development of modern square dancing. These are of particular interest historically not only because of the callers but also because they provide insight into what was being called at that time and how it sounded in the delivery of these callers.

Also included in this small exhibit is the program from the Convention plus a listing from the program book of some of the callers registered for the event.


Jerry Helt - Texas Whirlwind

Bob Osgood - Chain Three Ladies

Ed Gilmore - My Little Girl

Harper Smith - Hand Turn Hash with Allemande Breaks

“Doc” Alumbaugh - Dip and Dive and Right Lady High, Left Lady Low

Bill Shymkus - Goal Post

, , , , , , , , ,


Based on a popular song from 1957, this singing square has been a crowd pleased for more than 50 years. It was recorded in two versions by Marshall Flippo, and in New England it's well known through the calling of Ralph Sweet and younger callers. This exhibit provides background information on the song and the various versions of the dance, including audio clips of Flippo's two recordings and video footage of the dance being called on three occasions by Ralph Sweet, Tony Parkes, and Nils Fredland.

, , ,

Dare To Be Square Weekend 2011, Brasstown, NC

The November 18-20, 2011 Dare To Be Square Weekend at the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, NC featured six nationally known callers: Bob Dalsemer, Larry Edelman, Phil Jamison, Bill Litchman, Jim Mayo, and Tony Parkes representing a wide range of traditional and modern square dance styles.

The weekend was co-sponsored by The Country Dance and Song Society (CDSS) and was documented on video by David Millstone and John-Michael Seng-Wheeler. This exhibit gathers together the video footage of the dances. You can download a spreadsheet listing all the dances, callers, and programs.

You will also enjoy a related exhibit containing interviews with the callers, a total of 25 additional videos.

In addition to these materials, CDSS published a detailed syllabus of the weekend, as well as more than 10 hours of audio (more than 150 mp3 files), all contained on one disk. This item is available for sale at the CDSS Store.

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Dare To Be Square Weekend 2011, Brasstown, NC - caller interviews

This exhibit contains interviews with the six square dance callers on staff at the Dare To Be Square dance weekend held November 18–20, 2011, at the John C Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, NC. Interviews for each caller are collected on one page. 

Note: After selecting and viewing an interview, use the BACK button in your browser to return to the list showing other interviews of the same caller.

After viewing any element of this exhibit you can return to this Summary, or use page number navigation.  Even numbers are the bios, odd numbers the video lists.

, , , , , , , , ,

Honest John

This short exhibit looks at one particular square dance that originated in the upper Connecticut River Valley of New Hampshire and Vermont. It includes comments by Ralph Page, who wrote about the dance on several occasions. Also included is video footage of the dance being called by Adam Boyce at a public dance sponsored by the Ed Larkin Dancers, a performance group in north central Vermont that maintain dance traditions going back into the late 19th century.

, , , , ,

Lloyd Shaw

Dr. Lloyd "Pappy" Shaw was one of the most influential figures in square dance history. Educator (high school teacher, principal, and superintendent of schools), researcher, author, caller, teacher of callers, and promoter of square dance—through the travels of his young Cheyenne Mountain Dancers, his Cowboy Dances book, and his subsequent callers' classes, Shaw sparked a nationwide revival of interest in square dance. In the years immediately after World War II, square dancing boomed as a social activity, and hundreds of would-be dance leaders from across North America flocked to Colorado Springs to study with him.

, ,

MWSD calling - changes over five decades

The Square Dance Foundation of New England has a collection of live recordings of dances by four callers in each of five decades. This collection of tips from those tapes provides an interesting illustration of the changes that have taken place in the activity since 1950 which, most agree, is when MWSD began to take on a different form than its traditional sibling. Our first exhibit here looks at the changing choreography used by caller Red Bates.

In the beginning callers used memorized routines repeated, usually four times, followed by singing calls that were presented with the same choreography with which they were originally recorded. The tempo was fast, as can be heard in many other audio clips on this web site. As new calls were created, they were included in both the patter and singing part of the tips. The patter calling departed from set routines as the “hash” style gained popularity. By the time the CALLERLAB call lists were established in the late 1970’s the repetition of routines in patter calls was going away. Callers were creating the dance as they called it.

It is possible that the tempo change that we see in the later years was a recognition of the aging of the dancers but it may also have been an attempt to make the dancing smoother in spite of the much larger call vocabulary and dance complexity.

MWSD Calling Styles - matching voice to music

As modern square dancing developed in the middle of the 20th Century one of its characteristics was the increased use of music in the delivery of the call. As Tony Parkes points out in his short history of singing calls on this site, singing calls had been introduced in traditional square dancing before World War II. While traditional squares relied on live music, modern square dancing (MWSD) made much wider use of recorded music and the availability of music grew rapidly.

The musical taste and ability of MWSD callers varied substantially and the musicality of the callers’ use of their voice also varied. This collection of short clips of calling by a substantial group of early MWSD callers illustrates many different ways of matching the voice with the music in both patter and singing calls. Rather that using commercial releases, the audio clips in this exhibit are taken from live recordings.

, ,

Santa Monica 1950 - World's Largest Square Dance

On July 13, 1950, Santa Monica, California, celebrated its Diamond Jubilee with a gigantic square dance. More than 15,000 dancers were kept moving by more than three dozen callers while upwards of 30,000 eager spectators watched. This exhibit includes newsreel footage of the event, articles in square dance journals, interviews with Bob Osgood and Dan Allen, and an audio clip from Cal Golden, one of the callers. It was the largest square dance event that had ever happened at that time.

, , ,

Square Dance Magazines

Among the most useful resources for understanding square dance history are the many square dance magazines published, some for a national readership others for regional, state, or local audiences. In the last two decades, increasing numbers of such publications have been digitized and made available online. The first part of this exhibit highlights complete sets of four important publications with a national audience, plus a regional one. Gardner Patton played a key role here, digitizing Sets in Order, American Squares, and Grand Square, while Cal Campbell is responsible for digitizing The American Dance Circle. The staff of Special Collections at the University of New Hampshire digitized Northern Squares.

The second part of the exhibit is a collection of square dance magazines and newsletters from the late 1940s through the 1960s. Some are samples of publications aimed at a national audience by well-known callers such as Ralph Page, Les Gotcher, and Herb Greggerson. Others serve a more regional or a state audience while still others focus on a much smaller area. Of course, the size of a publication's geographical area does not necessarily indicate the number of activities it describes; look at "Local Square" from San Diego or "Square Dance ~ Where?" from northern California to see just how many clubs and activities were in those areas. For this section, many thanks go to Stig Malmo—Danish dancer, caller, and collector—for the many hours spent scanning these items and for his willingness to share these examples.

Individual items may take a while to load. Please be patient.


Square Dancing at the Maryland Line Fire Hall, 1970's

This exhibit features an article from Country Dance and Song magazine, audio files and video all relating to square dancing in a rural town (Maryland Line, MD) in the 1970's. For caller Bob Dalsemer, the Maryland Line square dances were his introduction to old time traditional square dancing and inspired him to seek out other such dances in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina and South Carolina.

, , ,

West Virginia Squares

This exhibit looks at square dance traditions in the Mountain State. West Virginia is small, but conrains rich square dance traditions. Elkins, WV, in the center of the state, home of Davis and Elkins College and also the Augusta Heritage Center, lies near the dividing line: to the east, communities have long traditions of dancing southern Appalachian big circle dances, while to the west it's four-couple squares.

, , , , , ,

Women Callers - modern square dance

Jim Mayo

This exhibit is a work in progress. While we have many links to examples of women calling on this web site, we know of several others that we hope to add to the collection. As they become available we will add them and provide the links that will make the connections.

There have been women calling square dances for a very long time. They were not abundant in the formative years of the modern square dance movement but several were well known and played important roles. The patter style of delivery focused attention on voice quality and many dancers felt that the higher pitch of most women's voices did not make for comfortable listening in that style.

In spite of that, there were a few widely recognized and highly regarded woman callers in the early years of modern square dancing (MWSD). They were not usually as widely traveled as their male counterparts but often, in their own areas, were very popular. In 1984 Sets In Order magazine published an article written, probably, by the editor, Bob Osgood, discussing some of the unique concerns that women callers face.

In addition to those mentioned in this article, this site has videos of other women callers. These can be found with a search by name. Among them are: Judy Ryder, Susan Kevra, Kathy Anderson, Carrie Masters, Jean Alve, Caroline Oakley, Sandy Bradley and Lori Morin.