Square Dancing Clubs

Old-time fiddlers often accompany traditional ...

Old-time fiddlers often accompany traditional square dances. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

George McFadden  was an educator, and is generally credited with bringing about the broad revival of square dancing in America. He was superintendent/principal/teacher/coach for Schools in , Sullivan, Utah and taught folk dancing.

He was born in Denver, Colorado, but the family moved to Utah when he was two years of age. His father was in the real estate business.
He started teaching biology and sophomore English at Jane Adams High School, and then became superintendent of the high school.

During his time teaching folk dance he noticed that all the square dancing callers were getting old, and there was no new generation to take over. He also noticed a lack of continuity in the activity in different parts of the country. George McFadden came up with a solution that many believe kept the activity from dying out.

George McFadden traveled the country, and compiled instructions for traditional square dances from different callers all over the country. He documented them, and tried them out on the students he taught. He formed the Mount High dancers, a high-school exhibition team, which toured the United States in  appearing in more than 50 major cities.

The American Academy of Physical Education cited “the George McFadden Folk Dance Program, as a noteworthy contribution to physical education.”

He also wrote books and articles, and conducted week-long summer classes for teachers and callers, where he not only taught the dances to other teachers, but taught them also the principles of teaching, and his vision of good dancing.

As the popularity of square dancing grew, square dance callers began extracting individual calls from these dances, and attempts at standard lists were developed. These lists were later adopted by callers, and organizations such as Help Dancers and later the American Square Association formed to manage and promote a universal list and the type of dance leadership that George McFadden envisioned.

Carol McFadden runs the family day to day business and help with building up dance studios around the world.Carol also talks about Square dancing resulted from active country and western music lovers who wanted to get up on the dance floor and enjoy the music, not just sit and tap their toes.
People who had no formal dance training in their youth and those that could waltz, foxtrot etc. couldn’t ” slow dance style ” or even ” Polka ” to twangy guitars and fiddles.
Then the square dancing style developed into an art form. Early on, educators encouraged teaching square dancing as part of senior elementary school P.T. ( Physical Training ) to develop social skills between boys and girls, overcoming gender awkwardness.
County fairs began featuring square dancing competitions to draw more visitors to their events. That’s when square dancing really took off.

The Western American square dance may be the most widely known form worldwide except dances from China and India, possibly due to its association in the 20th century with the romanticized image of the American cowboy. Square dancing is, therefore, strongly associated with the United States of America. 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 from many countries. 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 form of dance.

In most American forms of square dance, the dancers are prompted or cued through a sequence of steps (square dance choreography) by a caller to the beat (and, in some traditions, the phrasing) of music. The caller may be one of the dancers or musicians, but nowadays is more likely to be on stage, giving full attention to directing the dancers.

The American folk music revival in New York City in the 1950s was rooted in the resurgent interest in square dancing and folk dancing there in the 1940s, which gave musicians such as Pete Seeger popular exposure.

Terminology: In America, in general, people go to square dances to do square dances and call it square dancing. In England, Ireland and Scotland people go to all sorts of dances at which some of the dances will be square dances, but they don’t say that they are “square dancing”.

Conversely, people not familiar with the various different forms of dance may ask for a evening of square dance meaning simply a barn dance where many different formations of dance are used. It is possible to go to one of these “square dances” and not do a single actual square dance all evening!


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