Almost every year at the CALLERLAB convention, late at night, Clark Baker can be persuaded to do a few Grand Square variations. I check his list of articles to see if he’d written anything about these, but didn’t see anything (hint, hint).
However, I came across another variation (for 16 dancers) on a contra callers blog, dance callers’ journal. Basically, it involves totally filling in the 16-matrix of a squared set:
Everybody does a regular grand square, following the rules (go toward your opposite/partner if you can, back up if you’re close to your opposite/partner, turn 90 degrees to face into the set). All four sides of each quadrant are occupied all the time.
It should be doable by reasonably competent MWSD dancers (if they’re willing to take a full 32 counts to do the figure). In one of the comments, Martha (the author) says, “Now I want to try it with my Western Squares club.” Earllier in the comment, she mentions her square dancing friend Aaron. She lives in St. Louis…could it be she dances with the Gateway Squares and knows old queen fabulous caller Aaron Wells?
Marshall Flippo comes to Albuquerque once a year to call a dance; he’s been doing that ever since I can remember…and many years before that.
Here’s a nice article about Marshall, and, because Marshall’s career spans virtually all of MWSD, some aspects of the history of square dancing: Square dance superstar. It was written for an Abilene newspaper in November 2008.
I have a hard time believing that Marshall has recorded over 1000 singing call records. Jerry Junck says he put out a new record every two months for years; if he did that for all the 60 years he’s been calling, that would be 360 records. Vic Ceder’s record database lists 175 recordings by Marshall.
A thousand or three hundred…that’s still a heck of a lot of singers.
One of the things I admire about Marshall is that he always seems to have something new for his dances, both musically and choreographically. Another is his ability to show everyone a good time, regardless of their dance level and ability.
We’ll keep bringing Marshall into Albuquerque as long as he’s able to get here!
The rhymes shouted out by the caller at ordinary square dances, attended by respectable women, are innocent enough. Otho Pratt, who was raised on Horse Creek near Galena, Mo., said that ‘right at the end of a dance, when most of the decent people had went home, the caller used to get kind of dirty sometimes.’ Every old time caller knows some really ribald calls, which are used at unconventional froics in the backwoods.
Here’s one that may provide an interesting take on calls like Acey Deucey and Relay the Deucey:
Cheat your partner, swing Miss Lucy
Up with her petticoat, out with your ducey
I guess they’re part of our square dancing history…not that you’ll hear about them at CALLLERLAB…
As soon as we’d got the hang of the basic steps, the music picked up and so did the dancing. The fact that I had no idea what I was supposed to be doing didn’t seem to matter and I soon found myself being whirled from cowboy to cowboy in a complicated tangle of “do-si-dos” and “promenades”. It was all wildly exciting, and judging by the sheen of sweat covering my hide, pretty good exercise too. “I’m having so much fun!” I squawked, catching sight of Caroline as I was swung into the air by one of the more enthusiastic participants.
I’d heard from friends about Cut A Shine’s Valentine’s barn dance back in February, when it was packed to the rafters with cool, fun, up-for-it singletons. They told me that spinning around energetically with strangers was a brilliant way to meet new people — and had the dates to prove it.
Veterans who knew the moves were quick to help the inept (Dolly had the patience of a saint with me). “Yee-haw!” could be heard all across the room. The sense of exuberant camaraderie was mighty refreshing: jumping into a dance few of you know is a fab ice-breaker.
To my joy, a strapping young man in cowboy boots and open shirt, complete with manly chest hair, grabbed me by the hand.
“Come on!” he winked, “I need a partner for this one.” It was like a Western romcom. We introduced
ourselves to another group and began a frantic team effort to “strip the willow”. The final chord signalled a round of high-fives among this group of former strangers, and my new friend Andy and I went to the bar.
So, square dancing (barn dancing) provides a structured way for young people to meet each other and interact. What a surprise!
Tomorrow, at least 5073 dancers in 113 organizations representing 60 unique dance styles will dance down Broadway and through Manhattan in the 3rd annual New York Dance Parade. There’s samba, salsa, ballet, Bulgarian, modern, circus streetdance, pole dancing (!!!), ecstatic, ballroom, belly; even our contra dancing cousins are joining in. But no square dancers.
Dance Parade Inc is a 501(c)(3) organization whose mission is:
to promote dance as an expressive and unifying art form by showcasing all forms of dance, educating the general public about the opportunities to experience dance, and celebrating diversity of dance in New York City by sponsoring a yearly city-wide dance parade and dance festival.
They want to honor Dance’s historical roots, unite in respecting Dance’s diversity, support grasss-roots organizations, legitlmize Dance as a communicative, social form of expression, and invoke joy and brotherhood.
Maybe square dancers would look silly among all the myriad ethnic and current urban dance styles. On the other hand, if paired with the contra dancers (dance styles are together, in roughly historical order), it could be an interesting juxtaposition to show you can do a traditional dance style to modern music. And if square dancers aren’t there, and virtually every other social dance form is, what does that say about square dancing?
Check out the Seattle Subversive Square Dance Society, aka S4. I wonder how they find houses big enough for more than one square and with space for musicians as well. But I like the idea of converging to dance at spontaneous locations.
So, of course, I wonder-wheeled square dance, and then extended from there to square dance caller and then to “square dance caller lab”. Here are the (somewhat bizarre) results:
Who the heck is Matt McGovern, and why is his page directly linked to CALLERLAB? At least he’s a caller and he’s young…in fact, a teenager. But I couldn’t find anything on his site related to CALLERLAB…it doesn’t even say he’s a member. It would be interesting to know why Google links the things it does.
Another interesting view is the Timeline. Here’s one for the search “square dance”:
Notice the peaks in the early fifties and the late seventies.
OTTAWA, Friday, Oct. 12– Princess Elizabeth escaped last night from the long crinoline skirts and tiaras of state dinners and slipped into something comfortable. She put on a peasant blouse and dirndl skirt and the Duke of Edinburgh climbed into blue jeans and a wild shirt for an evening of square dancing at usually dignified Government House.
Notice that the queen could take off her crinolines and put on a (presumably more comfortable) dirndl skirt.
Here’s the timeline view for “contra dance”:
And here’s an expansion for 2000-2009:
Looks like it might have peaked around 2005-2006, and it might be trending down now, but it’s hard to say.
I guess I’m a real sucker for joyful group dancing in public places. Even though the dancing in this video is choreographed, it looks like a spontaneous outburst of dancing in a Belgium train station. And I love watching the spectators. I wonder whether they did something to prevent random bystanders from joining in…I’ll bet some people wanted to.