Anybody remember the 1996 Smithsonian Magazine article on square dancing? I’ll bet a lot of us have copies floating around. Here’s an abstract; too bad the Smithsonian won’t just put back issues on line.
“Roll up the rugs,” more than a call to let the entertainment begin, was literally the way dance space was created for at-home square dancing. Furniture was moved outdoors or into corners to make ample room for the two or more squares of dancers inside. At home dances were one of the many ways neighbors opened their doors to each other, drawing people together to play, socialize, and exchange information. Such informal music gatherings remain the places where old time, country, and bluegrass traditions are active. The square dancing that has ebbed since the 1950s, some feel, is undergoing a resurgence. In communities as demographically diverse as Columbia, site of the state University, to Ellsinore, population 362, in the southern reaches of the Ozarks, multigenerational groups come together on a frequent basis to dance to the music of live fiddlers and family bands. Square dance is being relearned as people in their twenties and thirties turn to the elder generation, former practitioners of these skills, to learn the calls, dance sets, and tunes that used to be done in these communities.