Square Dance History

Square dancing is an American institution and dates back to the 17th century when the first settlers moved from Europe to New England. The immigrants brought their national dances such as schottische, the quadrille, jigs and reels and as the nationalities mixed so did the dances. As the dances got more complicated it became increasingly difficult for the average person to remember all of the moves and the more able, extrovert, dancers took the lead and were able to prompt the other dancers. These extroverts were also able to learn the dances of other communities and call them to their own group. Many of them developed their own routines for four couples and American Square Dancing was born.

As the communities spread southwards and westwards so did square dancing but as the population became urbanised the influence of people from other continents had an effect on fashion, music and dances. This development caused square dancing to only be popular in certain regions and, as there was no central body controlling the development of the dances, the differences in the regions eventually meant that dancers from one region could not dance in other regions.

In the 1930's Henry Ford became interested in the revival of square dancing and his efforts motivated other individuals to modernise the activity so that it would appeal to a wide range of people. Square dance groups began to spring up all over America and by the late 1940's people, who had rediscovered it, were determined to retain it and share it with others. Square dancing had regained its old appeal in a modern setting, initially spreading all over America but soon being exported to other countries, such as England, Germany and Australia, as Americans traveled with their work etc.

Square dancing is now very well organised and new moves are added every year to try to retain everyone's interest and to develop the activity. There are different levels of dancing, Basic and Mainstream are the starting levels while Plus, Advanced and Challenge are for those who want to further their dancing repertoire.