An Online Guide to Square Dancing

Everyone loves to get up and shake-a-leg every now and then. From the age of toddlers to the age of grandparents, dancing brings about pleasure and entertainment. It not only entertains the audiences, it brings about gratification for the performers as well. Dancing is enjoyed all across the globe and it is a major highlight and function in societies and communities of the human race.

One dance in particular that bears its roots in the United States is that of square dancing. Square dancing began as immigrants came to this country, bringing with them their customs and traditions, which included song and dance of their native homelands. For instance, people from the Appalachian Mountains introduced to Western society, mountain dances. Settlers from Great Britain who migrated to the United States bought with them country dances called Contras and Reels. There were mixed dances, marches and couple dancing; all introduced into mainstream societies in America as American Folk Dance.

American Folk dance is a mixture of dance steps involving style, timing and form as dancers moved to the beat of music while they danced in a circle, square or in a line formation. Another great distinction of square dancing is the fact that with this style of country dance, which is sometimes called the cowboy dance or the clodhopper; the music and dancing are accompanied by a “caller”. This person always announces to the dancers the dance moves, telling them which direction to go and what moves to make so that all the dancers are moving in unity and doing the same steps at the same time. Here is a sample of what you might hear a caller say at a square dance.

Ace of Diamonds, Jack of Spades,
Meet your partner & all promenade.


Grab that filly and give her a spin
Twice around with your haunches in.

History of Square Dancing

Square dancing actually started during the 17th century. During this era, dancers were doing such things as the Morris Dance and the Quadrille, which are more of the traditional square dance style. Traditional style of square dancing is most often accompanied by an acoustic band. When you hear this type of music, the tone and beat are usually jigs and country music that make the dancers shake-a-leg.

It was the French who created the Quadrille, and to this very day, the word is that the Quadrille is the grandfather of modern square dancing today. You might think that square dancing is outdated and not popular, but you will be surprised to find out just how popular and fast this old style of folk dancing is making a comeback.

The Quadrille is a square dance involving 4 couples dancing to country music while moving to the phrases of the caller announcing their moves. When it comes to square dancing, in the 17th century, you could find these shindigs taking place in barns, town halls or anywhere there was a public gathering place to socialize. It was not uncommon to find dancers kicking up their heels in one’s kitchen, dancing to the sound of a fiddle being played.

Types of Square Dancing

Square dance, as the name states, one style or type of square dancing is performed with four pairs of dancers who are dancing in a square formation. It is in this square shape that the dancers whirl around to music. They move around the square, stopping only where they began the first step.

Square dancing can be either modern or traditional. With modern, dancers can be entertained with different types of music. You will find modern square dancers dancing to pop music, rock and roll or perhaps hip hop, because in essence, the style of modern means the dance does not necessarily have to have structure. It all depends upon the caller, who can go however and whichever way he wants to take the callings. Unlike the modern, traditional square dancing techniques are more organized, where dancers perform in a ballroom manner.

The main aspect of modern square dancing is that the dancers must be able to follow the directions of the caller. Dancers must work well with their partners because this style of dance takes teamwork. However, with traditional, the dance steps and the calls are more standard and structured. With traditional square dancing, dancers will not be dancing the gig to hip hop music.

Square Dancing Organizations

All across the United States and internationally, there are organizations that sponsor square dancing specifically. From Alabama to Wyoming, these organizations have information on such things as square dancing history. The organizations sponsor annual square dancing conventions and give locations of area clubs and classes. Their criteria covers activities associated with traditional and modern square dancing. Some organizations hold beginner lessons for newbie square dancers wanting to learn the art form. If you want to get information on the types of dances being done at a square dance function, or you want to learn more about the art of “calling”, the organizations on this page will steer you in the right direction for the area that you live in. One particular organization, Single Square Dancers USA, caters to single square dancers. Like all square dancing organizations, their main goal is in promoting, educating and sparking interest in the traditional and modern forms of this style of dance, renewing and reviving the spirit of folk dancing.

General Square Dancing Tips

Square dancing takes a special flare when one gets out there on the dance floor. For this style of dance, unlike hip hop dance, comes with great pride in presentation. You will not find authentic square dancers wearing indecent clothing. For instance, their dance attire is modest and not revealing. Clothing usually has a western cowboy feel for male dancers and the ladies will swirl around in frilly full skirts with petticoats. You will also find that male dancer’s attire also consists of long sleeve shirts.

While you dress the part for a country hoe down, remember too, square dancing comes with etiquette as well. For instance, it would be in bad taste to do any social drinking at a hoe down. It is believed that alcohol impairs one’s thinking, causing a dancer to lose concentration on the dance floor, which is so very important. Even though you are letting your hair down and having fun at the barn dance, bad behavior at a square dance is not looked upon favorably. So pay attention to how you behave.

Source:, November 20, 2012, edited down

      Page updated: 2013-05-24