Short History

The roots of the “Modern American Square Dance” leads back into the 14th Century. Great-grandparents are the English Morris dances and court dances of the French royalty. From the English dances, the English country dances developed, the French court dances were quadrille. All these dances already had many of the figures which have survived to the present “Modern American Square Dance”.

In the vastness of the American West, the actual development took place. During the colonization of the “New World”, since the mid-16th Century emigrants from all over Europe met each other with their cultures and customs. English Morris and Contra dances, the French quadrilles and Minuets, the North and South-Eastern European folk dances as well as Irish and Hungarian folk music mingled over time into a unique Dance form.

The Modern American Square Dance style, following the calls of a caller is likely to have evolved in this period. During the trecks of settlers the cultures and habits were taught to each other – including the Dances. Those who moved on, took this knowledge and taught it to other places extending it with new ideas and dances. So probably the first Callers originated collecting the figures from everywhere and passing them on to others.

Many such regional dances developed completely independ in the United States. During a period of decline in the early 20th Century, folklore died in the larger towns and cities almost completely. The dance steps and the music were lost. In remote areas, however, some of them survived.

It was only in the 20s of the last century when Henry Ford and his wife brought back the almost forgotten arts to the surface and into the consciousness of the American public. They made a dance hall and engaged the dancing master Benjamin Lowett to ensure that the old folk awoke to new life. In addition Lloyd Shaw in 1939 published a book called “Cowboy Dances”. Shaw also trained callers and dancers and many other institutions followed his example. Thus, the almost forgotten folk dances again conquered a strong position in American Society.