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USA (national)

National Folk Dance (Proposed)

Square dancers - click to see state cultural symbols
Square dance in 1937 - photo by Ben Shahn /
LOC Prints & Photographs Collections (believed to be public domain)

American Square Dance

Although the square dance has not yet achieved official designation as the national folk dance, more than thirty bills have been introduced at the federal level proposing the square dance as the national (folk) dance of the United States (beginning in 1965).

22 states have recognized the square dance as an official state symbol (see state cultural symbols) and lobbying continues at the national level. These decisions can take a whlle - over forty bills and joint resolutions were introduced in Congress before The Star Spangled Banner was officially recognized as the national anthem of the United States.

Dance animation - click to see state cultural symbols

Folk customs give people a special sense of identity and belonging to a group. The square dance provided pioneers with recreation and social contact with neighbors - and is still doing that today!

From An American Folk Custom by Richard M. MacKinnon:

In The Complete Book of Square Dancing, Betty Casey writes:

"The square dance is uniquely American. ...The format, many of the folk dances movements, and the terminology incorporated into the square dance were brought by early emigrants from other countries to the United States. Borrowed bits from foreign dances such as French quadrilles, Irish jigs, English reels, and Spanish fandangos have blended with American folkways and customs into the square dance."

The vague, anonymous and rural origins of American square dancing were first explored in Lloyd Shaw's Cowboy Dances, written in 1939:

"Had these Western dances been the dances of scholars, every variant would have been recorded and fully annotated. Chronologies and pedigrees and records would have been kept. But these were the dances of country folk, who kept all their essential knowledge written only on the uncertain pages of memory! They were the dances of laconic folk who didn't tell all they knew even under questioning! They were often the dances of secretive folk who were somewhat jealous of their special talent and special knowledge. ... So all we have to go by in our speculations is the internal evidence presented by the dances themselves."

Source:
American Folklife Center: Library of Congress
Animation from: Square Dancing Icons & Clipart
Links:
The Moves: Do Sa Do
Dance Quotations: by Henry Morgenstein
Ed Gilmore's Caller Instruction Course: Dosado.com

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