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The History of Square Dancing

November 29th, 2012 Games

Dancing has been an ever-evolving form of expression that was used to assert individualism as well as display camaraderie within a community. Each form of dancing was the product of a society that was still reminiscent of past civilizations. Square dancing has long been associated with the U.S., specifically its rural, Western roots, but it can be traced back across the Atlantic Ocean.

According to, one of the first incarnations of square dancing came from a dance called the Morris, in England. It had similar aesthetics to square dancing, with the lines of dancers facing one another, but there were only six dancers (two rows of three people) and they were only men. While square dancing is thought to be a casual affair that anyone can join in, the Morris dance was performed by teams that were trained.

The source also mentions that a style known as country dancing proceeded the Morris, which was later borrowed and evolved by the French. The European ancestors also invented the quadrille, which made its way across the Atlantic and evolved into the modern form of square dancing.

Settlers in the Appalachian Mountains took quadrille and incorporated their own characteristics. According to the Country Dance and Song Society (CDSS), the dances garnered names such as the Southern, Appalachian and the Running Set, among others. As settlers explored America's western territories, they took the dances with them.

Square dancing eventually gained international popularity with a uniform style in the middle of the 20th century, thanks to an education professional named Lloyd Shaw, who the CDSS reports was inspired by a book authored by Henry Ford titled Good Morning. Shaw penned his own documentation of the Appalachian dances with the book Cowboy Dances and began to offer lessons. He even formulated his own team, the Cheyenne Mountain Dancers. All of the attention caught the eye of the American public and the tradition of square dancing was immortalized.