Square dance club

Square dance clubs are the primary form for organization within the recreational activity of square dancing, and more specifically western square dance. This article's focus is the western square dance club, and it is understood in the context of this article that when the terms "square dance club" or "square dance" are used it refers to the form of square dance called "western square dance".

Square dance clubs are primarily, but not exclusively, local in character. A square dance club is only as strong as its members, i.e. individual square dancers.

The club's primary goal is promoting and advancing square dance as a recreational activity. Typically clubs accomplish this goal through the following activities:

  • Providing classes and other training opportunities to new, as well as experienced dancers
  • Showcasing the activity through public performances
  • Organizing dances
  • Participation in other associations dedicated to the promotion and advancement of square dancing
  • Providing employment and training opportunities to square dance callers.

Classes and training for dancers

Providing classes and training opportunities is the main activity for the majority of square dance clubs. This activity develops competent dancers, a core membership for the club, club solidarity and feeling, and a renewable base for the sustainability of the club. Most clubs start classes in September and/or January, although strategies are being developed for starting classes more often.

There is currently under consideration in some areas a "Five Saturday, or Sunday" program to instruct new students in the "mainstream" program.

Public performance

This is a way of bringing public attention to the club, with the hope of recruiting more members. Public performances may be those done in public areas (malls, fairs, exhibitions) or it may refer to televised performances.

Organizing dances

Dances are the primary activity of clubs. In addition to sheer enjoyment, dances provide the club's members and members of other clubs the opportunity to practice the skills learned in classes. It also gives the club an opportunity to showcase itself to the wider square dance community, provides dancers an opportunity to socialize, and provides employment for callers.

Participating in associations

Square dance clubs participate in square dance associations of regional, area-wide, national and special interest character, as well as non-square dance association and organizations.

Employment and training for square dance callers

Employment and training for square dance callers is a key means of securing competent dancers for the club, and for the activity as a whole.

Dress Code

For most of its history, square dance had no particular dress code. People generally wore what they would wear to any party or dress-up event. Lloyd "Pappy" Shaw researched square dancing in the 20th century in the hopes of saving it from dying out, and to promote it he established a touring performance group of "teenage cowboy square dancers". This effort, combined with the popularity of western movies and clothing after World War II led to the association of square dance with "western" styles and the development of "western square dance attire" in the late '50s and early '60s, even though square dancing actually began in New England (likely Maine). This modern square dance clothing is called "traditional attire", although it is actually quite modern and not at all traditional--the high skirts would have been considered scandalous in 1900.

The dress code for women includes a wide skirt with multiple layers of crinolines, pettipants, and short sleeves.

The dress code for men requires long sleeve shirts and long pants. The men often wear western style shirts with bolo ties or scarves. Some wear metal tips on their shirt collars and boot tips. Both sexes may wear boots.

This code was particularly prevalent in the '80s and '90s, and started to die down in the late '90s as many dancers objected to what they felt was an outdated style that gave square dance a bad, hick image. Many clubs drop the dress code during the summer and for classes, and gay square dance clubs have never had a dress code.

This is not an exclusive list, and square dance clubs are constantly on the look out for new ways to achieve their goals. Associations, partnerships and other cooperative ventures have become increasingly more important to square dance clubs. Membership in square dance clubs seems to have peaked in the '70s and early '80s and gradually decreased since that time.


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