The Old-Time Herald Volume 13, Number 12

Dance Beat
Dare To Be Square: Passing It On
By Phil Jamison
Dare To Be Square, Helvetia, West Virginia, 2014. Photo: Lee Bidgood


In 1988, the second year of the Old-Time Herald, I wrote an article for the Dance Beat column titled, "Community Dances in the Eighties: Dare To Be Square!" (Vol. 1, No. 6, November 1988). That summer I had traveled across the country, from my home in western North Carolina to the Pacific Northwest, and everywhere I went I heard stories of contra dances replacing squares at local dance venues. Prior the 1980s, contras were primarily found New England and were relatively rare elsewhere, with the exception of venues associated with the Country Dance and Song Society. In the South, that included Berea College in Kentucky and the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, North Carolina. I was no stranger to contra dances. I had gone to contra dances in Vermont and New Hampshire as a teenager in the early 1970s, and by the early 1980s, I had begun (by request) to include a few in my own calling repertoire, which up until that time had consisted entirely of squares. In that first Dare To Be Square article I discussed the pros and cons of squares and contras. I admitted, however, that I preferred squares. They were my first love, and I was dismayed to see them being displaced by contras throughout the country. In my eyes, contra dancing was like the kudzu of the traditional dance world – an exotic, invasive species that was spreading across the land, beautiful in its own way, but prolific to the point that it was extinguishing indigenous forms of traditional dance.



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