Square Dancing – A Short History

As recently as the time of our great grandparents, family social events occurred in people’s homes, and that included dancing.

In North American homes, more often than not, some time during a party, rugs would be rolled up, partners would be chosen, and a fiddle would appear to provide the tunes and rhythms for a square dance to be “called” by someone in the know. The rhythm would be set by a set of “fiddle sticks”, small sticks such as broom straws, which were used to hit the fiddler’s finger board.

Not so long ago every rural town in Canada and the U.S. had, often weekly, a regular square dance attended by many. The music was always live, and consisted of traditional fiddle tunes, many of which had their origins in Scotland and Ireland.

Today, there is a wide net of “club” square dances all over the world, for which the music is often specially composedf and always recorded. To participate, dancers must attend classes and outfits such as women’s crinoline skirts and men’s string ties are worn.

By contrast, “traditional” square dancing is becoming rare, and is always done to live music.