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A Square Dance Party at Breaking Up Thanksgiving

by Paul Tyler and Gene Hubert

(These articles were originally posted to the Usenet newsgroup <rec.folk-dancing>.)

Paul writes:

I've been offline for more than a week, so I don't know if anyone reported on the Breaking Up Thanksgiving weekend run by the Chicago Barn Dance Company. I had loads of fun this year, even though there were nearly 400 people in attendance, causing the buildings to bulge at Camp Henry Horner.

I didn't dance a lick at the big nighttime dances. And this year I took my calling turn during the family dance hour on Saturday night. However, I did several band rotations and was pleased to see several squares called well and received appreciatively. (Last year when I said "Square your sets!" the hall cleared. I don't think it was me, because I don't remember anyone else even attempting a square.)

But the most fun of all was a smaller, acoustic square dance held in the fireplace room in one of the lodges. Three squares danced at a time for close to three hours, while the musicians pumped out tunes at one end of the long room. Callers soon gave up trying to direct the whole floor, so each square had its own caller dancing with them. Again, I ended up playing most of the time, and only called and danced once.

It was a gas. It had the feel of a old time kitchen dance or house party. I know I'm not alone in my opinion that this was the highlight of the weekend.

Paul Tyler <ptyler@wwa.com>

Gene writes:

I was there and it was the highlight of my weekend too. I had heard of dancing with a caller in each square back in the "old days", but had never experienced it in the current revival scene. I had some questions about how it would work to have each set doing a completely different dance but it worked out nicely.

There were three squares, each with their own caller for most of the evening. A funny thing happened in a square that I was calling. The walkthrus were done and the music was starting. One of the other callers started calling as soon as the tune started and before I had gotten around to calling my dance. Everybody in my set started to do what the other caller was calling! Bet that never happens at your local dance.

This event worked really well because the music, dancers and callers were all really good. We had a self selected set of dancers who chose to attend a small, acoustic square dance rather than a much larger dance that would be mostly contras. These were mostly experienced dancers who had had good experiences with squares. They also knew that the other dance would probably be horribly crowded.

With this setup, we had quick walkthrus and did break figures such as daisy chain and allemande thar that would be a real struggle to teach at most open dances.

I wish more dancers could have this kind of positive experience with squares. I hate to see the skill level for squares at many dances dropping; they have a lot of potential that many dancers are unaware of. We have a lot of good, experienced dancers out there who could be having a real blast with squares.

Gene Hubert <ghubert@acpub.duke.edu>

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Last updated on July 27, 1996 by entropy@prismnet.com (Kiran Wagle)