Welcome! This site is a work in progress, a project that was first conceived in 2009, nearly three years before this public launch. We have additional material ready to be added but wanted to invite a broad audience to view what we have currently assembled. With sufficient funding to pay for rights and for digitization, there are extraordinary examples of commercial and other archival material that we plan to add. We will post occasional Blog entries to let you know what new materials are in the collection; sign up for an RSS feed to be notified of such posts.
- Central City, Colorado, 1955 – black and white silent movie footage showing young square dance performers with styling influenced by Lloyd Shaw
- Elizabeth Burchenal footage, 1930s – silent footage illustrating southern Appalachian big set and four-couple square figures
- Runnin’ the Goat – fast-moving traditional dance from Newfoundland
- MWSD: The First Ten Years – a history of the start of modern square dance, illustrated with live audio recordings
- Lloyd Shaw, a multimedia digital exhibit that looks at the contributions of this pivotal figure in square dance history
- Sandy Bradley: Keeping it fun! – interview with the influential Northwest caller
- Tech Squares, patter – caller Ted Lizotte calling at a dance weekend
- Las Cuadrillas, five-part suite – Spanish colonial dance from the Southwest
- Bill Martin, Oregon Public Broadcast – 2003 portrait of Portland caller
- Beseda Quadrille, Czech, 1863
- Vermont square dancers, 1950s
Please take our survey. One of the reasons to launch now, rather than waiting for more items, is so we can make adjustments based on information we receive from users. We’re interested in what works for you, what does not, what kind of materials are missing, and how we can improve the site to make it more informative and more useful. Of course, we also want to learn of additional resources that you can suggest.
Digital Library: Just as in a regular library, different users come here for different reasons. This collection will benefit casual browsers looking to watch dance footage, social dance historians researching dances of a particular region or era, dance callers seeking new material or interested in variations on a dance they already know, and, in general, square dance enthusiasts from many different backgrounds.
In broad terms, we include both traditional and modern square dance —traditional in its many North American regional forms, and modern in all the different CALLERLAB program levels. We also include information about the historical antecedents of today’s dances, such forms as the cotillion and the quadrille as well as related dance forms from countries such as Ireland and Scotland.
We are well aware of gaps in the collection; at the moment, for example, we have no materials documenting the rich square dance traditions of Cape Breton; similarly, we have far more information on New England dances and the southern Appalachian mountains than, say, the Great Lakes region or the northern Rockies. We will add more items as we learn of them, so please bring additional resources to our attention.
Our primary focus is moving images — we currently have 400 videos in our collection — because we feel that looking at dances is vital to understanding how they work. At the moment, some of these clips have have been selected from material already online, but we have also digitized and added many other rare examples. The site also includes audio files, photographs, interviews, websites, and other informative media.
Unlike a library, though, the classification system may not be immediately apparent. Browsing the shelves of the non-fiction section of a library will take you to nearby objects that are clearly related; on the other hand, browsing nearby items in this collection could take you from a MWSD Plus dance in Germany to traditional western squares to a photograph and information about then-Princess Elizabeth square dancing in Canada in 1951 to an excerpt from Soirée Canadienne, a television show from Quebec. Just as the card catalog or its computerized version helps at the library, so, too, the Search Engine can help you locate more specific requests.
Searching the Site: The search engine for our database is MySQL; it has its idiosyncrasies. It does not search for short words, fewer than four letters. Unlike Google or most other search engines, it does not acknowledge quotation marks; a search for “Trail of the Lonesome Pine” will return 20 items, including the Mountain Dance Trail, Cecil Sharp’s visit to Pine Mountain, Kentucky, dances with a cross-trail figure, and much more. Entering one distinctive word in the search box brings more targeted results. We are told that the new version of the software, to be released later this fall, is significantly better.
The Advanced Search function is even more precise and recommended. Using the Narrow by Specific Fields function, you can select TITLE – CONTAINS – LONESOME and you are directed to just three videos of the dance and one audio file.
One quick way to search is to use tags. If you on the BROWSE ITEMS page and then SEARCH BY TAGS, you can select “singing square” which will immediately bring up more than 100 items. If you want to watch but not just listen, go into the Advanced Search section and limit that; using Search by Type–> MOVING IMAGE brings the number to about 60 video files.
Seven well-known callers and square dance enthusiasts have served as the primary consultants for this project. Special thanks and deep appreciation also go to Stig Malmo, a graceful dancer, skilled caller, and avid collector from Copenhagen, Denmark. Stig has been extremely generous in sharing items from his large collection of rare square dance items. Visit his website if you’d like more information about obtaining copies of his material.
John-Michael Seng-Wheeler has been our go-to video professional; his expertise made possible the 100+ videos from Dare To Be Square 2011 at Brasstown, NC, as well as footage from DTBS 2012 at Riner, VA. Back in 2009, when this project was still in the planning phase, Doug Plummer brought equipment and his skilled eye to videotape dances and other sessions at DTBS Seattle. Arthur Hanchett at the Jones Media Center at Dartmouth College has provided vital technical assistance in digitizing older 8mm and 16mm footage.
Our skilled webmaster, herself a librarian in an earlier life, is Barb Ackemann, who continues to provide friendly and professional assistance. This website is designed with Omeka, open-source software that was created to enable libraries, archives, and enthusiasts to share their collections through digital media.
Many others have made suggestions or provided materials, videotaped on request, added identifying information to YouTube clips, uploaded videos to the SDHP collection, edited and cleaned up audio files, and numerous other tasks. Photo by chany14