Article in the New York Times about contra dancing.
“Synchronized dancing in the town square” is not the same as square dancing. Apparently China is clamping down on noisy “square dancers” and this has been in the news lately, but many people, including the author of this article are confusing “dancing in the town square” with what has historically been known as “square dancing” in the West. They are quite different, and the only reason they are being confused is because of lazy translating.
The following article equates what the ladies in China are doing with square dancing that the royal family of Great Britain have done on visits to the US and Canada in the past. While I would LOVE to see the Queen and Prince Charles doing synchronized dancing in the town square, this is not what they were doing.
Sloppy reporting based on sloppy translating:
Square dancing unruly? Don’t tell the Queen
Quadrille is a precursor to square dancing. The similarities are obvious.
This music could be used in traditional square dancing or contra dancing. It is not quite the right tempo for modern square dancing; however, it is great fiddle music, regardless!
Patt & Possum’s Contra Dance Music – Volume 1
by Charlie Walden & Patt Plunkett
So, apparently Modern Western Square Dancing has a cousin called “Quadrilha” in Brazil.
The quadrilha (square dance) originated in Holland and was introduced in Brazil during the Regency period. It was very popular at the 19th century balls of the Brazilian elite, especially in Rio de Janeiro, where the royal court was located. Later, it descended the palace steps and gained popularity among the general public, who added new steps and changed the music.
Today, the quadrilha is a tradition at the June Festivals. As the name says, these lively celebrations occur in June, but often extend into the following months. The events are led by an announcer who calls out the dance steps.
The dancers, usually couples, dress in peasant outfits with straw hats and checkered shirts. The traditional quadrilha dance represents a wedding party; the “bride and groom” open the dance, followed by their “guests”, with a lively dance that includes many different steps and moves.
The quadrilha is accompanied by an accordion, triangle and drum, as well as a 4-string and 6-string guitar.
Source: Quadrilha (Square Dance)
It’s a bit different from Modern Western Square Dancing, but you can clearly see that they come from the same roots. Here is a video that shows one quadrilha dance being performed for an audience. (That is one major difference between the two. MWSD is rarely performed for an audience.)
This article is specifically about contra dancing, but the parallels with square dancing are quite obvious.
Tradition, an odd word, seems to refer to a thing of the past; tradition is all around us though, and continues because we continue creating it. Gender-free, techno, and blues-infused contra exists because contra dance is a living, breathing tradition; these new styles and expressions are in response to the evolving needs and interests of the dance community. The way we approach these changes will reflect the community norms of contra dancers as a whole, and of smaller micro-communities throughout the contra dance network. As a community we decide what makes contra dancing itself. We decide how far we can push the tradition before it stops being contra dance. Our own needs and innovations create the tradition, and it creates us.
Read the article here:
May 13, 2014
This video shows contra dancing, but you can see the connections to square dancing. Great music!
Article in the Charlotte Observer (North Carolina) about contra dancing.
It’s part line dance, part square dance and involves lots of swinging, stomping and switching partners. And social graces such as smiling, looking your partner in the eye and helping beginners through awkward moments. As the band plays its fiddles, keyboard and guitars, dancers divide into two lines, facing their partners. Two couples form squares, dance together, switch partners, then move down the line to the next couple. By the end of the night, they’ve danced with just about everyone.
This video is very well-made (unlike a lot of square dance videos out there) and can be used in promoting contra dances. Doesn’t it make you feel like you want to join in?
Description from YouTube:
Video shot by John-Michael Seng-Wheeler and Julian Ashbee during the fourth annual GREAT BEAR GROOVE DANCE WEEKEND, May 31 – June 2, 2013 in Oswego, NY
From the site description:
The Bay Area Country Dance Society promotes, preserves, and teaches traditional English and American music and dance in the San Francisco Bay area.
The Bay Area Country Dance Society