Category Archives: Figurative Use

Figurative Use: Full Scale Government Hoedown

In 2013, the US government shut down over arguments about the federal budget. The very funny people at The Onion decided to refer to the shutdown as a hoedown, and included many references to square dancing and other kinds of folk dances in the article.

U.S. On Verge Of Full-Scale Government Hoedown
September 30, 2013

While many bemoan the decrease in square dancing around the world, it seems that square dancing terms can still be used and generally understood in popular media. Square dancing is still fairly well-known, if not well-practiced, at least in the United States.

The association between square dancing and right wing (Republican) thinking is also apparent in this article. I do wish that association didn’t exist. I like my hobbies to be non-partisan…

Figurative Use: Volkswagen Golf Referred to as “Champion Square Dancer”

What are people thinking about when “square dancing” pops into their heads? Do the words have a positive image, or a negative image? In general, it seems that non-dancers often use the term in a negative way. However, sometimes the term is just used for style. In the case of the following use, I think (but I am not really sure) that square dancer is being used to refer to the fact that this car is “boxy”. My gut feeling is that they are making fun of the car, but then they use the word “champion”, so it’s a bit confusing!


You can see the full review here.

2015 Volkswagen Golf R
May 2015

Figurative Use: Square Dancing in Title of Article about Geometry

I have started a new category on figurative use of the term “square dance” in popular culture. I have noticed that the term is often used in a pejorative sense to indicate something “ridiculous” or “unnecessarily complicated with no real difference at the outcome”. The following article demonstrates a different kind of use. In this case, the article is about geometry, and squares (the shape, not the dance) make an appearance, so the author has chosen to use the term “square dancing” purely for style. I am happy that it is not pejorative, but I am sad that the article doesn’t actually mention square dancing. (It mentions “dancing squares”, but that is not really the same thing at all.)

Square Dancing
March 14, 2010

The Asian Square Dance

I’m going to make a new category for the term “square dance” being used figuratively, so we can gain some insight into how it is being used that way outside of square dance circles.

The “Modern Diplomacy” website has an ongoing series about diplomacy in Asia, that it has entitled “The Asian Square Dance”. I think the figurative use of square dance in this case refers to how the situation in Asia involves more than just bilateral relations between two countries (i.e. one couple), but seems to be a constant stream of partnerships and disputes between a larger number of stakeholders. The image of a “grand square” comes to mind, but with more partners meeting up and setting off again, and not done in such an orderly or predictable way.

Square Dance by Justin King

Sometimes people use the words “square dance” to describe things that have little or nothing to do with square dancing. Often, the use is pejorative, since so many people have preconceived notions of square dancing that are, shall we say, not flattering. In this case, though, I think Justin King is doing us a favour with this title. He is clearly an extraordinarily talented artist, and it is an honour to be associated with this calibre of music. Thanks, Justin!

Boxing Match Between Mayweather and Pacquiao Referred to as “Square Dance”

It seems that the fight between Floyd Mayweather and Jr. and Manny Pacquiao, which was apparently billed as “The Fight of the Century” (although I, personally, think that is a bit ambitious a label to bestow in the first 15% of a century) left some people underwhelmed.

I doubt either of those men are smart enough to know how to square dance.

A Square Dance Song by Joanne Weatherley (via Roger McGough)

This is a song by Joanna Weatherley. It is a tribute to those who fought in the world wars. The words are taken from the poem ‘A Square Dance‘ by Roger McGough.

There are several references to square dancing terms in this song/poem, including swing your partner, dosado, and honour your partner. The poet juxtaposes the joy of dancing with the tragedy of unnatural, untimely, and senseless death in order to highlight the macabre nature of war.

Square Dance Squared by Chris James

This is another example of a reference to square dancing appearing in popular culture. There are a lot of times when popular culture doesn’t quite get it right. Square Dance Squared by Chris James could, technically, be used in square dancing, although it doesn’t quite have enough “personality” for my taste. I’m not sure what inspired Mr. James to create this song, or what made him think of square dancing when he made it, but I think this is one of the better pop culture references I have found so far.

Dos a Dos (Square Dance) by Adiemus

From Wikipedia:

Released in 1998, Adiemus III: Dances of Time is the third album by Welsh composer Karl Jenkins as part of the Adiemus project. This album is a tribute to the interrelationship between music and dance throughout history. As such, most tracks are composed in a traditional style of dance, including meter.

This song was inspired by square dancing, but as it is unlikely to be used in an actual square dance, it will be added to the “not quite right” collection.

Square Dance Song and Album by Kitsune²

Kitsune² is one pseudonym used by the Canadian artist Ren Queenston, also known as Renard and a bunch of other names. (Renard is fox in French and Kitsune is fox in Japanese). On his website Lapfox Trax, he introduces his work like this:

Music by Ren Queenston under a number of different aliases, each sporting their own musical style. an ambitious attempt to explore everything from ridiculous, goofy hardcore to dreamy (or nightmarish) ambient work.

For some reason, he has called one of his albums “Square Dance”. The first track (after the minute+ long intro) is also called “Square Dance”. The first track goes from 1:05 to 3:47. This particular incarnation of his music seems to be inspired by the background music in video games.

I’m not really sure what the song or the album have to do with square dancing. I’m adding this to the “not quite right” category (where I add instances of square dancing appearing in popular culture that don’t quite represent actual square dancing) as the tempo is far too fast for square dancing and I can’t discern any other aspects of the music that relate to square dancing.