Sets in Order: 5 Years of Square Dancing   

This is an interesting look at the point where modern square dancing was about to make a big change. Dancers were demanding more difficult material and callers were composing new figures at a record pace. But at this time the square dances were still unique and individual, they had names and complete story lines, and so they fit somewhat the traditional square dance aesthetic. Today, modern square dance is light years beyond the traditions it emerged from. Modern dances are now improvised strings of figures with no repeating elements.

This book has been somewhat of a resource for traditional callers of my generation but we have used it carefully, understanding the history of the modern square dance movement that grew out of the various existing strains of indigenous American folk dancing. After the time this book was published modern square dancing increasingly valued difficult and mentally challenging dances, with few unique dances that have their own names and personalities. The focus turned toward inventing new dance figures, some 700 of them. A modern (as opposed to traditional) square dance is a continuously changing stream of figures improvised by the caller (or announcer in some cases) deliberately designed to be near impossible to execute. Good dancing as in moving to the beat, giving weight, flowing seamlessly from one figure to the next, those are no longer valued in modern western square dance although they are still featured in traditional dancing.

Over the decades good dancing has been devalued to the point that some types of modern western square dancing (MWSD) are not even dancing in my opinion. The highest levels of modern square dancing are C3 and C4. At that level the callers are mere announcers, the music is irrelevant and unnecessary for the "dancing". The dancers execute one tricky manuever after another and pause to wait for the next announcement. Ya think I'm exaggerating? Take a look at this square dance zombie walk.

So the squares in "5 Years of Square Dancing" fall right where the traditional dances were shifting into overdrive. They are influenced by the new push for more challenging material but still recognizable as square dances and not a string of figures, or "hash" as the stream of conciousness style of calling is known today. The dances in this book use many traditional figures and moves, but most of that heritage is missing in modern square dancing. I use a few of these dances, but a lot of them are going to be inappropriate at a welcoming, friendly public dance with our usual mixed crowd of beginners and old hands. I have also cherry-picked easier but interesting figures out of dances that are otherwise too difficult for normal humans to enjoy. That's legal, too