Since I became an official member of the CDSS staff last year, the projects that have landed on my plate have been mostly square dance related. I couldn’t be happier about that, since traditional squares are a particular passion of mine. After working closely with Ralph Sweet on the publication of On the Beat with Ralph Sweet in 2010, I shifted my focus to bringing some structure to the vast amount of square dance resources already existing on the Internet; the CDSS Square Dance Resources — available at www.cdss.org/squares — is the result.
My initial idea was to provide links to video examples of full square dance figures; indeed, my first effort at information gathering found me sitting at local coffee shops in my hometown of Keene, NH, headphones in place, pouring through square dance footage on YouTube and Vimeo. I found a lot of really great stuff, like this:
It quickly became clear that there was plenty of useful video footage out there that didn’t quite fit my first set of criteria. So I created a new category called “General Interest Video” for clips like this:
Then I stumbled across some great audio clips of square dance calling, like this one from Portland, OR caller Caroline Oakley:
After that I discovered a great article on square dance calling (pdf) by Carol Ormand, and I explored Bill Martin’s excellent website on the topic of Southern squares, and I read several of Phil Jamison’s articles on Appalachian square dance from the online archives of the Old-Time Herald magazine, and I looked through some of the square dance articles in the online version of Ralph Page’s Northern Junket, and…well…the CDSS Square Dance Resources were no longer going to be limited to video examples of full square dance figures.
At this point, collecting new links for the resources was bordering on obsession. It seemed like I was creating new categories and folders for storage on a daily basis. Finally, the collecting stopped (thanks to Brad Foster and Pat MacPherson for talking me down), and I turned my attention towards tying all the information together. Enter an excellent team of consultants: Bob Dalsemer, Tony Parkes, Jim Mayo, and David Millstone on the topics of square dance history and square dance styles; and lydia ievins and Pat MacPherson on design, layout, and implementation. I wouldn’t have been able to see the project through to completion without their valuable knowledge, expertise, and generosity.
So, take a look! I hope you all find the completed CDSS Square Dance Resources as useful and enlightening as I do. Thanks, as always, for your support. Keep dancing squares!
The CDSS Square Dance Resources are part of our growing collection of online Advice & How-To resources.
Nils Fredland runs American Dance/Music Projects at CDSS.