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Square dance music has its roots originally in England, but it’s more well known worldwide from North American development. The various styles of square dancing come from a mix of rural communities, Nashville and other large markets for country music. Many of the steps and figures come from traditional folk dances. Here’s a look at some of the most popular square dance styles.

How Callers Influence Styles

After centuries of development in Britain, France and other European nations, the popularity of square dance music began to escalate in the 1920s as radio and the recording industries became popular. Early radio programming in Chicago and Nashville featured “Barn Dance” shows in the 1920s, which included square dancing with callers. The caller has had a major impact on the development of different styles, since the dancers follow the caller’s instructions.

In a fast-paced, conversational yet vibrant and melodic style, the caller guides the dancers, who come prepared with knowledge of basic dance steps. Couples do not know how they will move until they respond to the call.

Different types of square dancing make it a diverse form of traditional and modern culture. Various regions have developed their own versions, as square dancing enjoys a resurgence in popularity that could further influence newer styles. Seven of the most well known styles include:

  • Quadrille
  • Southern Mountain Style
  • Traditional Squares
  • Western Squares
  • Modern Western Squares
  • Maritime Canadian Squares
  • Singing Squares

Comparing Difference Square Dance Styles

Quadrille is a style the reflects the origins of square dancing from 18th century France as well as England. This style involves four couples forming a square with an emphasis on synchronized and choreographed movements. Not all square dancing follows a square pattern. Southern Mountain Style, which developed a few centuries later in the American south, follows a circular rotation.

Traditional Squares reflects several dance steps that developed in America starting in the 18th century. An offshoot of this category has been Western Squares, which became popular in America during the 1950s. It relies on caller creativity, as this style led to much more diversity. Modern Western Squares actually developed a decade earlier and added so many new figures to square dancing, that it led to the 1974 formation of Callerlab, the association of callers that overseas square development.

Canada has its own history of folk traditions that came from Europe. One of its most famous styles is Maritime Canadian Squares, which is unique because it allows for a stretchable square. Singing Squares is considered a more contemporary style that has developed in Canada and the United States, yet still mixes in traditional dance movements. This style usually involves dancing to current popular music and the caller altering the lyrics.