Country, Western & Gospel Music

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hilarity, good fellowship; their music is fast and the steps are varied. And the calls that go with them leave plenty of room for wisecracks and sly wit. There is sound reason for dragging the square and the country dance out of the barn and the grange hall and giving them places of honor on private and public dance floors.
Country dances really fall into three groups, the square dances, the circle dances and the contras, of which the Vir­ginia reel is the best known. All have venerable origins.
The so-called American Squares, which have always been the most popular of the country dances here, are really quadrilles which reached us originally from France by way of the French refugees who came to this country in the early days of its settlement and taught dancing for a living. Having been a part of our tradition since pioneer days, these dances have undergone many changes in form and have lost all their dignity and some of their beauty. But as American Squares, those dances are known as the Girl from Arkansas, Birdie in a Cage, the Basket Quadrille and many others have gained in zest and verve what they have lost in stateliness.
Some of the circle dances, like the Wild Irishman, have many of the elements of the early singing games. The Paul Jones is another example of the circle dance, which is un­excelled for getting a slow crowd started or for ending the evening with a bang.
The Virginia reel is probably the best known of the contra dances, which are performed by two facing lines of partners. The Scotch and Irish reels, the Devil's Dream and the Tempest all come under this classification. The end couples do most of the dancing and move down or cast off after their turn to leave new couples in the key positions.
Square dance steps and figures vary in different sections of the country, and so do the "calls" and rhymes sung by the leader. A clever caller and a lively fiddler or small orchestra familiar with the right music are essential to the success of the country dance. In the old days the fiddler usually did the calling, and in many communities today old-timers have been discovered and promoted to belated pop­ularity because of their gifts in this field. The square dance caller performs the same function as the night-club host
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E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III