Cowboy Dances

A collection of Traditional Western Square Dances By Lloyd Shaw

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26
COWBOY DANCES
But where did the granddaddy get the original call ? We can only guess. Back in the mist of the past, moving down from father to son, from community to community, the old calls spread without chronicler and without record. Usually something was lost at each step from the original call, until some semicreative natural genius, who liked to keep a con­tinuous patter of words going all the time, filled in the omis­sion with new words of his own, and a new variant was born. But someone always protests that he has seen many an old call book—his aunt or his cousin still has a copy in the family trunk. I have patiently run down dozens of these old books, and so far they have always been call books of New England quadrilles. And that is a different fish. New England turned naturally to books. But these old Western square dances grew up without benefit of letters.
Had these Western dances been the dances of scholars, every variant would have been recorded and fully anno­tated. Chronologies and pedigrees and records would have been kept. But these were the dances of country folk, who kept all their essential knowledge written only on the un­certain pages of memory! They were the dances of laconic folk who didn't tell all they knew even under questioning!* They were often the dances of secretive folk who were somewhat jealous of their special talent and special knowledge.
So all we have to go by in our speculations is the internal evidence presented by the dances themselves. Fascinated with bits of this evidence, I have pieced out the following theory as my own explanation of the possible origin of the Western dances.
I believe the two main sources to have been the New England Quadrille and the Kentucky Running Set. In ad­dition, perhaps the Mexicans contributed something in the way of steps, but their dances are usually not "called." And lastly, I feel sure that some of the figures of the Western dance were borrowed directly from old European folk dances.
It will pay us to have a look at the two main probable sources of our Western dance.






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