Cowboy Dances

A collection of Traditional Western Square Dances By Lloyd Shaw

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28
COWBOY DANCES
by a dancing master. These conditions were, of course, quite impossible on the ranches of the West.
Do you recall that fine description of a dance in Owen Wister's The Virginian, where the cowboys swapped the swaddling clothes of the sleeping infants? Imagine what that bunch would have done with a French dancing master counting "one-two-three." Distances were great in the West. Dances could not be the affair of one small community. From a hundred or more miles in every direction the dancers would come. Some had just moved into the country from Iowa. Some had drifted up from Texas. Some had followed the herds down from summer grass in Montana. They could not possibly do a precise and measured Quadrille. They needed something simple in pattern that a man could learn quickly, if he knew something like it back on his own ranch, and with a good running call that would tell him what to do even if he didn't. Thus developed a true Western dance built on the New England square framework.
There are many call books available for the New Eng­land Quadrilles; but I believe the best book for anyone who is interested in these fine old dances is Good Morning, by Mr. and Mrs. Henry Ford. Mr. Ford has done a splendid thing in preserving the very best of these fine dances. He has brought together the most skillful of the old fiddlers, the finest of the old callers, and with his staff of expert assist­ants has made a complete study of the Quadrille. In his book are full and excellent directions for dancing not only the old Quadrilles but also most of the lovely "round dances" which were the favorites of an earlier generation.
Any group wanting to have joyous fun, the exhilaration of "real dancing," and the fascination of working out the lovely patterns of these classic Quadrilles can do no better than to turn to Good Morning and dance it through from cover to cover, though they will have to see many a "good morning" dawn before the job is done.
These New England Quadrilles are so well known that it is only natural that they should popularly be thought the chief source of the Western dance. And they surely con­tributed much, especially through such forms as the Sing­ing Quadrille and similar dances in which the call is sung, with words and music fixed.
But probably the Quadrille is only a tributary. The main stream, I believe, heads in the Kentucky Mountains.






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