Cowboy Dances

A collection of Traditional Western Square Dances By Lloyd Shaw

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126
COWBOY DANCES
The chief trouble, as I said, with the Virginia Reel is the monownous repetition and waiting for your turn on the corners. This can be obviated by a new form of the dance which is gradually growing in favor. In this form, instead of having corners bow, turn, etc., each gentleman, and all at once, crosses directly over and does all the moves with his own partner. Done carelessly, this leads to wild confusion (but fun). However, if the line of men all advance as a straight line, the ladies the same, and all return to places in straight lines it can be very effective. And everyone is active all the time up to the point when the head couple reels the set.
Of course, the call must be modified to:
Each gentleman salute the opposite lady. Now turn her around with the right hand round, etc.
or some similar call of your own improvisation.
If you would like a complete description of the Virginia Reel and of most of the other old American longways dances I can refer you to no better text than Elizabeth Burchenal's American Country Dances published by Schirmer. It not only has complete directions and music but diagrams which make everything clear.
Some of these old dances are also described in Ford's Good Morning, which also contains descriptions of the circle dances and the best descriptions I know of a large variety of round dances. But its chief value is for the New England Quadrilles and Lancers. To anyone who is taking up Ameri­can dancing it is quite invaluable.
In our Western dancing we find a few New England dances with a sung call still surviving. And I think this call, which was sung, unquestionably had a great influence on the patter used by the Western caller. In the West where they had to do the best they could with whatever they had, it was inevitable that the fiddlers would be unfamiliar with some special tune and would have to substitute another, thereby killing the song, or the caller had forgotten the exact words and a patter grew up quite naturally, and the Western dance evolved as quite a distinct form.
There were several different types or patterns of dance that grew up m the West. And it would probably pay to dis-