Cowboy Dances

A collection of Traditional Western Square Dances By Lloyd Shaw

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Chapter 1
We Talk
It Over
V ERY OFTEN at some dinner table or in some informal group, the discussion has turned to my strange enthusi­asm for the old dances of the past, and I have found enough interest and curiosity developed to lead directly to the formation of a little group of friends who decided to join with me and to try a bit of the dancing for themselves.
It is the natural way to start—talk it over and then try a dance or two. One has to know what it is all about first. One naturally wonders where the dances came from, what their relationship may be to other forms of dancing. Are they still being done today? Just what do we mean by a square dance? Where is the sport?
So let's talk it over informally. Much that we say will have to be speculative. But guessing is good fun, and it often arouses more interest than a cold array of scientific and carefully classified facts.
When it comes to finding the origins of the Western square dance, for instance, one simply has to speculate. The dances and the calls, except in rare cases, were never written down, but were transmitted from caller to caller by the oral route. And all the footnotes and references and authorities are lost in the process.
One old caller said to me in answer to my question about a certain call, "Well, I reckon I don't know! My daddy always called it this away. But he said his daddy had a plumb different way, and I never felt sure about it. There's something the matter with that call, and I don't like it. I never use it unless I got to." A year later, in another place, I found what I suspect of being a variation of the old grand-daddy's call. At least it was more complete and gave sense to the bobtailed lines he had used.