Square dancing has a long history. Among the first records of dancing in groups of four couples are the cotillions and quadrilles from France. In pioneer times in north America, local communities would often gather to dance in someone’s kitchen, or later in community buildings such as schools or churches. There was often no leader or caller, so the dancers would have to memorize the pattern of a particular dance.
The Modern Western Square Dance (MWSD) style developed in the 1970s when a group of callers formed the Callerlab organization with the intent of standardizing square dance moves at a time when there were many regional variations. The moves are now organized into several different levels. You can read more about this style of dance on the Wikipedia website.
This group includes about fifty of the simpler moves. Typically, these are taught in weekly lessons over a three month period.
This group includes an additional twenty moves and is the level used for our club’s dances. Typically, a new dancer learns all of these after six month’s of lessons. The term “Mainstream” is also used to refer to the combined Basic and Mainstream levels.
This level includes about twenty more moves for experienced dancers who wish an additional challenge. Two other local clubs offer lessons and dances at this level.
Advanced & Challenge Levels
This level is for very experienced dancers who want even more challenge. One other local club provides lessons and dances at this level.
Social Square Dance Program
This newer program is used by some local clubs. It omits some of the moves in the Basic and Mainstream programs in order to shorten the time required to teach the program.
Traditional Square Dance
Traditional or “Old Time” square dances are still common in many regions of Canada. It is a useful style to use for a “barn dance” or for an introduction to square dancing, because new dancers can learn the limited number of moves used in any particular dance then have fun dancing.
Contra Dance is a related dance style, where couples dance in facing lines rather than in a square of four couples.
Round Dancing is choreographed ballroom dancing. A round dance is often called between sets at local square dances. One local clubs provide round dance lessons in Calgary.