New Virginia Reel

"Square Dance" by Harold Von Schmidt (1893 – 1982) American illustrator from Alameda, California

Square Dancing Day

Nov 29

Other Scottish Country Dances for this Day

Square Dancing Day
New Virginia Reel
Black Hole Friday
The Black Hole
Show More

Today's Musings, History & Folklore

"Let's all Square Dance.
Places all.
Bow to your corner, bow to your own."

~ Traditional

Square Dancing (Scottish and English Country Dancing's American cousin) takes its name from the popular quadrille formations of Europe. The Virginia reel is a folk dance dating from the 17th century performed in a longwise formation also called contredanse anglaise by the French. Though the reel may have its origins in Scottish country dances and the Highland reel, (and perhaps have been influenced by an early Irish dance called the Rinnce Fada), it is generally considered to be taken from the English country dance, Sir Roger de Coverley . The dance was most popular in America from 1830–1890.

New Virginia Reel

November 29th is Square Dancing Day!  

 

Square dancing is believed to have origins in the English Morris Dancing of 1600s in England, when teams of dancers, all male, for propriety’s sake (and wearing bells for extra flair) began presenting choreographed sequences. This fad is thought to have inspired English Country Dance, in which couples lined up on village greens to practice weaving, circling and swinging, moves reminiscent of modern-day square dancing.

 

By the 18th century in continental Europe, French couples danced in "squares" for social dances such as the quadrille and the cotillion. 

Europeans settling in England’s thirteen North American colonies brought both folk and popular dance traditions with them. French dancing styles in particular came into favor during the years following the American Revolution, when many former colonists snubbed all things British. Similar to Scottish Country Dance, a number of the terms used in modern square dancing come from France, including “promenade,” “allemande” and the “do-si-do” - a corruption of “dos-à-dos,” meaning “back-to-back.”

American Square Dancing (also called "old Time Square Dance") is derived from New England and Appalachian styles.    But instead of memorizing each and every step, participants began relying on callers to provide cues.  Square dance calling became an art form in its own right, providing humor and entertainment along with the music and dancing.

The Virginia Reel dates from the 17th century, with origins likely from Scottish Country Dance and the Highland Reel (and perhaps even earlier Irish influences), but is generally considered to be a borrowed English Country Dance.  The dance was most popular in America from 1830–1890.   

To see "The New Virginia Reel" performed by a Scottish Country Dance group in Hong Kong in 2012, see below.

And to see a classically called square dance from around 1950, called by by Mildred R. Buhler,  a popular caller in northern California in the late 1940s and early 1950s, click the painting "Square Dance" by William Francis Marshall

to see her calling to her demonstration group from the Redwood City Docey-Doe Club.

New Virginia Reel
New Virginia Reel

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The majority of dance descriptions referenced on this site have been taken from the

 

Scottish Country Dancing Dictionary or the

Scottish Country Dancing Database 

 

Snapshots of dance descriptions are provided as an overview only.  As updates may have occurred, please click the dance description to be forwarded to a printable dance description or one of the official reference sources.

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