Croakers Square

As diehard proponents of square dancing in an “I’d-rather-follow-someone-on-Facebook” world, sometimes it starts feeling a little lonely out here…like we’re the last outpost before the country stumbles into a cultural wasteland. So it’s good every now and then to remember that we’re not alone.

According to reports, our favorite old-fashioned form of entertainment, square dancing is making a comeback in American cities. Events organized by local enthusiasts are drawing all sorts of demographics, including a young and curious crowd who wouldn’t know a “do si do” from a “birdie in the cage.” Or a “Texas star” from a Texas Two-step, for that matter.

But that is the thing about square dancing: there’s a lot you can learn, but there’s not a lot you have to learn to get started. At their core, the dances are pretty simple, and can be taught on the spot. All that you really need to get started is music, a caller, and room to maneuver: everything else can be picked up as you go.

That’s important when you’re talking about something that people misunderstand. It’s not just a matter of newcomers no knowing what square dance is; the problem is, they think they know what it is, based on popular culture, and they’re at least partially (and usually totally) wrong.

Sure, square dancing is a traditional American dance form that was really popular through the 19th century. But nowadays that translates into “antique and old-timey,” which is at best simplistic and at worst, damaging.

Many square-dance moves are based on earlier, more informal steps that people performed in their homes. But how is that different than the dancing we still do when we’re alone and think no one is watching? Square may be more structured, but the point is that it’s still relevant, the way that dancing as a whole is a relevant and important part of our culture.

But that doesn’t really explain the renewed interest … or does it? As we mentioned, there’s not a lot of paraphernalia required to get started. Square dancing is practical and just easy to do. That sort of activity seems to mesh comfortably with millennial mindset of just enjoying the moment.

In other words, young people are now embracing square dancing for the same reasons their parents dismissed it. Despite the stereotypical image of washboard-and-jug bands, it’s the urban crowd that has rediscovered square dancing and is bringing it back.

Think of it as a square-dancing youth movement that has taken the age-old process and turned it into something fun and lively and real. It’s the original D.I.Y. entertainment which makes it a nice fit for a world disconnected through an internet of things.

Admittedly, this doesn’t always sit well with traditionalists—especially when callers start adding pop, rock, and funk music to the more tried-and-true stringed instrument sound. But square dancing, like any other form of art, is a living thing that dynamically grows and adjusts to the changes in society. It’s unrealistic and short-sighted to think it will always remain the same.

Not to mention, there is a bit of irony in trying to maintain strict fences around square dancing to preserve the form, when all it’s really doing is keeping people away and thereby contributing to the form’s death. In the end, it seems it would be better to have square dancing flourish and grow, even at the cost of certain traditions.

In other words, if young people want to change the rules in order to play, that might be ok … as long as they play.

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