Modern western square dance

Modern western square dance (also called western square dance, contemporary western square dance, modern American square dance or modern square dance) is one of two American types of square dancing, along with traditional square dance. As a dance form, modern western square dance grew out of traditional square dance in the American West. The term western square dance, for some, is synonymous with "cowboy dance" or traditional western square dance. Therefore, this article uses the term "modern western square dance" to describe the contemporary non-historical dance which grew out of the traditional dance. Modern western square dance was the official dance of the United States from 1982 to 1993.


Modern western square dance, like traditional square dance, is directed by a caller. In modern western square dance the caller strings together a sequence of individual square dance calls to make a figure or sequence. These calls are the building blocks of the choreography that is danced by the individuals – square dancers – in the squares. There are eight people (four pairs of males and females, traditionally) in each square; at a dance there may be many squares. Generally speaking, each of these squares dances independently of each other, with the exception of specialty or "gimmick" dances, where there might be some crossover of dancers from one square to another.


While traditional square dance uses live music, modern western square dancing is usually played from recordings. This allows more variety in music styles than in traditional square dance. The tempo is also more uniform than in traditional dancing, as the ideal modern western square dance tempo is 120–128 bpm. At this speed dancers take one step per beat of the music.


The square functions as a "dance team" for the duration of a square dance tip, a group of dances usually separated from the next tip by a pause during which the dancers regroup into new squares. A square dance tip is usually composed of a combination of patter calls and singing calls, the two types of square dance calls.


Modern western square dancing is a non-competitive activity. There are no dance competitions, and apart from fun events, no prizes are ever offered or sought for 'best dancer' or 'best square'. Particularly at the 'challenge' levels there is large degree of personal satisfaction to be gained from the problem solving element of completing a dance. At all levels the main elements are to enjoy the dance, and to exercise.


Modern western square dancing is found in many countries across the world. The main centers are where United States military servicemen spread the dance during the 1950s through 1980s. Modern square dancing is found in such diverse counties as Japan, Denmark, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Taiwan, Spain, Germany and Australia. The Callerlab organization has standardized dance calls, allowing dancers to dance anywhere in the world.

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