With rain expected this weekend and cooler temperatures coming in next week, it’s a good time for us to celebrate another fun family activity that can both be done inside and work out some of that little person energy.
Today is National Square Dancing Day!
Benefits for Kids
You’re probably familiar with what square dancing looks like today. Couples arrange themselves in a square and then dance to music by performing specific moves that the caller yells out.
Traditionally, if one can use that term with something with such a rich and diverse history, there are eight couples. To start the dance, each couple stands side-by-side on one side of a square facing toward the center. As the music starts, the caller will yell things such as ‘promenade,’ ‘weave the ring,’ or ‘box the gnat.’
It’s fun, it’s creative, it helps them learn to move to the music, it’s active, and it won’t tear apart your house just because everyone’s trapped inside.
There’s an entire language devoted to describing the official moves as they’ve evolved in America. Believe it or not, it’s easier than it used to be.
History of Square Dancing
Trying to trace the origins of square dancing, it seems to be one of those things that’s always been and yet is always changing. Dances that have the same general characteristics as square dancing today can be traced back at least to the 1600s England. At that time, it was a dance involving six male dancers who performed a choreographed (memorized) morris dance.
People who saw these dances thought they looked like fun and began mimicking them in the country socials that took place at that time. Folks in France were dancing at more formal events with their version, called the quadrille and the cotillion.
Other square dance structures were found in Scotland, Scandinavia, and Spain.
All of these influences came over with the colonists with each region’s influences taking priority at different times. For example, just after the Revolutionary War, square dancing was heavily influenced by the French since the new American citizens wanted to put as much distance between themselves and their British adversaries while feeling particularly grateful to their French allies.
Although the European dances usually required the dancers to memorize the moves, bringing all those influences together in one community inevitably led to missteps and mixups. It was an American invention to add the caller, who began telling the dancers what to do either as the lead dancer or, more often, as one of the performers on the stage.
Don’t make it complicated
While there are places that will tell you all about the rules of the dance and the meaning of the terms involved, even formal American square dances are good-spirited about the random mess up.
Besides, you’re just playing around in the living room with a bunch of bored kids. Now is the perfect time to make it fun!
Begin by pairing up the kids in the house as well as you can. If it’s just you and one little one, no problem at all. Add a couple of stuffed animals if you want to be strict about the square or invite a couple of friends over.
You also don’t need to worry, at this stage, whether you know the terms or the movements. If you want a few ideas, this site offers a few simple graphics to associate with the words, but you can always just make up some of your own.
The best part, you can keep them moving as long as you want and still keep them within a small space. Have fun!