This music and dance tradition has roots all over the world, but converged and was reinvented in its current form in Appalachian mountain communities by immigrant settlers hundreds of years ago. It has spread all over the country from there. I've learned almost everything I know about this dancing and the music that spurs it as an apprentice with the late Bill Martin in Portland, Oregon.
A typical community square dance in our neck of the woods features a lively old-time stringband, led by the driving combination of fiddle and banjo. There is a seasoned caller guiding dancers through various dance figures. Traditional square dances are simple enough that a beginning dancer can have a successful, enjoyable experience dancing, all the while feeling as if they are at a great party. This type of social gathering pumps life into a community, promoting good health, high spirits and a more fulfilling social network.
Every Sunday evening, at the Village Ballroom in Northeast Portland, folks gather for the Every Sunday Square Dance. People fall in love, make new friends, and dance their Northwest rain-induced seasonal blues away. Traditional dance needs to be kept alive in the same way a language does, and our twenty-first century, west-coast edition of the tunes and dances that have been handed down for generations keeps this FUN heritage healthy for the future. Everyone has a chance to connect to a completely participatory, non-commercial, and welcoming community event. Each individual feels a part of something bigger, and this expansive sense of belonging carries over into the rest of the world, making it just a little bit better all around.