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EAASDC-Bulletin March 2011

Square Dance History

As it was then

Looking back more than 40 years
Miro Schmitz-Honhoff, Colonia Swingers

40 years ago, there were still very many American barracks in Germany. There Square Dancing was practiced, the American folkdance that also Henry Ford liked so much.

My brother-in-law Hermann was in charge of a folkdance group at that time.

One day 40 Americans announced their coming, they wanted to travel around Germany dancing for one month. Hermann became their companion and guide. And so he learnt about square dancing.

After this tour he tried to get his folkdancers to acquire a taste for dancing standardized dance figures to a caller on the floor. The people were enthusiastic. And it didn’t take long before one of the first Square Dance clubs in Germany came into being that had not been founded by the Americans on the base.

As Hermann changed his job one of his dancers took over the role of the caller, and Hermann lost contact with his companions. But Hermann offered weekend courses in square dancing for beginners as a leader on a regular basis, which were always well attended and many club members came out of these courses.

But we stayed with this activity and are still square dancing.

One day we received a call from Hermann’s office. He was about to retire. The farewell was about to take place. Would it be possible to present a square dance demonstration at a farewell party?

The enthusiasm in the clubs for this demo was rather restricted. So we had the idea of doing some detective work to find the people of the time back then.

“Are you ready …???“ „Wonderful. That is a good idea. I wonder if we will recognize each other?” „I have not danced for 30 years, but that can be refreshed, can’t it?” And our former club caller was also willing to participate. It worked. So we confirmed that we would come.

On the Friday night there was the first big meeting. The records, with music from “back then”, were prepared. Only the record-player was missing. Nowadays you need a ghetto blaster!

So we practiced without music. But first we chatted and talked. Apart from that we tried on the skirts and petticoats.

Afterwards we stopped by in a bar although it began to snow heavily and we knew that the way home would become a “sliding party”.

The performance was on the Saturday night. We had a nice room for changing in. Petticoats were put on, everything was pushed into place, and a belt put on.

When Winfried showed up in a square dance shirt in the hall, Hermann already knew that a show dance would follow. He had already wondered that we had come to this party.

But when the dancers marched in and perfectly showed their dance figures called by the caller, Hermann’s eyes opened wide. You saw him reflecting, recognizing, laughing and being astonished. At the third singing call he could not stay on his chair, he jumped up, one dancing man stepped out of the square, and Hermann danced merrily with the others!

Then there was squeezing and welcoming with great enthusiasm. The surprise was a success! And we „old stagers“ have arranged to meet in the summer.

Übers.: Hartmut Heiber

Reprint from “Square Up” June 2005

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