Square Dancing Round Dancing Clogging Contra Request Info

Updated April 13, 2012    


The information on square dancing, round dancing, clogging and contra is provided for the use of people who may be interested in learning more about this activity.  It was developed by the Media Committee of the 11th Canadian National S&RD Convention which was held in 1998 in Ottawa.  The material can also be used by the media in their coverage of the activity.


For further detailed information on beginning to dance or arranging interviews, photos, etc., contact the Canadian Square & Round Dance SocietyProvincial Federations,  Area Associations, Callers, Cuers, Instructors set out in this web site or local Clubs. This can be done by checking Provincial Federation websites; check also to see if the Association in your area has a website; failing that call the Federation or Association at the telephone number indicated.  They will have information on when and where New Dancer Classes are being held.


An Overview of Square Dancing, Round Dancing, Contra Dancing and Clogging
Square and contra are group dances. Square dancing is for eight persons while contras are for six, eight or more. Round dancing is a form of choreographed ballroom dancing with a cuer, and, like ballroom dancing, is done in couples. Clogging, a form of step-dancing, is done by each person as an individual. Both square and round dancing have been adapted for wheelchair dancers.  These activities are excellent for maintaining health.  Women who exercise briskly reduce potential of stroke by 20-30%.


Instruction for new dancers generally begins in September/October; some may start in January/February.
As a rule, Clubs dance once a week with periodic breaks through the year. Most clubs dance in the evenings, but some dance during the day. The average cost is approx. $5.00 per week per person, plus a yearly membership /association fees which includes third party liability insurance coverage. Coffee and light refreshments are usually available to encourage socializing.


What to Wear?
For square and round dancing ladies are encouraged to a wear comfortable skirt to ensure freedom for moving. If desired, dress may change over to shorter fuller skirts along with a crinoline, especially for square dancing. Prairie skirts are becoming more popular. Gentlemen wear a long sleeved shirt; western or string tie is usually worn also. Soft-soled shoes are a must for all.  For additional information check out the article on "Square Dance Attire" at the United Square Dancers of America Web Site ( http://www.usda.org/ ).



  • What is Modern Square Dancing?

  • Square Dancing is a social activity where eight people form a square with 2 people on each side, then dance a series of movements as "called" by the square dance caller. It is a healthy, recreational, fun activity. It is often said that square dancing is "Friendship Set to Music". Dancing is done to modern music, 50's and 60's to 80's and 90's or later - from Pink Cadillac, Bill Bailey, When the Saints Come Marching In, Elvis Presley tunes, Oklahoma, etc.
  • What is the difference between Old Time and Modern Square Dancing?

  • In Old Time Square Dancing there is a set pattern followed for each dance. This never varies, no matter how often that dance is repeated. Usually the first couple executes a number of moves with each of the other couples in turn. Then the second, third, and fourth couples do the same moves with each of the other couples.

    In Modern Square Dancing there are no set patterns for a dance. The dancers learn a number of moves which the caller then puts together to form the dance. The caller "calls" out these moves and the dancers execute the "calls". The dancers do not know which moves will be called next. Usually all dancers move together, although some calls are executed by just four people.

  • How do Modern Square Dancers learn the movements?

  • Anyone can learn to become a square dancer by joining a square dance club where the basic movements are mastered. New dancers enjoy an evening of fun while being taught the movements by the caller.
  • What countries have square dance activities?

  • Modern Square Dancing is a worldwide activity. Square dance calls are standardized and are called in English around the world. Once dancers have learned the calls, they can dance at any club or square dance event anywhere.
  • Are there square dance competitions?

  • There are no competitions, except that some teen clubs and adult clubs at special "games" may do so. Square dancing is recreational and done strictly for the fun of it. There are various programs within the square dance activity, each program encompassing an increasing number of calls. Dancers move at their own pace through the programs. They may decide to dance a certain program for an extended period of time, or they may decide to move on to the next program, learning additional calls.
  • The formal organization of Modern Square Dancing

  • The basic unit is the local club. Clubs may have anywhere from eight to several hundred members. However, the average club has 50 to a 100 members. In Canada, clubs are usually affiliated with an Association such as the Eastern Ontario Square and Round Dance Association. Associations are part of a Federation; such as the Ontario Square and Round Dance Federation. The Federations in turn are part of the Canadian Square and Round Dance Society. These Associations, Federations, and the Society publish magazines, sponsor special dances and events, assist callers in obtaining training, and, in general, work to promote square dancing and to ensure the smooth operation of the movement. The callers also have organizations at the local, national, and international levels to ensure the standardization of calls and to help them in the planning and running of the best programs possible for the dancers.
  • Number of clubs and dancers

  • There are hundreds of clubs, 10 federations, and many associations, and dancers registered in Canada with the Canadian Square and Round Dance Society. 
  • What is Round Dancing?

  • Round dancing is best described as choreographed ballroom dancing for couples. It is a social, non-competitive activity, for fun rather than competition. On the dance floor, choreography is directed verbally by a round dance cuer, enabling all couples on the floor to dance the same steps at the same time. Round dance has many choreographed sequences of steps that are borrowed from or can be transferred directly to normal ballroom dancing. Dances include the two-step, waltz, foxtrot, quickstep, jive, cha cha, rumba and more. There is no prize for being perfect - dance for the fun of it! If you make a mistake the round dance police will not get you.
  • What makes Round Dancing unique?

  • Round dancing has the same origin as ballroom dancing.  While round dancing choreographed, ballroom is freestyle. Round dancing uses a cuer, so that dancers don't have to memorize a vast list of dance sequences. There is a strong western dance influence in the 2-step and early level waltzes. And thanks to hundreds of choreographers over the last 30-35 years there are many superb sequences of dance steps in the rounds "classic dances".
  • How does the round dancer get started?

  • Join one of the many clubs dedicated to Round Dancing! There are hundreds in Canada. The aspiring round dancer joins a club which teaches beginners. Beginner clubs offer instruction, workshop, review of a previous dance, and lots of dancing fun in a smoke and alcohol free environment. A club dance varies from 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours long. Some clubs dance in the afternoon and others in the evening. The dance season usually runs from September through to the end of April with a graduation dance at the end of the season. If really interested, dancers can buy videos to supplement class instruction.
  • How difficult is it and how complicated?

  • Round Dancing is no more complicated than many other activities. New dancers include those who have never danced before in their lives, dancers who have done other dancing and people of all ages. You choose how far you want to go and how fast you want to get there.

    Music and Levels There are levels from beginner through easy, intermediate, to advanced. The dance music used is mostly popular instrumentals and vocals from the easy listening category, dating back to the 1950's and earlier. They include show tunes, swing, rock, and western.
    Rhythms The easy level emphasizes the 2-step and waltz. As one makes the transition to the intermediate level, new rhythms are added, including the foxtrot, quickstep, tango, rumba, cha cha and jive are introduced. Advanced levels add more rhythms and sophistication.

  • What Countries have Round Dance Clubs?

  • Round dancing is a world-wide activity, although most clubs are in North America, and the world-wide language is English. An international association of round dance teachers, called Roundalab, maintains the syllabus, instruction standards, and the introduction of new steps and rhythms.
  • Conventions

  • National square and round dance conventions are held not only in Canada and the USA, but also in Australia and Europe. In the southern USA, popular round dance destinations include Florida, the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, Arizona, and Southern California. Most provinces and states have major dance conventions annually.

  • What is Clogging?

  • Clogging is a type of dancing of which the three main characteristics are:
       . loud, fast footwork with steel plates or taps on the shoes;
       . fairly rigid torso; and
       . an up and down knee motion (which differs from most other dance forms).

    Clogging is continually in a state of change and improvisation by its individual performers, so that today it is performed not only to country and bluegrass music, but to pop, jazz, and rap. Although clogging is performed by each dancer individually, it is often done as precision dancing by a group of people. The dancers do the same steps at the same time as cued by a leader using a sound system. Clogging is often a family affair. All ages from 4 to 84 can and do participate. It is not unusual for three generations of a family to be clogging together. Not only do they keep fit, but they have a wonderful time.

  • How did Clogging Originate?

  • This enjoyable, healthy dance form has been around for hundreds of years. It originated in the Appalachian Mountains of the U. S. when the early settlers from Holland, Germany, England, Scotland, Ireland, and Africa combined their dance traditions. They called it buck dancing, flat footing, or just plain dancing. It was usually done to live fiddle music. Clogging and tap dancing have common roots. Clogging became the country cousin of tap. Tap is high impact, while clogging is low.
  • Where did Clogging get its name?

  • The term clogging comes from the heavy shoes once worn by the working people of Great Britain. In Holland, Belgium, and France, the dance was done with wooden shoes and today many people still believe that cloggers dance in wooden shoes. In the English steel mills in the mid 18th century, dancing in wooden clogs was a popular pastime. Competitions were held, and they danced on cobblestones with the upper body motionless, while the feet and legs did all the work. Heavy wooden clogs were a hindrance so a switch was made to leather shoes. To compensate for the loss of sound, copper pennies were nailed to the toe and heel. Present day cloggers use an oxford shoe with a special extra loud double steel tap.
  • What is the difference between Clogging, Step Dancing and Tap Dancing?

  • Traditional Clogging is a flat foot shuffle unlike any other form of dance and the body motion is down. This is different from Step and Tap as their motion is up and the dance is done on the balls of the feet with much jumping or hopping. Step and Clog are similar in their appearance as they both have little upper body movement. However clogging is generally more relaxed with no requirement for arms at all. Tap uses the entire body with specific arm and body movements.

    The differences between these three dance forms are becoming more difficult to define. The younger, more energetic clog dancer does a form of Clog called Buck and this looks very similar to Step and also borrows a lot of steps from Tap. However, in traditional terms clogging is a down motion with a lazy shuffle (thus low impact) and step dancing is an up motion with a lot of jumping (thus high impact).

  • How does the Clogger get started?

  • Would-be cloggers usually take a beginner course of 10 to 12 week duration. All the basic clog steps are taught, as well as 5 or 6 actual dances. The beginner starts off slowly, then builds momentum, and at the end of the course is able to dance at a fairly good pace, which is great cardiovascular exercise, and just plain good fun. Workshops provide an opportunity to learn new steps and dances and to meet other cloggers from different areas.
  • What is happening in Present Day Clogging?

  • Clogging's growing popularity can be seen by the increased numbers attending workshops conventions and recreation everywhere. In Canada there are over 70 clogging clubs from Prince Edward Island to British Columbia. The U. S. International Clogging Team is made up of cloggers from 17 different countries. In the National Capital Region The Ottawa Valley Cloggers have a large enthusiastic membership.


    Contra dancing is a North American folk dance which grew out of English Country dancing during the colonization of North America.  It has continually evolved in the same way other dance movements have and in recent years has seen a huge revival in the USA.

    While having similar moves as square dancing, it is characterized by the usual formation of two long opposing lines and the interaction of couples up and down the line.  However, a variety of formations are used and the lines may be straight, or in circles or triangles. Quadrilles (square formation) are also in common use within a contra dance program.

    The term 'contra' means opposite and in standard contra dances the partners of a dancing couple are opposite each other in the lines.  In the non-standard lines, the partners may be adjacent to each other as they are in a square.  Contras are often called 'longways' and could be any length, but some are limited to three, four, five or six couples.  Contra dancing is further characterized by the fact that dancing is performed to the phrasing of the music which varies from jigs, reels, and hornpipes to polkas, two-step and the waltz.  Square dance singing calls are often used and Scottish Country dance music has become very popular.  In many regions throughout the US and in a few Canadian cities, live music is used.

    To find out the real answer to the question "what is contra dance", one must try it.

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