Utah is a land of squares—and that’s not a slide on the predominantly conservative culture. The truth is that there’s a thriving community of avid square dancers, and they want you to grab a partner, and do-si-do the night away at one of the many community get-togethers held throughout the state.
If you weren't introduced to the age-old folk dance like I was in elementary school, you might ask yourself, "What the heck is square dancing?"
From the 20th century onward, square dancing has become widely associated with the American West and the way of the cowboy, but it dates back to 17th century England. In America, it really gained traction in Appalachia and thereabouts, but steadily moved westward to Utah.
The basic setup is there are four pairs of dancers all positioned around a, you guessed it, square. Its steps and figures are a conglomeration of many folk dances found throughout Europe. You might recognize "calls" (aka specific dance moves) like do-si-do, box the gnat, or clover leaf. No? Well, they're all pretty simple and most are only slight variations from a small sub-set of moves. As a dance for the masses, little fancy footwork is required.
Locally, Square Dancing of Utah is the organizing body of such hootenannies, with more than 30 local clubs on record. For example, the Wasatch Mountain Squares (pictured here) meets weekly at the Community Center in Midway. Around the state, there are dances most nights, when folk don their finest regalia or come casually to swing and twirl. Grab a partner or come down by yourself, because all are welcome to be a square.
The organization is hosting its biggest event of the year, the Utah State Square & Round Dancing Festival in Midway on May 13 & 14.
For more information about upcoming dances and how to participate, visit the Square Dancing of Utah website.
Photographer and award-winning journalist Austen Diamond specializes in creative portraiture, commercial photography and editorial photojournalism. For booking inquiries and to view his portfolio, go to www.AustenDiamond.com.