We came across a 1960 interview1 of Jimmy Clossin, a long-time square dance teacher, author and caller from Texas. The 1920s saw him start his teaching career at Texas Technological College, with thirteen years of classes in square dancing. Jimmy also began to teach square dancing on the west coast and began teachers’ courses and recreational institutes in 1937. During this period, his largest class of beginner square dancers was 800 strong in San Diego. Beginning in 1948 he taught summer square dance classes at Colorado State College. His summer teaching would continue for a dozen years, up to the time of the 1960 interview. He claims that his 1938 square dance book ‘Honor your Partner’ was the first of its kind in the modern revival of square dancing. Below are some tidbits and opinions of Jimmy Clossin from the interview:
- The "square through" appeared in Edward Scott's Dancing as an Art and Pastille in 1892.
- In 1858, Elias Howe's Ballroom Handbook used an "Alamo style" figure, though unnamed.
- In 1960, the most pressing problem in today's square dancing, according to Jimmy, is too much new material; dancers, regardless of ability, are exposed to more than they can master. Under these circumstances, square dancing cannot serve its recreational function.
- From the midst of his extensive collection of square dance books, recordings, and hand-drawn analyses of square dance patterns and figures, Jimmy Clossin gave a final admonition to callers and teachers to pay more attention to the 90 per cent of participants who use square dancing as recreation, and less attention to the 5-10 per cent who become dancing fanatics.
Moving on, here are some more square dance history happenings. Did you know?
- The founding of the Aggie Haylofter Square Dance Club was in 1947 under direction of Jim McCaskill. The objective of the club was to create interest in square dancing among the college students and to foster a group to represent Colorado A & M College at various square and folk dance events.
- The 15th Annual Festival of the Texas State Federation of Square & Round Dancers was held June 2-5, 1977. The location was the Astrohall, next to the now defunct Astrodome. I (Griz) actually saw Nolan Ryan pitch for the Astros in the early 1980s.
- The November 1980 DAS&RDC Bulletin listed 64 square and round dance clubs in the council. Oh, the bulletin was 45 cents a copy.
- Also announced in the November 1980 Bulletin was the merger of the Centennial Squares, Cloudstompers and Columbine Stars square dance clubs. They would begin dancing at the Wheat Ridge Grange on November 22nd.
- On September 8, 1991, eleven couples from the Polka Dot Square Dance Club attended a matinee performance of Oklahoma at the Country Dinner Playhouse. I remember that place. The Playhouse was abruptly shuttered on May 22, 2007 during a run of “Evita.” It was demolished in January of 2011.
- In western country slang, a “Foofaraw” is a fancy dress.
- The gestation period of a moose is 246 days.
As always, we endeavor, as Your Council Historians, to seek out those callers, dancers, communities, events, writings and images of the past that may enrich our own experiences as square dancers today. See you in a square soon.
1 Gray, Miriam, FOCUS ON DANCE 1, 1960. The American Association For Health, Physical Education and Recreation, A Department of the National Education Association 1201 16th Street, N.W. Washington 6
A Square Dance Pioneer: Jimmy Clossin: Biography of a Pioneer.