Rekindle Your Wild Joy and Deep Belonging to the Earth

Square Dance in the Rural West: An Oral History July 26, 2016

Don & Fay promenade

Check out my new article in the Country Dance and Song Society (CDSS) online journal. It’s based on interviews with my elders, who can really tell a story, and contains small photos of those faboo 1950s dance outfits.

Best of all is getting to witness how community dance like square dance or contra dance forges community.


“Square dancing hit its heyday in the far west during the 1950s, and many elder members of my family were heavily involved in it. Hank Fields, my dad, was a popular square dance caller long before I was born. I follow lightly in his footsteps as a contra dance caller today; thus my interest in what the dance scene had been like for him. What are the similarities and differences with dance today? And what got so many people so passionately interested in square dancing back then?

“At a Fields/Glascock “inlaws & outlaws” family reunion held on my cousin’s ranch in rural Idaho during the summer of 2003, I spoke with a number of older folks who had been active in the square dance scene back in the 1950s, asking about their experiences.”


 To read the whole thing, go to:

CD+S Online, vol.1

Or get directly to my article itself


 I hope you like it! Please leave comments here.


25 Responses to “Square Dance in the Rural West: An Oral History”

  1. James G Bergstrom Says:

    As always, thanks Tina, for perspective if not a frame?

    Reads like they truly enjoyed the “Dance” and were able to distract themselves from the reality they faced at times. The same can be said today, although the circumstances are very different. I’m sorry your dad had to stop and that later he was disenchanted by a change he perceived. Sometimes it all just moves too quickly for many of us. You mentioned the Movies and TV programs of that time that seem to have played a part within the bigger picture? Call it tradition, nostalgia or awareness; That is also telling and within the broader sense has changed.

    Recently I made mention or at least nudged a particular crowd secondary to an obvious “Tradition” sedition that is ongoing. From “Gone with The Wind” that brings about a dystopic view of things, Westerns and even a particular form of dance. It all plays to a certain underlying state of being that is evolving toward enlightenment. Like your dad and I’m sure many others; There is much not to like about the underpinnings and the violence has been horrific. All we can do is look to outcome when conversation and rational alternatives are beyond many. In the meantime I’ve had at least some good news.

    My Daughter (by marriage) finished her B.S.N. with Honors and still remains befuddled by me. At least that denotes some reflective quality as it relates to any impact I have had within her life. As with all things, what remains on the surface is what we project to others and at times it lacks definition without context. In the past I have made every attempt to instill in her an idea of “Independence” without the passive persuasion of a manipulative agenda. Which I’m sure for yourself is easy to recognize within Faith and Organizations that indoctrinate many who lack the tools to think for themselves. Choice must be informed (as your dad demonstrated when he didn’t care for the fast paced) otherwise it isn’t choice at all. Certainly I would clarify this idea for her if I could and protect her from a deluded manifestation that has formed the reality we all live. But, symbiosis requires a nearness that doesn’t exist for us at present and remains elusive in my Marriage. As with life in the soil and all other eco-systems it requires something that is lacking. So, I remain Bronzed in the middle and forever smiling (with all the love I can muster) at her ability to thrive.

    I can’t begin to express my thanks to you and this blog. You have been a friend and hopefully I can continue to interact with you. If I could fully communicate my feelings to a mindful ear outside of this blog, I would. I just haven’t met many that pause to listen.

    Thank you Tina

  2. James G Bergstrom Says:

    Consider this as anecdote: ?

    • James G Bergstrom Says:

      In the end, I’m no “Batman” for change and like many others simply embrace the evolution. My Mother me to the March on Washington in 1972, today she would be dancing in the street. No doubt a Cha-Cha as we did in the Kitchen on more than one occasion. So much nicer than arguing or attempting conversation with an unrealistic audience.

      CHA CHA CHA!

  3. Nick Cuccia (facebook link) Says:

    Tina, you’ll be tickled to hear that this is being talked about over in the FB Square Dance Callers group. Well done!

  4. Rebecca Gully (facebook link) Says:

    so much value in listening to and documenting stories from back in the day

  5. Deborah Levin (facebook link) Says:

    Fun article!

  6. Kerry Spivey (facebook link) Says:

    Tara Angelique Hernandez you might enjoy this. Part of it is about your great grandma Rosemund.

  7. Jennifer Bamesberger (facebook link) Says:

    Great stories about spontaneous dance and connection in small, remote communities. I loved hearing your dad’s voice in his account of his calling experiences. Has he come to hear you call?

    • Tina Fields Says:

      He has! He and Alta sat on stage at the Avalon where they could really take it all in. And I’m glad to hear you think I captured his voice in this piece.

  8. Erfert Fenton (facebook link) Says:

    Visions of silver rickrack just flooded my head. (I can’t believe I remembered the word “rickrack”!) My mom still has her old square dance dress.

  9. Teri Rasmusson (facebook link) Says:

    Cool tina. I once interview Chris Kermiet’s father Paul about his square dance calling days and their dance camp called “The Lighted Latern” I wrote a tune and dance to The Lighted Lantern. Chris wrote a cool paper on Dance Community.

  10. Birrell Walsh (facebook link) Says:

    [Sharing]: This is oral history at its best – Tina Fields is herself a dance caller, and the daughter of a square-dance caller. She talks about a form of community that is (for now) rare – dancing all night with those you know well.

  11. Ellen Donovan-Dahle Wright (facebook link) Says:

    My friend Leslie is a square dancer up Cotati way and she loves it!

  12. Stefan S J Elming (facebook link) Says:

    Square Dancing was still a mandatory activity at school when I was a kid. It was presented to us well by the adults teaching us and we really enjoyed it.

  13. Melody Knight (facebook link) Says:

    Was pretty popular in my rural Illinois community. Loved it. Contra dancing is practically the same thing. Some of the same calls.

  14. Ellen Donovan-Dahle Wright (facebook link) Says:

    I am dancing challenged but I do seem to be able to handle reels. I worked on a ranch 30 miles off paved roads and the ranchers would have “school socials” every season where we all of us, ranchers, cowboys, ranch hands, cooks like me, and the kids would dance reels for hours!

  15. Tina Fields Says:

    Stefan, Melody and Ellen, do you still dance with your communities like that at all? If not, why not and what might get you interested again?

    • Melody Knight (facebook link) Says:

      I’ve been in SF since 1967. Recently did Contra Dance at Folk festival. Would like to do it again, or even square dancing.

  16. Mary Bamesberger (facebook link) Says:

    Congratulations on this Labor of Love (and respect) as only you, Tina, could have written it. Bravo!

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