Square dance is a kind of folk dance that involves four couples (eight people) standing in a square, facing each other, moving in time with music and the cues of a caller. It has its origins in English country dancing and French court dancing, but was altered by American pioneers and has continued to evolve into what is known now as Modern Western Square Dance. The basic traditions of square dance have been preserved, but the steps have continued to evolve over the years, and now there are square dance communities all over the world.
Although square dance is a kind of folk dance, there are two important distinctions to make between traditional folk dancing and square dancing. The first is that square dancing is always done with exactly eight people. The second is that the dancers are not required to remember the order of the steps. Every square dance involves a “caller” who tells the dancers what steps to do, and it what order, all in time with the music. There are many levels of square dancing involving many hundreds of different kinds of steps, but if you learn how to do about 50 to 70 steps, you will be able to join any square dance club in Japan, or around the world.
Square dance offers people a chance to interact and communicate with others while getting a bit of light exercise. People can participate as a couple or alone. There about about 35,000,000 members of square dancing clubs in the United States, and about 13,500 in Japan. In Japan, the Japan Square Dance Association acts as a national focal point for the 440 square dance clubs around the country. In Ibaraki, there are groups in Tsukuba, Mito, Toride, and Ryugasaki.