My Experiences with Square Dance since 1970

In 1966 the Adult Education School of Hannover rid themself of all cultural activities, and sponsored only useful courses. Therefore the Folk Dance for Beginners Group had to find a new name. We could dance half a dozen singing calls by rot and therefore proudly named us the Square Dance Circle Hannover. Some times later we were told that there was a monthly magazine in the States "Sets in Order" which could be subscribed from Germany. This I did. When I wrote a letter to the editor and it was published, the EAASDC became aware that a Square Dance Circle existed in Hannover. We were invited to the RoundUp 1970 in Mörfelden. I warned that we might not be ready to dance there. But the invitation was repeated. So we attended.

In those days, every year a travel group came from the USA which toured Germany during the Labor Day Week, and which brought along a top caller who was the attraction of the RoundUp. (This is the reason, why the RoundUp is fixed to the weekend before the first Monday in September.) 1970 came Johnny LeClair and Dave Taylor. They did a great job. Even we were aware of it, though we understood next to nothing. While we travelled home (by railroad group ticket) we decided that we wanted to learn this kind of dancing too. We had met a German Caller, Reinhard Kraft, who came to Hannover on some weekends to teach us the missing basics. When I attended the RoundUp 1971 and realized I could keep up with all the others, I felt like dancing 4 inches above the floor.

The Square Dance Circle Hannover (who soon renamed itself as Cloverleaves SDC) was theortically a trimester course of the Freizeitheim Linden, and should be open to new participants every third month. If somebody new attended, he was shown some movements, and could dance one tip. Then the club danced the next tip. Then the newbie was shown something more, and could dance another tip. After this, the club danced again, and so on. Interested people returned perhaps once, but then no more. So when in 1974 another Freizeitheim opened, I offered there Square Dance especially for new partizipants. By and by we danced what was then the Basic Program (now MS 35, the program of the student parties). We were quite happy with this. In 1976 we formed a club and named us the Happy Squares.

At the Spring Jamboree 1978 we asked, whether a club who restricted itself to the Basic Program could be admitted to the EAASDC. Nothing was found against it in the constitution. Therefore on the spot the bylaws were amended to the effect that only clubs which danced at least the Mainstream Program should be admitted. Robertīs Rules of Order allow such spontaneous decisions; German law would require a topic in the invitation. For us, however, membership in the EAASDC was more a question of honor than of usefulness. We simply whistled the Milexta-March (Bavarians may translate this) and carried on.

In those days, the minutes of the membership meeting were available only at the next jamboree. If you wanted to stay informed, you had to attend every jamboree. However, since 1975 Rolf Schuster published the Chatterbox as a bilingual square dance magazine, and by agreement with the EAASDC, every club got a subscription. But in 1980 Rolf published a letter to the editor, by which the president felt insulted. He requested that letters be only published with his approval. Rolf Schuster retorted that this was censorship, and forbidden by German law. Both sides became blockheaded, and finally the EAASDC cancelled the agreement with the Chatterbox, and established the Bulletin as its own publication. At the start, the contents were quite sparse: a letter from the president, the calendar of special events, and the membership roster. But the minutes of the meetings were published there, too.

It was a decade of important decisions. More and more American clubs lost the military status, because the German members outnumbered the American members. But only Military American Clubs had full voting rights, and could nominate the next president. "German" clubs had only half voting privileges. In the end, the EAASDC had to reorganize into an association under German law, and give all member clubs equal voting rights. The name was redefined too. Until then, it was the European Association of American Clubs for Square Dancing. Now it is the European Association of Clubs for American Square Dancing.

In 1981, CALLERLAB merged (or rather submerged) the Basic Program with the Extended Basic Program, and named this combination the Basic Program. Since our constitution said "the Basic Program as defined by Callerlab", the Happy Squares followed suit and dived into the ocean waves. But in 1986 we decided that this program made no sense, and we wanted to learn the full Mainstream Program. Thus the Happy Squares could join the EAASDC. This was now important, because the EAASDC had agreed a contract with the GEMA upon which we had to pay for our club evenings as much (or as little) as a bavarian club for finger wrestling.

But we could have joined anyhow. At the Summer Jamboree 1986, Peter Schensick proposed to admit Clogging Clubs into the association. This was approved with great enthusiasm. Then he proposed to admit Old Style Clubs. This was approved as well. Then he proposed to admit Contra Dance Clubs. There were some wrinkled brows, but it was approved too. Then he proposed to admit Basic Program Clubs. There were protests and a heated debate. But Peter Schensick pointed out that all the arguments against Basic Program Clubs would apply as well against Round Dance, Clogging, Old Style and Contra Dance. So this motion was approved too. I still admire the clever tactics of Peter Schensick, first to drill a hole with the cloggers, and then to pull the other programs through it.

However, this debate was repeated 10 years later, when at the Summer Jamboree 1996 there was a motion to admit Clubs who danced the Community Dance Program into the EAASDC. At that weekend I was at the National SD Convention in the USA, and therefore I can say nothing about the discussion. But the motion was carried only by a small majority, by many abstentions.

Nevertheless, I could join the EAASDC with Open Country Hannover, when in 1999 the Happy Squares became dissatisfied with my newbie-friendly ways of calling.


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Published 2005-07-20   /   Heiner Fischle, Hannover, Germany