Cowboy: “Can I have the last dance with you?”
Cowgirl: “You are having it!”
Dance has always been a way for people to relax and express themselves and that was as true for the nineteenth century cowboy as it is today. After spending hours in the saddle, cowboys weren’t exactly known for grace. Nor did they worry about traditional dance forms. One observer commented in 1873, that “some punchers danced like a bear ’round a beehive that was afraid of getting stung.”
Timing has an awful lot to do with the outcome
of a rain dance
Balls, Fandangos and German hops were held at ranches, barns, saloons and even under the stars. Announcements were made in local newspapers or simply word of mouth. Impromptu dances were common. A few cowboys would start dancing in the middle of town and everyone would soon join in. Sawdust or corn flour was often scattered across the dance floor to allow boots to slide with the greatest of ease.
When one partner pulls and the other bucks, you ain’t gittin’
no where fast!
If women weren’t available “stag” dances were held. The “heifer-branded” men wore a kerchief tied to one arm and knew not to take the lead. Even the roughest, toughest cowboys were expected to mind their manners on the dance floor. Men were referred to as “gentlemen” and women as “ladies.”
Some cowboys march to a different drummer
and some polka
The Polka became all the rage during the nineteenth century and phrases such as polka dots, polka socks and polka hats began creeping into the language.
Cowboys took to polka like birds to the air, adding a distinct western flair. A cowboy’s spurs forced him to shuffle with his feet apart. Women were often held in a “vise” grip better suited to wrestling steer (actually, this describes the way my husband dances).
Dancing is like a shower: one wrong turn and
Immigrants brought their native dances to the west. Marching to a different drummer is one thing, but dancing to one can lead to chaos. The foreign dances with their intricate steps soon turned the dance floor into mass confusion. No one really knows who first came up with the idea of picking up a megaphone and calling out steps to keep everyone on track, but this was the beginning of the “figure caller.” After awhile, these callers began to create their own dances and square dancing was born. (Did you know that square dancing is always called in English, even in foreign countries?)
If it’s got hair, I can ride it. If it’s got a beat, I can dance to it. (The Cowboy Way)
The two-step dance (sometimes called the Texas two-step) originated in 1889 when John Phillip Sousa composed the Washington Post March. The nineteenth century two step was derived from the polka. It actually has three steps, not two, but who’s counting?