A square dance caller and historian, Stan Burdick has called more than 5,000 dances in his career. He has called dances in every state, every Canadian province and 20 countries during his 60 years in the industry.
Square dancing is a fun pastime for many. For Stan Burdick, it’s been a life-long love.
A square dance caller and historian, the Ticonderoga man has called more than 5,000 dances in his career. He has called dances in every state, every Canadian province and 20 countries during his 60 years in the industry.
Burdick and his wife, Cathie, published a worldwide square dance magazine, “American Squaredance,” for 23 years and he served 20 years on the board of governors of Callerlab, the California-based national organization for square dance callers.
“It’s been a great experience for me,” Burdick said of his square dance career.
Burdick returned to his roots for the Northern Lake George Rotary Club Harvest Hoedown Oct. 14 at the Ticonderoga Knights of Columbus. Backed by the Marcotte Mountain Music Band, Burdick called dances at the benefit event.
Burdick recently spoke to the Adirondack Torch Club in Ticonderoga. He outlined the history of square dancing and reflected on his career.
Square dancing traces its roots back centuries. The first printed guide to square dancing was published in 1651 in England, Burdick said.
“We can thus conjecture that square dancing was popular in the 17th and 18th centuries, and perhaps earlier, but not recorded,” he said.
The dance came to America with the earliest settlers, Burdick said, pointing out George Washington was a avid square dancer. His favorite dance was the Sir Roger deCoverly, which remains popular and his now known as the Virginia Reel.
One of square dancing’s greatest advocates was Henry Ford, Burdick said. Ford held cotillions, inviting many of the nation’s elite to square dance.
“In 1926 Ford published the book ‘Good Morning’,” Burdick said. “It became a best seller and contained instructions for quadrilles, lancers, squares, contras and rounds. A new revival had been born.”
Following Ford’s lead, many schools began to introduce square dancing into physical education classes.
While attending college in 1945 Burdick went to a square dance. The caller than night challenged the young men to “kiss her in the moonlight, if you dare...”
“Well, I liked the kissing part,” Burdick said, “ and I liked the calling part.”
Five years later Burdick was working at a boys camp in Rhode Island. His co-workers decided to invite a nearby Girl Scout camp to a square dance and asked Burdick to be the caller.
“The dance was a disaster, but I had found my calling, so to speak,” he remembered.
He also found his future wife. Cathie worked at the girls camp and met Stan for the first time at that dance.
In 1953 Burdick attended a workshop in Massachusetts to learn how be a professional square dance caller. Part of the training included calling actual dances.
“When I got there the same Cathie from the Girl Scout camp had come to dance with her parents, who were accomplished square dancers,” Burdick recalled. “Those days at Becket (Massachusetts) convinced me I wanted Cathie to be my life-long dance partner.”
The couple was married at the YMCA Conference Center in Silver Bay two years later. That same year they started work at Silver bay calling dances. They did it for 42 years.
“Cathie did the children and family programs and I called for teens and adults,” Burdick said. Over those years we entertained toddlers who came back to dance as adults, then another generation showed up and so it went.”
Burdick still calls dances once a week at Silver Bay during the summer.
When the couple wasn’t calling a dance, they were writing about dancing. They purchased “American Squaredance” magazine in 1968 and published it for 23 years. It reached a circulation of 23,000 readers worldwide. The Burdicks sold the magazine in 1991, but is still published today.
Square dancing has taken the Burdicks around the world. The couple has danced at the U.S. Capitol in Washington and toured Europe.
“One day in the summer of 1981 I was contacted by the British Association of American Square Dance Clubs,” Burdick said. “Would I come to the UK for a short time to call a few dances for them? Short time? Few dances? The trip turned into an exhausting two week loop all over the UK in September of that year, covering hundreds of miles, calling dances most every night, escorted by British dancers and callers.”
Square dancing is not as popular as it once was, but Burdick believes it may be ready for a comeback.
“It’s no secret that square dancing in the new century has greatly diminished,” he said. “Festivals are fewer. Many clubs have closed their doors.
“However, a resurgence has come among the younger crowd,” he said. “We’ve seen it happening lately in full halls over the middle New York area. A new generation is involved. Is it a throwback from an earlier exuberant time? Does history repeat itself?”