Northwest Stories: Seattle Subversive Square Dance Society




Seattle is not only a music city, it’s a dancing city.  Waltz, swing, tango, Cajun, lindy hop, contra, and almost every other kind of dance you can think of—Balkan, Scandinavian, English Country, East African, Native American powwow, Morris. And one kind of dance that almost everyone has done—usually back in elementary school—is square dance, but until recently people were hard-pressed to find a square dance in Seattle. In the 1970s and 80s, square dancing’s popularity was replaced in large part by contra dance, brought in from the Northeastern United States. But about four years ago a young group of old-time musicians, The Tallboys, asked the Tractor Tavern if they could hold a square dance on a Monday night.  The dances started attracting a following, and soon the Seattle Subversive Square Dance Society was born.  They decided to do it the old-fashioned way—clear out the furniture and roll up the rugs!  And soon the house parties were being hosted wherever there was a largish space.

We talked with some of the folks involved in the Society—Charmaine Slaven from the Tallboys, callers and musicians Gabe Strand and Tony Mates—and attended several dances.  The excitement is catching!  Their stated mission is to “spread the joy of traditional square dancing & music to our community through organizing house dances, community events, and converging at spontaneous locations.”  Soon there’ll be a square dance near you! Remember how to do-si-do?