‘Pappy’ Shaw dance revival at Carriage Stop
Once upon a time, there was a school district superintendent who abolished football and turned his student body into dancers.
Along the way, Lloyd “Pappy” Shaw became a national authority on square and round dancing, writing a popular book on the subject and even choreographing and acting in a dance scene for the 1946 Gregory Peck movie, “Duel in the Sun.”
Times have changed since the Shaw era (1916-51). Cheyenne Mountain High School has a football team again instead of a dancing team, and, according to local caller Merell Folsom, dancing itself has grown away from the original Western styles Shaw wrote about in his widely published 1939 book, “Cowboy Dances.”
It's not likely that football will be banned again soon at Cheyenne Mountain, but Folsom and caller colleague Ron Counts are hoping that local folk will be interested in getting back to the roots of square and round dancing. They'll lead the first in a monthly series of dances in the Pappy Shaw tradition Saturday, Feb. 5, from 7 to 9:30 p.m. at the Carriage Stop, at 2700 Robinson St. in the Westside's Midland area. Dancers from beginners on up are welcome.
“What you see now is not the old and pure form,” said Counts, a caller/dancemaster with two clubs four Saturdays a month at the Carriage Stop. “The calls were different then. Some might say this will be old clod stuff, but others are fascinated by it.”
Modern square dancing has branched out so much that there are individual groups with calls nobody else even knows, observed Folsom, who taught shop for 25 years at Cheyenne Mountain High (starting six years after Shaw's death).
There were distinctions and variations even in the old days, but Shaw's book shows that many of the figures are similar and most such dances are traceable in some form back to Europe.
“There are going to be some glitches and misunderstandings,” chuckled Folsom, when asked how dancers might respond to calls they're not used to. He expects a puzzlement even with the well-known dance term, do-si-do (spelled “docey-doe” in the Old West, according to Shaw). The term comes from the French dos-a-dos, or back to back, his book states. However, Folsom pointed out, “Modern square dancers don't do back to back (on their docey-does). Mainstream callers don't teach that.”
Another modern evolution - or “mutation,” as Folsom half-jokingly put it - has been the merger of the waltz (which Shaw wrote was “the best of all round dances”) and the two-step. There is a difference between the two types, but “instructors have been letting them get by with it,” Folsom said.
Counts and Folsom expect to start in slowly, probably with a circle dance like Shaw recommends, which gives beginners a chance to feel comfortable before moving on to more complicated figures.
“It should be a good family activity,” Folsom said.
The Carriage Stop, a 45-year-old dance hall with a hardwood floor, is down a long dirt driveway on the north side of Robinson Street just west of 27th Street. There is a parking lot around the Carriage Stop building. For more information, call 598-8624.
Westside Pioneer article