A Step in Time – Square Dance Club History

Whether country & western, polka or tango community dancing has been enjoyed as a pastime in Lethbridge for generations.

In the early 1950s square dancing soared in popularity. An estimated 1,500 people in Lethbridge belonged to a club, and the waiting period for admission to membership into one of the city’s clubs was as much as a year. Dance genres included square dance, round dance, and old-fashioned dances such as the Valeta Waltz and Heel & Toe Polka. In 1951 the first annual International Folk & Square Dance Festival was held in Lethbridge. The event eventually attracted about 1,000 dancers each year.

In 1953, 23 clubs from throughout southern Alberta came together to found the Federation of Southern Alberta Callers. Its aim was to standardize dance calling so that people could travel from club to club without having to learn unique dance styles. There were at least 44 resident square dance callers in Lethbridge and southern Alberta in the 1950s. In addition, callers from as far away as Texas and California were invited to call dances in southern Alberta.

On June 02 1953 a square dance was planned to celebrate the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. It was planned that the dance be held on 3 Avenue South between 5 and 7 Street South. Bad weather forced the dance indoors at the Lethbridge Arena, where approximately 1,800 dancers attended. It was also in about 1953 the Southern Alberta Western Dance Association (SAWDA) was formed. Dance in many forms remains a popular activity in Lethbridge today.

On Sun JAN 29 from 2 to 3pm the Galt Museum & Archives presents Couples Dancing workshop. Bring a partner and learn to dance the Clarkesville Shuffle and Wooden Nickel from instructor Gloria-Rose Puurveen. Admission fees apply. Registration not required. Admission is free to annual pass holders.

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