square and round dance in eastern ontario

High Schools and Square Dancing

There has been a long history of square dancing in high schools in the Ottawa area, dating back 30 years or so. Callers are contracted by the school similar to the way that they hire a supply teacher.

Below is a description of square dancing in the various schools who have been involved.  The descriptions are a combination of information provided by the school or a summary of personal knowledge by the webmaster.  If you have more information, know of other schools or wish to update the information for a school, please contact Bob Summers at summers_bob@yahoo.ca.

FRANK RYAN, Imermediate School, Ottawa
Frank Ryan Catholic Intermediate School has had Square Dancing as part of its Physical Education dance component for over 30 years. It began in the late 1980's with caller Bob Cathcart. For the last 16 years, Paul Adams has been our caller. He is the reason why our program continues to be so successful and why our students have so much fun.

In order to facilitate the learning, Frank Ryan teachers introduce Square Dancing to students before Mr. Adams arrives so that they know the basic formation of a square and increase their physical literacy with terms such as: square, couple, partner, corner, dos si dos, allemande left, circle left/right, left & right grand & grand square. This eases any anxiety or stress about the unknown of Square Dancing and sets up our students for success and fun. Year after year, our students look forward to this unit of study. (2018/01 Julie Mathé)

ST MARK High School, Manotick
St. Mark has had a square dance unit for 8 years. Paul Adams taught square dancing at St. Mark for around 6 years and currently Dave Currie has been teaching it for the past 2 years.

We run a 2-week unit with a professional square dance caller coming into the school for 5 lessons over the 2 weeks. It it truly amazing how much our students learn after the 5 lessons. We usually have the caller come in for 3 lessons the first week to teach our students, then the students use the next 2 days to form a square of their own and come up with their own square dance routine using the steps, patterns and terminology that they learned over the 3 days. We provide the students with routine planning sheets and with a sheet with the terminology to help them plan their routines. On the second day the students present their square dance to the large group.

The second week is the same with the professional caller coming in for 2 days and the students having another 2 days to come up with another routine. Our students really enjoy the square dance unit. When the caller comes in we make sure the squares are 4 boys and 4 girls but when the students make up their own squares we allow them to form all boy groups or all girl groups or a mixed group. The students wear pinnies to differentiate between the boy and girl steps.

In order to help form the squares on the days when the caller comes to the school, we have some of our strong grade 8 dancers (they had learned last year and had some experience with square dancing) who had permission from their teachers to remain in the gym all day to help complete squares when we had boys or girls missing to complete squares. This works very well as the students who are helping out are keen and able to help the kids who struggle with the processing of oral cues. We even had a few of our strong dancers take a group that was really struggling and teach them a remedial routine off to the side while the professional caller taught the main group. (2018/01 Tanya Klein-Swormink)

ST PETER High School, Orleans
St. Peter originally started their square dance program with Paul Adams as their teacher/caller.  However, when Paul cut back on his teaching,  one of the PE teachers took over teaching the students square dancing, but in the traditional and old-time style. Growing up in a large french canadian family, her entire family danced to fiddle, guitar, piano and accordion music played by her aunts and uncles. Thus she finds is a true pleasure to relive some of her childhood memories with the grade 7/8 students, teaching them calls like Grand Square, Grand Chain, Dip and Dive, Birdie in the Cage etc.  This is a 5-day program with 9-12 squares in the gym at a time. Some comments from the students on their evaluation sheets: “I enjoyed it very much!” “One more week!” “Square dancing is fun!” (2018/03 Ginette Godmaire)

FISHER PARK Public School / SUMMIT Alternative School, Ottawa
Fisher Park had a Square Dance week for a number of years with caller Bob Summers. There were tales of desks being pushed aside to accommodate a square dance that had suddenly broken out in the middle of math class. And in a brief lull in an off-campus outing, the students held a square dance in the Diefenbunker -- probably a first for that location.

BELL High School, Ottawa
Bell High School has had a square dance program for perhaps 20 or more years with several callers handling the program, Graham Ingram and Bob Summers being the latest callers there. In recent years they have had a more free-form program during the last week before Christmas. While certain classes where scheduled during that time, students from other classes, with permission, could drop in anytime. Obviously a bit more challenging for the caller. The program has not been active in recent years. It stopped primarily because long-time caller Graham Ingram suffered health problems and couldn't continue.

However the program was certainly not wasted on the students; here's an anecdote. A few years back, several Bell students who were returning home from university for the Christmas holidays contacted a local square dance club and arranged to visit and dance with that club at their January 1 Masqued Ball.