Grand Canyon Square Dance Association

Proudly Serving the Arizona Square Dance Community Since 1988


Last Update:  04/03/2021

For more information,  call Virgil Harvey at (480) 215-1047

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Square dance is an American institution.  It has been our "official national folk dance" since President Reagan signed an act of Congress in 1982.  Square dance is a folk dance with four couples (eight dancers) arranged in a square and initially done to live music.  The square dance movements are based on the steps and figures used in traditional folk dances and social dances of the various people who migrated to the USA.  The dances done in early America did not have a “caller,” or someone who yells out the moves to dancers, like square dancing today.  Without the announcing systems of today, in each group, there would be at least one extrovert, the hail-fellow-well-met, the life-of-the-party type, with a knack for remembering the dance figures. With typical Yankee ingenuity, the settlers let this person cue or prompted dancers in case they happened to forget what came next.  Late in the 19th century square dancing was replaced by couple’s dances like waltzes and polkas in city ballrooms. But square dancing still thrived in rural areas.  In the early 1920’s, Henry Ford became interested in the revival of square dancing as a part of his early New England restoration project.  He promoted it among his factory workers and their families. Mr. Ford sponsored square dance programs in many schools. Square dancing was also brought to numerous college and university campuses at Mr. Ford's expense. He thought having square dancing in schools helped children learn manners, exercise, values and grace. Ford sponsored a Sunday radio program that was broadcast nationwide.  Square dance especially expanded in the decade following W.W.II. Many American GIs had been introduced to square dancing at USO cantinas. After the war ended, large numbers of them turned to square dancing in pursuit of wholesome recreational activity.  Around the 1950s modern square dancing was standardized. Lessons, which are still taught today, comprise of 69 standard moves. When the Western attire of slacks and petticoats became the norm, it was considered casual compared to the formal tuxedoes and ballroom gowns of the time.  Today dancing attire is even more casual with men often wearing jeans and women prairie skirts.  Today, there are thousands of square dance clubs located in nearly every community of America. Visiting other clubs has become a major aspect. Square dancing is an excellent example of an authentic American folk custom. Its rural origins are vague, and its development and diffusion are difficult to trace.  Square dancing remains a solid and enduring piece of American folk tradition. As dancers themselves are fond of saying, "Square dancing is friendship set to music."   Square dancing is done in many countries around the world, but where ever it is held, the calls are always in English!



by Jan Meyer & Dennis Farrar


On October 18, 1988, the association started with a meeting of six clubs in the home of Bob & Jan Meyer. With the hope that it would be the beginning a regular communication between clubs in order to facilitate scheduling of special events, and help clubs with problems.

Those in attendance were:

  • Family Squares ~ Bob & Jan Meyer, Jim Carter (deceased)

  • Crazy 8's ~ Roy (deceased) & Jo Childress

  • B&B's Phx West ~ Sara Ward & Linda Foster

  • Shepherd Swingers ~ Marilyn Smith

  • Peoria Promenaders ~ Ken Sutton

  • Desert Rounds ~ Edna Binns (deceased)


Jan Meyer was appointed to take notes at the first meeting, and was our first Secretary.


The name, "Westside Square Dance Association" was originally being considered as the name because the organizers couldn't vision that they could get larger than the West Phoenix area. However, after overwhelming interest of the square dance community, the first By-laws were adopted February 11, 1989 under the name of the "Maricopa County Square Dance Association". The first officers were Roy Childress, President; Jim Carter, Vice President' Jan Meyer, Secretary; and John Arnold, Treasurer. Tom Scott Cowling designed the association logo. We still are still using the same design, except to reflect the name Grand Canyon Square Dance Association, which is due to clubs outside Maricopa County wanting to get involved. We became the GCSDA in November 1992.


The Purpose of the association was to:  Promote Square Dancing (advertising)  - Organizing demonstration etc. to improve efficiency - Sponsor Westside beginner dances to keep students dancing - Help troubled clubs - Share club operational ideas - Become active in community affairs - Sponsor area special events (square dance festivals) - Sponsor area social non-square dancing events - Re-start square dancing at the state fair - Obtaining group insurance rates for square dancers -0 Create a calendar of events for all area festivals, regular dances and special dances.


In the early days of the association, it was believed that support of the existing clubs and their dance schedules was utmost in importance. To raise funds to get stared one dance was held with Chris Vear as the caller, but after that a Spring Picnic with Phoenix area callers donating their time and a fall Roundup dance were the only two activities necessary to support the financial needs for the organization.


Over the years work was one with national organization of Legacy to help clubs in their organizational challenges. Contacts were made with the Tucson OPSDA (now SARDASA) group to try to unite the state efforts to create square dancing as the Arizona State Dance. This effort was accomplished with the proclamation signed by then Governor, Rose Mofford, making Square Dancing the Arizona State dance in 1990.


The GCSDA has been a member of the United Square Dancers of America (USDA) since 1988, and supports our youth dancers by being "Frog Friendly". GCSDA has also sponsored, along with the Central Arizona Callers Association (CACA) the annual 24-hour Labor of Love Dance-a-Thon for the benefit of the Muscular Dystrophy Association.





Virgil Harvey 2020 - Present Dan Huggett 2003 - 2005
Maggie Russell-Navarro 2013 - 2020 Maggie Russell-Navarro 2002 - 2003
John Eaton 2012 - 2013 Wayne See 2001 - 2002
Barb Haines 2010 - 2012 Maggie Russell-Navarro 1999 - 2001
Michael Doane 2009 - 2009 Nancy Kamber 1997 - 1999
Terry Paxton 2008 - 2009 Dea Leon 1994 - 1997
Charlie Barber (Deceased) 2007 - 2008 Lyle Morrow (Deceased) 1992 - 1993
Senda Casada 2007 - 2007 Jim Carter (Deceased) 1990 - 1991
Colleen Centner 2005 - 2007 Roy Childress (Deceased) 1988 - 1989


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