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NYCB Vol. 7 No. 7 - Square Dance

When Square Dance was choreographed in 1957, the cast included popular square dance caller, Elisha Keeler. The ballet featured his whitty and rhythmic calls that 'led' the dancers through the steps. Balanchine said, "We asked him to say anything he wanted, as long as he didn't use ballet terms."

I included 4 clips of the ballet (swipe) with Keeler's calls. I hope you'll watch them all, or even head to John Clifford's YouTube channel to watch the whole video. I couldn't stop smiling throughout. Personally, I find the calls so intelligent, funny, surprising, and a real talent! I think everyone can agree that the best line is: "Her feet go wickety-wack."

Unfortunately (in my opinion it's unfortunate), when the ballet was revived in 1976, the role of the caller was not brought back. Said Nancy Reynolds, "Sooner or later most of the critics complained that the calls did not always accord with the steps, were occasionally inaudible and sometimes distracted from the dance."

Keeler said of his experience: "The only people with bad temper around here are the stagehands. The dancers are wonderful and they sure don't waste any time."

Patricia Wilde, Nicholas Magallanes, and caller Elisha Keeler.

Photo by Martha Swope, 1958.

Patricia Wilde, Nicholas Magallanes, and Elisha Keeler. Thanks to John Clifford for posting this on his YouTube.

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