History of Square and Round Dancing in the Czech Republic and Slovakia

Country music and country dances have a long tradition in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. As early as before the World War II, many of our famous or unknown authors have tried to compose their own songs. They took their inspiration from popular American country melodies. Due to the fact that more and more bands and singers have let themselves to be influenced with this style of music, folk and country music is very popular in this country nowadays.

Together with an expansion of country music, groups of people trying (more or less successfully) to dance and propagate country dances in public were coming to existence. Particular dances were looked for in old manuals, imported from abroad, many dancers invented their own calls. At that time, the style called Old Time Style was danced. In late 80's there were several dozens of country dance groups in Czechoslovakia. It is interesting that as early as at that time some of square dance singing-call recordings (e.g. Rosalie's Boat or All My Roads) came to this country. However, nobody was able to distinguish between Old Time Style and modern Square Dance. All the dancers' eyes got opened by the dance group Caramella led by Jiří "Jeff" Vašák, who as the first one obtained a textbook of modern Square Dance and in summer of 1988 made a trip to München to visit the Dip-n-Divers club. This club, together with its caller Toni Sedlmayr, repayed the visit with coming to Prague in spring of 1989 to support the effort of Caramella in learning Square Dance. At the beginning of the next year, on January 17th, 1990, 25 dancers from Caramella were graduated for the first time by Toni. Although many other clubs visited Czechoslovakia at that time, great thanks go especially to Dip-n-Divers for their work, fullfilling the idea of 'friendship and fun'.

After mastering Mainstream in Caramella, the club started to introduce Square Dance to other country dance groups as well. Jiří "Jeff" Vašák became the first Square Dance caller in our country, Vláďa Bartoň, another member of Caramella, was the second one. As early as in autumn of 1988, a group of people started to attend dance lectures held by Caramella. They were the bud of the later M-Separate club. At that time, dancers from two clubs (M-Separate Praha, Petronella Bratislava) got their graduation from Jeff. Square Dance enlarged upon the country dance clubs. Jeff initiated establishing the CSAS - club association on September 1st, 1990 (before this, in May 1990, he initiated publishing of ZOOM - bulletin of Czechoslovak Square Dance; Jiří Rogalewicz undertook this after Jeff in 1991). The aim of CSAS was to present Square Dance in our country and to support establishing clubs. Jeff acted as President for one year, Vlado Grežo from Petronella Bratislava was elected to relieve him. However, he did not have time enough, and in the time of himself being President, the association folded.

It took just another year to establish another organization that lasted in function until today. On November 7th, 1992 in Stránčice near Prague, 24 callers and cuers gathered to establish the CzechoSlovak Callers & Teachers Association. CSCTA has been working of improving qualities of its members by organizing seminars and caller colleges, lending various items from its library or publishing its own bulletin since that time.

At least three events from the first Square Dance period shall be mentioned as well. Petronella and Vlado Grežo organized the so-called Guiness Country Ball using radio broadcast for an attempt to reach a world record in number of dancers dancing at the same time to one live caller's calling in 1990. This attempt took place at 36 dances in 33 cities concurrently. At the end of May 1991, the club association together with Caramella organized Prague's Calling - a dance at Žofín in Prague. It was attended by 250 dancers from our country and 250 dancers from abroad. Seven local performers presented themselves there besides callers and cuers from Germany and USA. At that time, this was the biggest dance in our country. The third one to be mentioned is Summer Jamboree, which was organized by M-Separate in 1992 and which became an unforgetable dance for many dancers from abroad. The attendance of 1700 dancers contributed to the success of this dance. This number became a record attendance at a European Jamboree for a long time.