What is Tennessee State Dance?

Answered by Willie Powers

The official state dance of Tennessee is the square dance. This traditional folk dance was adopted on April 23, 1980, and holds a significant place in the cultural heritage of the state. However, the process of making square dance the official state dance was not without its challenges.

Square dancing has a long history in Tennessee, dating back to the early settlers who brought the dance form with them from Europe. It became immensely popular in the state during the 19th and early 20th centuries, and Saturday night square dances were a common social event in rural communities.

In 1942, a film titled “Saturday Night Square Dancing” was released, showcasing the vibrant square dance culture in Tennessee. This film played a role in popularizing the dance form not only within the state but also across the country. The lively and energetic movements of the dancers, accompanied by the lively fiddle tunes and banjo playing, created a joyful atmosphere that was enjoyed by people of all ages.

The movement to officially recognize square dancing as the state folk dance gained momentum in the late 1970s. Advocates argued that the dance form was deeply rooted in Tennessee’s history and was an integral part of the state’s cultural identity. They believed that designating square dance as the official state dance would help preserve and promote this important aspect of Tennessee’s heritage.

However, the adoption of square dance as the official state folk dance faced some opposition. Critics argued that other dance forms, such as clogging or the buck dance, were equally deserving of recognition. There were also concerns that designating one dance form as the official state dance could exclude or diminish the significance of other cultural traditions.

Despite these challenges, the efforts of square dance enthusiasts prevailed, and on April 23, 1980, square dance was officially adopted as the state folk dance of Tennessee. This recognition was seen as a way to celebrate and honor the history, traditions, and community spirit associated with square dancing in the state.

Today, square dancing continues to be enjoyed and practiced in Tennessee. It is not only a form of entertainment but also a way to connect with others, build relationships, and celebrate the rich cultural heritage of the state. Square dance clubs and events can be found throughout Tennessee, providing opportunities for both experienced dancers and newcomers to join in the fun.

The square dance is the official state folk dance of Tennessee. It holds a special place in the hearts of Tennesseans, representing their history, traditions, and community spirit. Despite the challenges faced during the adoption process, square dancing continues to thrive in the state, bringing people together and preserving this important aspect of Tennessee’s cultural heritage.