November 29 is Square Dance Day

Today is Square Dance Day. Some of us remember awkward co-ed square dance lessons in the high school gym. Or maybe we watched a group do-si-do on a parade float down Main Street. How can we keep the memory alive of an American folk dance and its European roots? We’re glad you asked.

Square Dance Day
In 17th-century England, teams of six–all men, for propriety’s sake–began performing what was called the morris dance. The fad inspired a country dance in which couples lined up on village greens to practice weaving, circling and swinging moves reminiscent of modern-day square dancing.

French couples in the 18th century squared off for dances such as the cotillion and quadrille. Folk dances in Scotland, Scandinavia and Spain are also thought to have influenced square dancing.

Europeans brought these dances with them when they settled the North American colonies. French styles became popular after the American Revolutionary War when many newly-minted citizens disdained British traditions. Several square dancing terms have their origins in the French language, including “promenade,” “allemande” and “do-si-do”—a corruption of “dos-à-dos,” meaning “back-to-back.”

square dance day
A similar style called the “running set” caught on in 19th-century Appalachia. At first, participants memorized all the steps but soon the dances became so complicated that it became necessary to have someone call out cues.  This caller’s original function was to call out the steps in time to fiddle music, so dancers wouldn’t have to memorize them all.

As square dance calling became an art form in its own right, the best ones invented lines to say between cues such as “Don’t be bashful and don’t be afraid. Swing on the corner in a waltz promenade.” A caller might also come up with new dance steps and routines.

Waltzes and polkas, which allowed couples to get closer to each other without raising too many eyebrows, supplanted group-based dances by the late 19th century. As the jazz and swing eras dawned, square dancing came to seem even more outdated.

In the 1920s, automaker Henry Ford decided to revive the tradition as a form of exercise and, more important, as instruction in proper manners with the opposite sex. He paid for the development of a national program, opened ballrooms, made attendance mandatory for his factory workers, and produced instructive radio broadcasts for schools throughout the country.

Lloyd Shaw, a folk dance teacher in the 1930s, wrote books about the rescued art of square dancing and held seminars for a new generation of callers. In the 1950s, standards were developed for square dancing across the United States, allowing dancers to learn interchangeable routines and patterns.

Square Dance Day

Recordings made the square dance more accessible since a trained caller no longer had to be physically present. Anyone in the country could dance to Ernest Legg of West Virginia’s calling on 78:

Ladies do and the gents you know,
It’s right by right by wrong you go,
And you can’t go to heaven while you carry on so,
And it’s home little gal and do-si-do,
And it may be the last time, I don’t know,
And oh by gosh and oh by Joe.

Square dancing continues to thrive in some areas although its overall popularity has waned in recent decades, according to the United Square Dancers of America. Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Tennesse and Virginia have all seen fit to make the square dance their ‘folk dance’ State Symbol.

Want to know more? Let Bugs Bunny call the tune:

Happy Square Dance Day!

Sources: – Square Dancing: A Swinging History
Appalachian History –  And it’s home little gal and do-si-do

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays

November 27 is Pins and Needles Day

Pins and Needles DayToday is Pins and Needles Day but it has nothing to do with anxiety, diabetic neuropathy or the creepy sensation you get after sleeping all night on your arm. On November 27, 1937, musical revue Pins and Needles opened on Broadway in New York City.

Comprised of skits lampooning fascist dictators and their sympathizers, bigoted Daughters of the American Revolution, anti-labor groups and advertising agencies among many others, the play was performed by members of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union, which was on strike at the time.

It became such a hit that the schedule was expanded and the players quit their day jobs to act in it full-time. New skits and songs were added periodically to keep the show topical. It closed on June 22, 1940, after 1,108 performances.

A revival ran for 225 shows in 1978. London’s Cock Tavern Theater mounted a production in November and December of 2010. In 2016, New York University staged an updated Pins and Needles, casting students who would’ve been roughly the same age as the original performers had been.

This play, which first entertained audiences in 1937, has reappeared many times, perhaps to remind us of the enduring spirit of satire and its important role in society. Have a fun-filled and happy Pins and Needles Day!

Copyright 2016 Worldwide Weird Holidays

Back to the Future Day Update: Cubs Win World Series!

Most holidays don’t require frequent updates. They happen once a year and the details don’t change much. That is not the case with Back to the Future Day, which has continued to evolve since its first observance on October 21, 2015.back to the future day

Back to the Future Part II was released in 1989. In it, Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) utters the following line as he and Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) travel through time in his trusty DeLorean: “We’re descending toward Hill Valley, California, at 4:29 pm, on Wednesday, October 21st, 2015.”

While the time machine has not been perfected—as far as we know—some of the “technology” dreamed up for the movie has come to fruition. When Nike was offered product placement, execs imagined a pair of sneakers with self-tying laces. To celebrate the date when the real world caught up to the movie’s timeline, Nike created a working pair of Air Mags with self-tying laces and delivered them to Fox on October 21, 2015.

back to the future day

Fox tries on first working pair

For Back to the Future Day 2016, it produced 89 pairs of the sneakers and raffled or auctioned them off, raising more than $6.75 million dollars for the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.

The quest to create a hoverboard like the one McFly rides in the movie has been less successful. One prototype levitates over a special surface, has a battery that lasts less than two minutes and is so hard to steer that one reviewer simply spun around until someone came to his aid. Still, its maker produced 10 and sold them for $10,000 each.back to the future day hoverboard

Most hoverboards could be called HINOs (Hoverboards In Name Only). They are self-balancing scooters with wheels, like a Segway without handlebars. Many models have batteries that can overheat and burst into flame while being charged or ridden, presenting a potentially exciting yet possibly disastrous experience for riders. We’re still waiting for the real thing.

Back to the Future Day

Without a doubt, one of the things Future fans will discuss for years to come isn’t a product but a “prediction” made as a joke by screenwriter Bob Gale. In Back to the Future Part II, the Chicago Cubs beat Miami to win the World Series on October 21, 2015.

Gale, a St. Louis Cardinals fan, later said he was trying to come up with something completely outrageous that could only happen in a fictional universe. He also pointed out that Miami had no team in 1989: “People don’t automatically realize when they watch the movie today, but we were predicting there would be a major league team in Miami.”back to the future day mcfly chicago cubs

In reality, on October 21, 2015, the Cubs played the New York Mets in the fourth game of the National League Championship Series and lost. (The Mets swept all  four games, obviating the need to continue the seven-game series.)

The Major League Baseball schedule has changed since the movie came out, which explains why the timing of the World Series isn’t quite right.

Back to the Future Day - Cubs win World Series

The story doesn’t end there. On November 2, 2016, the Chicago Cubs defeated the Cleveland Indians to win its first World Series since 1908. Coincidence or fate a year late? You decide.

Copyright 2016 Worldwide Weird Holidays

October 21 is Back to the Future Day

 “We’re descending toward Hill Valley, California, at 4:29 pm, on Wednesday, October 21st, 2015.”

back to the future day

Fire up the DeLorean and put the pedal to the metal. You’ll need 1.21 gigawatts of power at 88 miles per hour to get back to the future or, in this case, the past.

back to the future day
Today is Back to the Future Day. In the second film of the series, Doc Brown and Marty McFly travel to October 21, 2015. The movie franchise inspires the adoration of fans all over the world. It is also a model of the early days of product placement and two brands, in particular, made the most of it.

back to the future day

PepsiCo ad execs imagined a futuristic drink called Pepsi Perfect and paid for its screen time with free soda for cast and crew during filming. In the 1980s, product placement was a relatively new practice, one not yet recognized as the cash factory it would become for marketers and the entertainment industry.

To honor its role in Back to the Future Part II, Pepsi produced 6,500 bottles of Pepsi Perfect and sold them on October 21, 2015, for $20.15 apiece. A year later, you can snag one of these bottles on eBay for $75.00 and up. Though the movie’s beverage was nutrient-enriched, the soda in these bottles is just regular Pepsi.

back to the future mcfly nike mags

In 2011, Nike produced and auctioned off 1,500 pairs of Air Mags identical to the ones worn by Marty McFly except for one crucial element: power laces. Although prop men achieved that bit of movie magic by pulling on cables to “lace” the sneakers, Nike turned the concept into a reality four years later when it delivered the first self-lacing pair to Michael J. Fox on October 21, 2015, just in time for a tie-in (get it?) with the movie’s anniversary.

back to the future day

10/21/15: Fox tries on first working pair

Nike has since manufactured a limited edition of 89 pairs of the sneakers, awarding most on October 17, 2016, in an online draw. The cost per entry was a $10 donation to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, which raised $6.75 million. Two small real-world auctions were conducted as well. In London, a pair fetched $65,000. In Hong Kong, the winner paid $104,267.  The final pair will be auctioned off in New York City on November 12, 2016.back to the future day hoverboard

One thing that has yet to catch up with the movie is the hoverboard.  The Omni works like a helicopter with rotors under a rider’s feet. It holds the Guinness World Record for longest distance traveled by a hoverboard: 905 feet, 2 inches, but the battery is too light to last for more than a couple of minutes. There is also the distinct possibility of dicing a bystander with the blades when landing.

The Lexus and Hendo hoverboards use magnetic fields and will only levitate over a specially made conductive surface, meaning you won’t be able to zip down a street, let alone skate over water. On October 15, 2015, Arx Pax issued a press release announcing it would unveil the Hendo 2.0, designed with the input of skateboarder Tony Hawk, on Back to the Future Day. Sadly, it didn’t materialize.

Most “hoverboards” available today don’t hover at all and could best be described as self-balancing scooters. The batteries of many models can overheat and burst into flame. Owners are cautioned not to leave them unattended while charging, which might be an acceptable risk for someone who gets to fly around on a hoverboard afterward but not so much for the person juicing up a silly-looking skateboard/Segway without handlebars.

back to the future day mcfly chicago cubs

A “prediction” screenwriter Bob Gale added as a joke came closer to fruition than anyone could have guessed. In Back to the Future Part II, the Chicago Cubs won the World Series. In reality, on October 21, 2015, the Cubs played the New York Mets in the fourth game of the National League Championship Series. (The Major League Baseball schedule has changed since the film came out, so the timing of the World Series is a bit off.)

If the Cubs had beaten the Mets and gone on to win the World Series, it would have been the team’s first pennant in 70 years and first World Series win since 1908. It didn’t happen, though. The Mets won all of the first four games, obviating the need to continue the seven-game series.

In the movie, the Cubs beat Miami, which had no team in 1989. Gale says, “People don’t automatically realize when they watch the movie today, but we were predicting there would be a major league team in Miami.”

Love for the Back to the Future trilogy reaches back decades. The movies continue to attract new fans and inspire companies to pursue their vision. Who knows what the 50th anniversary will bring? Until someone soups up a DeLorean, we’re all going to have to wait to find out.

Copyright 2016 Worldwide Weird Holidays