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This is why we dance
counter clockwise

by Delbert Trew
Delbert Trew
As expected, our question of, "why do we dance western dance around the floor counter clockwise" generated a varied response. The question arose while attending a western swing concert at Quitaque this summer. I had never thought about the direction of dance before and in fact had never heard the question before.

The numerous theories varied from the sublime to the serious to the ridiculous, but all were sincerely appreciated. So, as promised, here are a few of the best answers.
Dancers, Anson, Texas post office mural  Cowboy  Dance detail, by Jenne Magafan
Post Office Mural "Cowboy Dance"
Photo courtesy Barclay Gibson, April 2009

K. from Amarillo believes if you danced clockwise in the same direction you wind up a clock you would soon be wound up too tight to dance. I agree wholeheartedly as I have seen many dancers that were too tight to dance or even to walk straight for that matter.

Liz, a transplanted British subject, now a self-proclaimed Texan, states from experience, not only Texans dance counter-clockwise. The English Gay Gordons, the Military Two-Step and Greek dancing dating back to sixth century B.C., all dance in counter-clockwise fashion.

Some eight respondents agree that the majority of all people are right-handed and therefore probably right-footed also. (This may vary.) They place their right hand on their partner's waist, grasp their partner's other hand in their left hand and yell "charge" or "Big Balls In Cow Town" then lead in the direction pointed. This could have originated either in the military or on a Bob Wills dance floor sometime after the break.

Linda believes the dance direction could be influenced by the equator. An old adage touts that flushed toilet water north of the equator swirled counter clockwise while flushed toilet water south of the equator swirled clockwise. I checked both my bathrooms and can testify that if this is true, the equator lies somewhere between my north and south bathrooms.

L.R., a doctor from Amarillo states, "We dance counter-clockwise because that is the direction ordained by NASCAR." (This may cloud our opinions of always trusting our doctor and his or her decisions.)

Some six respondents pointed out that NASCAR, horse races, high school, collegiate and Olympic races and airport landing patterns all circle counter clockwise.

We now know that military and Greek dancing go left, cowboys mount their horses on the left, car steering wheels in America are located on the left, cars meet and pass to the left, and on and on and on.

So we have determined from all our research, verified by our readers and backed up from a lifetime of experience, that we dance around the floor in a counter clockwise direction because "it seems to be the natural order of things."

Saying it best we quote Buck Owens the famous western singer who said it in song, "all I have to do is act naturally."

Thanks folks. That was fun!


Delbert Trew
"It's All Trew"
December 21, 2010 column
Delbert Trew is a freelance writer and retired rancher. He can be reached at 806-779-3164, by mail at Box A, Alanreed, TX 79002, or by e-mail at trewblue@centramedia.net. For books see DelbertTrew.com. His column appears weekly.

See Burning question counterintuitive - Western Dance by Delbert Trew

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