Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

Dance library reels in new gift

DU’s Carson-Brierly Dance Library already has one of the largest square dance collections in the West — the Lloyd Shaw archive, which boasts 72,000 items.

Now the collection has grown even larger thanks to a gift from Bob and Becky Osgood and Paul Moore, who drove the collection from California to Denver in a U-Haul.

DU archivists now have about 40 boxes of square dance photographs, films, letters and Bob Osgood’s personal files to inventory. Osgood saw the Cheyenne Mountain Dancers directed by Lloyd Shaw in the 1940s and fell in love with square dancing, friends say.

“Osgood probably had more effect on the success of modern Western Square Dancing than any person outside of Lloyd Shaw,” says Calvin Campbell, who knew Osgood for almost 50 years.

Osgood lived in Los Angeles and enjoyed organizing dances. On his first attempt, he advertised a series of classes at the Beverly Hills High School gym. When he arrived, there was a line of people around the block.

“Bob got on the phone to friend and fellow caller Arnie Kronenberger to open up a second gym to accommodate the crowd,” Moore says “He was a superb organizer and promoter and he used those skills to build a strong dance community in Los Angeles.”

Osgood also published Sets-In-Order Magazine. The first issue debuted in 1948 to doubts enough interest existed in square dancing to publish a second issue. Instead, the magazine was published through 1985 and had 25,000 subscribers at its zenith.

“It became the dominant voice of modern Western Square Dancing,” Campbell says. “There were many other publications, but Sets-In-Order was the most popular.”

Osgood also helped standardize terminology since there were substantial regional differences in square-dance calls. He published the Sets-In-Order Basic 50, the most commonly used calls from around the country. Square dancers and callers still had trouble, though, so Osgood worked for more than a decade to organize a meeting of callers. It came together in the 1970s at UCLA. Osgood was the first executive secretary of the international society of square dance callers, known as CALLERLAB.

“Bob did not create the language of square dancing, but he did amalgamate it and standardize it, all with the cooperation of the top callers in the country,” Moore says. “That was another one of Bob’s great skills — the ability to get people talking with each other and taking the best of the talk.”

Osgood died in October 2003, but the hope is his work will live on as part of the dance library.

“New callers really have very few resources to turn to for education,” Campbell says. “If much of the material can be made available to the general public on the Internet, it would go a long ways toward assuring that people will still be square dancing hundreds of years from now.”

Nancy Allen, dean of Penrose Library, which oversees the dance library, hopes to speed the process with outside funding.

“It takes time and resources to digitize and catalog the materials in order to make them available on the Web,” Allen says. “That’s why it is so important to receive external funding to accompany these gifts. The library continually seeks external funding from private donors and grants to make these unique materials available to researchers and enthusiasts.”

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