Pat Cannon

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Grades K-12

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Pat Cannon

A word from Pat Cannon…

“Square dancing may not replace hip hop in the lives of urban city children, but it will open a door for them to experience a new and different form of recreation.  Country music and dance will give students a glimpse of the music and dance done in Colonial America.”


As in all YANY programs, Pat Cannon’s work can be tailored to your school’s specific needs and interests. In a residency with Pat Cannon your students may:

  • Gain an overall understanding of the significance of historical events and the role they play in shaping a culture’s social traditions
  • Gain an understanding and respect for American traditions.
  • Teach parents what they’ve learned, while bringing the entire school community together in the spirit of traditional American dance
  • Experience coordinated social dances that bring the class together as a group


  • To improve their physical abilities such as coordination, flexibility, balance, stamina, control, awareness of space; learn how to hone listening skills and react to prompts from a caller; develop counting and rhythm skills
  • The history behind the music and technique of this popular social dance and the historical events that have shaped American traditions
  • The importance of community in any given cultural setting, including students’ own, as well as respect for themselves and others
  • The importance of teamwork and collaboration
  • To present and share their work to the larger community of audience

Why Pat Cannon?

“Pat’s residencies are about more than just American Folk Dance.  She will teach your students about respecting others through the use of partner dances, as well as how to work with someone they might not want to work with.  Pat was also Teaching Artist of the Year in 2011 because of her willingness to go above and beyond for her students.”

Focusing on American square dance, Pat takes students on a tour of the history behind the music and technique of this centuries-old popular social dance. In any given session with Pat, students will find themselves listening to traditional fiddle tunes while a caller guides them through various dance steps that encourage teamwork, foster community and sharpen listening skills. In the process, students learn about the European roots of American square dance, providing teachers with an opportunity to connect to Colonial American history and social studies topics.

Before the residency begins...

Space and Technical Needs

  • Stage or gym floor
  • Access to electricity

Activities to Prepare Your Students

  • Discuss with your class what children may have done for fun before the invention of the television
  • Ask your students what kind of dancing they like to do.  What types of dances do they think children like themselves used to enjoy during the Colonial period?
  • Ask your students what it means to dance with a partner.  Aside from dancing, when else do students work with partners? (When students walk in the hallway two-by-two they have a partner.  Square dancing is walking in patterns with a partner to music.)
  • Introduce your class to the Colonial period in American history.  Discuss some of the historical events of that time that may have influenced social traditions

Useful Vocabulary and Terms to Share

  • Square Dance: A traditional American folk dance with roots in English country dances and French court dancesEight dancers form a square and are taught steps and figures by a caller.   Fiddle, banjo and piano are the traditional instruments of a square dance band.
  • Caller: The square dance caller is the teacher/director of the square dance.  He or she prompts the dancers as to what steps and patterns they are to perform.  The caller will either sing or patter-call the instructions to the dancers.
  • Patter-calling: Speaking using rhyming sentences, similar to rap.
  • Fiddle: A fiddle is the same instrument as the violin; the only difference is the playing technique.  The bowing movements of the fiddler are more percussive and saw-like than those used by a violinist. A fiddler plays country, folk and square dance music, while a violinist plays classical and contemporary music.  A fiddler may learn music by ear, while a violinist learns to read music by notation as well.

More About the Artist...


Pat Cannon grew up dancing to rock ‘n’ roll until her early 20s when she fell in love with square dancing and traditional American fiddle music.  The friendship and fellowship she found in the “Old Time Music” community inspired her to spread the joy of square dancing.

Pat was working as a recreational therapist with the developmentally disabled in upstate New York when she first started to learn about American country dance and music.  In 1980 she moved to the Upper West Side of Manhattan.  There she studied tap, Irish, jazz and swing dance.  She formed the Foot and Fiddle Dance Company in 1981.  Since then the Foot and Fiddle Dance Company has toured nationally and internationally including concert tours in France, Scotland, Switzerland and Russia.  The Foot and Fiddle Dance Company has been performing for students in school settings since 1986.

Pat’s professional work as a dancer continues to be an expansion of her love for traditional American dance and music.


Pat Cannon’s dance company: Foot & Fiddle Dance Company

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