Richard G. Kraus


Squares, play party dances

Richard G. Kraus



Richard G. "Dick" Kraus was born in Manhattan, New York, on October 21, 1923. He became active in working with what was known as the cooperative movement, which established cooperatives in housing and many other areas. As part of his activities in the movement during the 1930s and 40s, he led "play parties" for children, introducing rudimentary square dancing and folk music.

Dick Kraus calling squares Dick graduated as an art major with a bachelor's degree from City College of New York and found early work as an illustrator and editor for comic books and teen magazines. He tried to sign up for the war effort but was found ineligible for military service. He began doing government intelligence work in Texas during World War II, he took up square dancing in ernest. Upon leaving intelligence work, he returned to New York and began calling square dancing at parks, block parties, nursing homes, and community centers, taking the name "Texas Dick."

He earned a doctorate in education from Teachers College at Columbia University and taught there for 20 years, founding the dance department. He later became chairman of the recreation department of Lehman College at City University of New York.

Dick was a Professor Emeritus at Temple University College of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (HPERD) for ten years before his retirement in 1987 as its chairman.

Dick recorded ten albums of traditional square dance music for RCA Victor and was a guest on television shows like "Today" and "The Mitch Miller Show."

He was a Founding Fellow of The Academy of Leisure Sciences, and honorary organization that undertakes various projects related to leisure and recreation studies.

In his book with Lola Sadlo, Beginning Social Dance, the authors state that "The dance walk is an important part of dancing; to the extent that if done gracefully and with appropriate style, one's dancing will be successful." His book Recreation and Leisure in Modern Society is a standard college text for recreation studies and is used by recreation and park professionals.

In the 1960s and 70s, he conducted seminal studies on the role of recreation in cities, including Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and New York.

He got up each day at 4 a.m. to write on his typewriter. Eventually, his prolific work left him little time for personal recreation. In his writings and many speeches, Dr. Kraus expressed worries that recreation for the poor and the affluent had become sharply different. He cited a survey that found that 90 percent of public outdoor playgrounds were unsafe, while chains of well-equipped indoor "fun centers" had sprouted for those who could afford them.

He was honored several times, including in 1985 with an appointment to the President's Commission on Americans Outdoors. In 1986, he won the National Literary Award from the National Recreation and Parks Association. He also was a member of the Unitarian Society of Germantown and the Germantown Country Dancers.

As one of the country's best-known square dance callers, when he wasn't conducting research, writing, or teaching, he could be found at his local hoedown. Dick was the inspiration for other square and contra callers, such as Tony Parkes and Gene Morrow, to become callers themselves. Gene relates, "One of Dick's dicta I always remember was: don't 'ask' or 'invite' that group of adults sitting around the hall if they'd like to try dancing ('no one will get up' he wrote), rather, using a loud, enthusiastic, friendly voice, just say 'everyone up and let's make [a] circle facing the center."

Dr. Kraus was married and divorced three times (Anne, Louise, and Galina Kraus). He died of colon cancer at the age of 78 in his home in Lower Gwynedd Township, Pennsylvania, on March 28, 2002, surrounded by his family and his beloved German shepherd. He is survived by his son Andres, his daughter Lisa, and three grandchildren. Lisa wrote, "My father was a hero to me as a caller. When I was a young girl, he was the one who made all the lively joy that was a dance happen. He would often be my partner for some of the dances -- a great honor." For many people whose lives Dick affected, their knowing him was just such "an honor."

Among Dr. Kraus' 40 books and papers on recreation, dance, and related subjects are:

Dances Dr. Kraus taught include Come My Love (Play Party Dance), Duck for the Oyster, Swing Like Thunder, Texas Star, and When the Work's All Done This Fall.