Rod and Helen La Farge


Squares, international

Rod La Farge



Rod La Farge taught folk dancing for over 30 years and called squares widely. His wife, Helen, also served as trachtenmutter ("costume mother") to the Edelweiss Schuhplattler Verein.

Helen La Farge 1953 Helen wrote in the paste-up of Rod's book, "Most of the book A History of Social Dancing in the U.S.A. was printed in American Squares when Rod was its managing editor. The book took 10 years research – much of it mine. It was almost finished. I was crushed and could never really understand why Rod didn't look for a publisher – it was the only one of its kind – or at least serialize it in his own Rosin the Bow while our magazine was still the best in its field. Rod put all his time in putting together American Squares. The publisher, Frank Kaltman of course was happy, his Record and Book store profited handsomely. His magazine was a perfect advertising vehicle. Rod with his 200 IQ couldn't see this!"

Helen La Farge in the late 1970s with Oscar Appel's egg collection - photo from the Appels In 1995, Helen wrote "Both my husband Rod and I before our marriage in 1943, had already a background of square and folk dancing, devoting our time and combining our skills to teaching, publishing, promoting, and deeper research of our early immigrants and their European heritage.

"The National Directory of Teachers and Leaders in the field of Square and Folk dance published in 1958 a list of 5,000 [locations to folk dance]. Rod's directory of places to dance in U.S. on a regular basis by state in 1948 doubled in ten years to 10,000. The list even involved a few celebrities like Roy Rogers, Bing Crosby, Henry Ford's books, and television's Ed Sullivan. Rod persuaded the New York Daily News to include the Polka in their Harvest Moon Ball competition. The response from the 18,000 audience at Madison Square Garden was tremendous – enough to add a Polka band the next 15 years.

"Rod with his IQ genius and photographic memory achieved a reputation as an international authority although in his research, not all European Embassies were as responsive with information as the USSR. The mass of material their republics and Balkan countries sent us probably caused the FBI investigation of Rod's motives and were quite satisfied, apparently, when they learned even the Library of Congress sought help from Rod on questions they couldn't answer.

"Primarily a folk dance collection, never the less, my own study into sewing ethnic costumes for our various dance groups led to a special interest in the folk arts of Europe. Costumes for special occasions are definitely works of art and part of the collection.

"On a personal note, after Rod died, my stepfather died two months later and my mother in her 80s came to live with me. Shortly after she died in 1992, I had surgery on a painful bent middle finger – the one I wore a thimble for sewing hundreds of costumes for our dance groups. The finger had a pin stuck in it and a sling for three months until the bone fused. The next year major surgery twice (the first one burst) for cervical cancer, was followed by 44 radiation treatments. Disposing of a ton of type, all the photo and audio equipment took time. Now, at 80 years old, with no family except some relatives in Poland, I finally was able to catalog the collection as best as I could with arthritic hands. Fortunately, all those years, I did the filing by country, etc., so the task was not now as formidable."

Rickey Holden wrote on October 10, 2010, "The magazine American Squares was started by Charley Thomas (of the Camden, New Jersey, area) about September 1945(?). At that time Charley was buying and selling books and records (mostly limited to square and contra dance material). About 1951, Frank Kaltman and I bought Charley's operation. I took over editing and and publishing the magazine in San Antonio, Texas, and, later, in Arden (near Wilmington), Delaware. Frank and I drove a truck from Newark down to Charley's house, packed up all his stock of books and records, and drove [to Newark, New Jersey], unloaded it all to Folkraft (then at 1159 Broad Street in Newark), whence Frank then handled all sales. When I started world traveling, I could no longer run the magazine, so Frank hired Rod to edit it – which Rod did from v11n11 (July, 1958) to v15n1 (September 1959)."

Rod died in 1978.

Rod's articles and publications include




Publications by Helen La Farge

Dances Rod and Helen taught include Carillion de Dunkerque, Crested Hen, Danish Dance, Dashing White Sergeant, Der Eselfest, Domino, Donkey Dance, Dutch Garden Schottische, Esmeralda, Espan (A Beka), Hasapiko, Italian Danza, Italian Mazurka, Kaczéros Leány, Karapiet, Katona Nincs Penzem, Korobushka, Krakowiak, Kritikos, Meitschi Putz Di, Monfrina, Montgomery, Naering Circle Waltz, Pletyonka, Plum Picker's Waltz, Roselaar, Sammy's Schottische, Schwartzbrot, Shoe the Donkey, Sukýnka, Tarantella Montevergine, Traltella di Pescatori, Tarantella Sicilianella, Tarantella Villaggio, Treis Kavalaries, Tsitsanis, Troika, Washington Post, and Windmueller.