Award-winner Ed Foote ’63 has called square dances around the world and guided many through books, videos, and classes
In his 43-year career, Ed Foote ’63 has told more than half a million people in a dozen countries what their next step will be. CEO? Career counselor? Military commander? Try professional square dance caller.
Foote’s called in the U.S., Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. At his peak, he was traveling 40,000 miles year and calling more than 400 dances. Today, though Foote and wife Marilyn stay closer to their native Pittsburgh, he still travels to California, Florida, and the New England states to call. “I’m booked two or three years ahead,” he says.
When he’s not traveling, Foote writes. For 20 years he has penned a monthly column for American Square Dance Magazine and he also contributes to The Northeast Square Dancer Magazine. He’s authored books on the subject, published his own newsletter, and recorded instructional videos and audio tapes used worldwide to help dancers and callers. In addition, he finds time to teach at calling schools and conferences.
Calling is not that far a stretch from Foote’s work as subscription manager for The Lafayette or his government and law degree. Coordinating the moves of as many as 1,000 people on a dance floor requires its own legal precision.
“There are nine different levels of square dancing,” he says. “At the highest levels, dancers might know as many as 600-700 calls. People have to go to class for six months to learn a set of instructions.”
Foote’s Lafayette days didn’t foreshadow his career. After graduating, he entered Wharton Business School, where he got an M.B.A. and discovered square dancing. He worked at Mellon Bank and later Columbia Gas after a stint with the Air National Guard. When Columbia moved its headquarters, Foote, who had stepped up to calling 280 dances a year in his free time, was ready to leave the corporate world behind and embrace his calling. He says, “My dad told me to do what made me happy.”
With happiness comes laughter. Foote has collected jokes—puns and groaners being favorites—since his Lafayette days. He maintains a captive audience, too, gleefully noting that one joke garnered boos from over 1,000 dancers at the Kansas State Square Dancers Convention. “People from Lafayette would throw up their hands in disbelief because I was fairly shy,” he says.
Shyness long banished, Foote lends his vocal and dance talents to worthy causes. He teaches spiritual dance, a movement-based expression of worship, and fills the pulpit for his presbytery as a guest preacher. When people told him that he had a voice for radio, he began reading to thousands of blind listeners through the Radio Information Service.
In April, the International Callers Association awarded Foote its Milestone Award, a lifetime achievement won by only 67 people in square dance history. As he says, “I’ve enjoyed a wonderful career in square dancing and made a lot of people happy.”