In order to be a square dance caller, providing great and interesting choreography can be a challenge at times. If the combinations of calls are too difficult, the majority of the dance floor can break down and be left standing. If the choreography is too simple, then the dance is uninteresting and no one will remember the dancing steps as being imaginative and fun. In the end, fun is the key to calling great dances, and great choreography is a huge part of the big picture.
There are many choreographic methods to call to a group of dancers. One way is a caller can use strict memorization. Another is extemporaneous “sight” calling, which is making call combinations on the fly, so to speak, as the dancers execute the commands. And another form of calling is memorization that infuses memorized combinations that move dancers around systematically. This is referred to as modular calling .
Modular calling, or square dance calling using modules, is a useful method because it allows both variety and control. The variety in the choreography is planned ahead by using a known set of calls that were written and usually memorized by the caller prior to the dance, and the control is in by doing so, knowing that the combinations resolve to a known formation that usually is an in-sequence set of dancers with original partners. The caller does not have to depend upon the dancers to stay in sequence to resolve the entire dance floor as in “sight calling,” and once again, I stress the control is that the caller knows the ending result of the set of calls that are given and thereby can call more smoothly and confidently and not have to worry about resolving the squares.
Additionally, with this control, if you are the square dance caller then you can make judgments about whether to give another module or continue on with a “get out” if it is needed at that particular moment.
Modules either work as “setup” modules,” zero” type modules, “transitional” modules, “equivalent” modules, or “get out” type sequences, and this last type could be referred to as “resolving” modules.
A Set up module usually starts with a static square or a circle of dancers. The goal is to call a sequence that will set up another established formation by which the next module can be implemented. “Head Couples Square Thru 4 Hands.” This moves the dancers from a Static Square setup to a Zero Box (Box 1-4).
A Zero module is accomplished by using memorized sequences of calls that start in a specific set-up, such as a “zero box” (ending set-up after Heads Square Thru) and ending in a zero box at the end of the sequence. Zero type modules will move the dancers around and bring them right back to where they started.
A Transitional module can bring the dancers from an established set-up such as a “Zero Box” to a “Zero Line” or a “Zero Line” to a “Zero Wave.” I consider a normal right hand ocean ocean wave with partner in hand to be a Zero Wave because the dancers are in sequence with everyone else in the square and quick resolution on a get out is very accessible. Transitions change formations and in almost all cases cannot be called twice in a row such as the Zero Module can be.
An Equivalent module is a short or long set of calls that can be used to replace one specific call in another module set. This is a way to substitute that one call in a module, as an example, the call “Right and Left Thru” with a sequence like “Swing Thru, Spin the Top, Recycle, Sweep a Quarter.” This provides more interest from a dancer’s perspective and as an added benefit it increases the length of the module that it is plugged into. The end result of the equivalent is the same as the call it replaces.
A Get out module, or Resolving module, is a transitional module that will take the dancers to either an “Allemande Left,” “Right and Left Grand,” or a squared set in which all the couples are paired as started at the beginning of the tip with all couples in sequence (a “squared set”).
Modules are very useful and can be a very powerful choreographic tool when calling a dance. I recommend that you write some modules of your own and experiment with combining module types, both in your head, on paper, and of course, on the dance floor!
I will take a closer look at these types of modules and more dancing examples of these figures and using them together in other posts.
Talk to you soon!
Mission Statement: The purpose of this post is to create a greater visibility of the square dance activity for future dance population growth on a national and local level. The information provided here serves as a source for square dance calling education and perspectives on dance. Future articles will be developed to improve the programs of square dancing and how those learning to square dance call can help contribute to the preservation of both modern western square dancing and traditional square dancing and to aid in the growth of the square dance activity.