Best Methods for Square Dance Calling Your Own Choreography

The most important thing about finding inspiration to create choreographic combinations and ideas is that you can’t choose or determine when you might become inspired to create, and this applies to both calling singing call figures and calling hoedown or patter choreography.

There are a couple of things you should do to create a foundation for developing great choreographic ideas. The best general advice I can give you is keep it relatively simple, but unique. To a degree, that simply involves basic ideas of calls combined in an interesting manner or calling slight variations of the plain calls that the average dancer is used to hearing and dancing to. One of my latest posts, https://shaunwerkelesquaredancecalleraugustrecords.wordpress.com/2015/06/05/modern-western-square-dance-calling-how-basic-choregraphy-is-refreshed/
gives a great insight on expanding upon the call Half Sashay and the possibilities that can open up when you take a look at the definition and get a little creative the next time you call to your group.

You can call variations for most calls by implementing simple ideas such as:

    • Fractions of the call or adding an additional fraction to the call (Right and Left Thru but Courtesy Turn a Quarter More)
    • Using the call as a “Working as Couples (2-Faced Line – As Couples Scootback)
    • Applying the call in an Alamo Ring/Circle or Allemande Thar
    • Calling unique combinations of basic calls (Normal 2-Faced Line – Boys Run Spin the Top)
    • Using the same gender to perform a figure (Boys in Wave Swing Thru Boys Cast Right 3/4 Boys Walk and Dodge)

Here are a few tips to follow that will help you improve and further your abilities to square dance call on a higher level of ability:

Keep a “Choreography Ideas” File

Keep a file – a document or a spreadsheet with a list of all your square dancing choreography ideas. Organize this into the Basic, Mainstream, PLUS levels and Advanced and Challenge if you call those levels. Keep this file in a place where you can access it at all times like Dropbox or Google drive. I always recommend that you keep a hard copy of choreography in a notebook as well.

When you have an idea(s) that might make an interesting choreographic sequence, write it down. Do this each and every time you have something and before long you’ll have a significant inventory of square dance ideas to work from even when you’re not in the mood to be creative.

Borrow from other Modern Western Square Dance Callers

One of the best ways to come up with ideas for your dance program in terms of choreography is consistently expose yourself to other callers from which you can draw inspiration and ideas from. Attend their dances and take notes of ideas you like when you are resting between tips. Don’t be afraid to borrow ideas that are clearly working for other callers. There’s a vast amount that can be learned from the success of other square dance callers, nearly all at many dance levels and abilities of performance can be a learning post for you. Patter introductions, modules, unique get outs, singing call figures, the possibilities are many! Write down and incorporate their ideas, but please do try to write your own sequences.

First, you should want to be original and individual. Second, it is a lot easier to remember your own sequences of calls if you write the choreography yourself!

The caller was fantastic, write the ideas down in your ideas file. On a slow day that might be just the bit of inspiration you need to spark a great and special set of calls.

Ask the Dancers

What do people seem confused (or excited) by in your calling? Ask dancers you know to tell you what they would like to dance more of – and then give it to them. Ask questions and get feedback. Sounds simple? It is! But remarkably few callers do this enough, if at all.

Ask the Internet

All sorts of square dance callers have been stuck for inspiration for choreography ideas before you, and while that has been a tall hurdle for some… there are some people who have conquered it and documented the process. Check out informational square dance websites and look for ideas created by your square dancing peers.

There are lots of ways to find out what’s “hot right now in square dancing” online. A great way to find posted choreography is to use the search engines or subscribe to a feed to be alerted on new ideas which will be read by many other callers who are searching for and researching things. If you are here reading this then you obviously are aware of this resource.

Piggyback on Choreographic Trends

Both “hot hash” calling and get out sequences that move the dancers to their home position quickly are two very popular trends. You could meld your original choreography and some hot hash for a unique idea. Or you could incorporate your original sequence into the resolution of the square at the home position for the dancers.

So you know this choreography you put together works, the next step should be: How do I expand on it? Can I break down one of my existing dance combinations into a shorter or longer sequence? Is it a zero module or a transitional module? Can I follow up with a new variation altogether? Sometimes I write posts on singing call figures and that will give me other ideas that I use to refresh the original idea, or simply come up with a new and improved version. See my posts on singing call figures on this website!

This article can be VERY useful for you as a caller in the square dance activity. Every square dance caller has to start somewhere, and by learning from your mistakes and applying some of the above methods and ideas, the improvement will come in bounds!

Shaun

 

 

 

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.

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For Square Dance Callers: Singing Call Diamonds Revisited

All square dance movements are based on the steps and figures and sequences used in traditional folk dances and social dances from many countries. The changes in both dancing and square dance calling that occurred in the 1960’s and through the 1970’s brought about the creation of many unique formations. This developed into Hourglass, Diamond, Butterfly and “X” and “O” formations at the Advanced and Challenge levels. These formations open up all sorts of creative choreographic possibilities and we will take a look at those sometime soon.

This is a continuation of the prior post on using PLUS level singing call figures. Here is the link to the other post:

https://shaunwerkelesquaredancecalleraugustrecords.wordpress.com/2015/05/21/shining-diamonds-for-modern-western-square-dance-calling/

The formation that I like to use the most in singing PLUS call figures is the Diamond formation. It is easy to set up a diamond, and the Plus level offers this formation because of this simple accessibility.

Here is a PLUS level singing call figure that I devised that uses the Diamond:

CALLING TIP! One of the quickest ways to make the dancers uncomfortable is to present calls arrhythmically. Follow the rhythm of the band and stay on beat at all costs !

Heads (Sides) Lead Right
Veer Left
Ladies Hinge
Diamond Circulate
Boys Swing Thru
Ladies Face In
Extend (the Tag)
Scootback
Swing Corner & Promenade Home

Or Try This one:

Heads (Sides) Lead Right
Veer Left
Ladies Hinge
Diamond Circulate
Cut the Diamond
Half Tag
Scootback
Boys Run
Swing Corner & Promenade Home

 

 

 

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.

Modern Western Square Dance Calling: How Basic Choregraphy is Refreshed!

One of the things that I see a lot in modern square dancing is what can best be called “unimaginative choreography.” When using basic calls in a dance, most callers need to try focusing more on using original ideas with basic figures. By striving to be original in an activity that is based on traditional figures and combinations that are “classic,” it can be challenging for a square dance caller to be “fresh” in the presentation of figures by coming up with new and different combinations of square dance calls.

This can be accomplished by first, analyzing the rules and mechanics of square dance figures, and secondly, managing the choreography into original sequences that make for a more interesting dance. Spending some time developing original sequences can be challenging, but it can also be fun and allows for you to be creative, if you, as a caller, choose to make it so.

Looking at the definitions of the calls is the start.

Let’s use an example. Take a look at the Half Sashay family. The definition for the call Half Sashay directs a couple that is facing the same direction and the dancers will exchange places without changing their facing direction. The dancer on the right has the “right of way,” and the left side dancer is to take a step backward before stepping to the right into the right hand dancer’s position as a couple.The other way that this figure is utilized in dancing is from a circle of 8 people and the Sashay works with the circling flow. If the ring is circling left, then the flow allows for the normal “right of way” to be danced. If the circle is to the right, then the flow dictates that the Sashaying persons continue to the right, the opposite direction than the normal. So the normal call is stated:

Circle to the Left   The Ladies Center the Men Sashay.

This brings in the body flow that carries the men to the left behind the ladies as the sashay occurs. The ladies back out and after this is completed the call that follows is almost always circle left continuing the flow.

Here are some variations that are different for this basic Sashay call from the Circle/Ring formation and not too difficult for dancers to get through.

Try from an in sequence square of dancers:

Circle to the Left>The Ladies Center and the Men Sashay>Men to the Center and the Ladies Sashay>Allemande Left>Promenade back Home.

This resolves to an in sequence Circle/Ring and you can continue with another variation that has a great surprise get out:

Circle Left>Everyone work as couples, the Head Couples to the Center and the Side Couples Sashay> Circle Left>Sides to the Center and the Heads Sashay>Circle Left>Allemande Left>Promenade back Home

This resolves the square once more and the dancers can continue with another variation.

The Head Couples Half Sashay>Everyone Circle Left>4 Men into the Middle and Back>Men Square Thru 4 Hands>Everyone Star Thru>California Twirl>Promenade back Home.

Then try this:

The Side Couples Half Sashay> Circle Left>4 Men into the Middle and Back>4 Men Pass Thru>Separate go Around One>Step Between the Girls make a Line>All Pass Thru>Wheel and Deal>Center 4 Only do an Allemande Left>Everyone Right and Left Grand>Promenade back Home.

The reward for spending time coming up with these kinds of ideas is grateful dancers who will appreciate the inventive and different choreographic sequences you call.
Two elements rest upon the caller in order for him or her to make for a great dance. One is great choreography.
The other is music – song choices and timing in delivering the calls.

 

 

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.