Square dance calling at a state festival or a national convention is a different experience for everyone, and there are all sorts of different styles of callers that perform at these functions. Your personal style should definitely come through, but you should at the same time be entertaining and interesting for the square dancers in attendance. After all, that is why they came, to have a great time. So make sure that you provide fun first – everything else will come naturally – if you are in good preparation in terms of choreography and musical material.
If you have registered for a weekend state festival or calling at the National Square Dance Convention, then you will receive a program schedule for yourself and this will lay out a time, hall location, and level for you to prepare by. This is the best time for you to take a good look at the your weaknesses and strengths in your calling ability and plan from your personal assessment. Decide what you may call as your primary choice for music, and then choose a second set of patter and singing call songs to use in case the caller before you on the program calls your primary choices for music. You cannot call the same music twice in a row for the dancing crowd, that would not be good for obvious reasons.
Further, keep in mind that the dancers may be tired or not warmed up for you if you are thinking about calling fast square dancing first thing in the morning (if you have scheduled morning slots). Work on calling according to what the dancers need most at that moment rand not to what you necessarily want to do. Take everything into perspective and you will do much better this way. Call for the dance floor and not for your own ego.
Make your choreography your most interesting and least complicated in terms of moving dancers around and the dancing length of the sequences. Use memorized sequences on your patter calling that resolve on a relatively quick get out because if something you call for some reason loses the majority of the dancers you need to get everyone moving again quickly. You will do better with the goal of having fun and letting the dancers have fun than trying to impress everyone with complicated modern square dance choreography.
Of course, you will want to take some time to listen to other national square dance callers and other top local callers that attend. You can learn from any and ALL other callers there, and take note what they call, how they present themselves, and whether they succeeded in making their slot memorable and entertaining for the dancers. You can learn a lot from their successes and shortcomings in that short calling segment that they perform.
If you are going to call with a live band, then keep in mind that square dance calling with a band is a very different world from calling with recorded music. If you can, try to find out what styles of songs the band performs for patter calling and get a song list of singing calls that they perform live. This type of situation can make you look great or it can make your weaknesses blare out for all to see. By having a good idea of the band’s capabilities, you can better prepare yourself.
Working on your timing and knowing your choreographic material and practicing to many different styles of square dance music will help you most in being ready in working with a live band.
Overall, stay relaxed and keep it fun and you WILL get tired.
I have never called at a national convention or festival that did not wear me out by the end of it all!
Good Luck to You!
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 caller 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.