Ways to be a Showman as a Square Dance Caller

If you are looking for unique ways to be a showman square dance caller or you are looking for a different approach to entertaining when you are calling a square dance or a corporate party or function then this post is for you!  Incorporating unusual, fun and even quirky performance techniques to stage engaging live performances at events is a valuable tool for engaging a group of dancers at a club or even to captivate a crowd at an event. So many times you have to be versatile in what you offer to your audience at a square dance and bring the excitement to the dancer’s night by offering a “show.” You can read more about this in a previous post I wrote, For The Square Dance Caller: Sparkle Your Entertainment! 

Many of these ways of performing as a showman were already used quite a lot by many men in the past who called dances in the traditional square dance callers style and even the early days back in the heyday of the modern square dance revolution. These guys had it right. They KNEW they needed to engage their crowd of square dancers by entertaining and holding the interest of everyone present by being unique in their stage presence on stage. Incidentally, this is one huge advantage that the traditional square dance scene already has over modern western square dancing, and that is the live music played by a band of musicians in the dance setting at the traditional dances.

With a little work at applying yourself, you can be a specialist in unusual entertainment with audience participation. Come up with the idea of what you want to engage everyone with and work that up.  You might still see to this day at a National Convention a square dance caller who will have a unique approach to engaging the dancers by playing the guitar while they call or some other different and novel idea.   In the past this style allowed for a nationally recognized square dance caller to impress local area groups of square dance dancers with a unique and special night of entertainment. But you, as a local caller can do the same and spice up your night of square dance calling by doing the same kind of thing.

Here are some great ideas that have all been used as an entertainment platform for square dance callers in the past who either performed a short showman act between the dancing or in some cases, such as playing an instrument, they implemented different things that were entertaining while they were calling:

 

  • Ventriloquist
  • Standing on head
  • Calling blindfolded
  • Calling fast
  • Changing dynamics of the music from soft to louder
  • Original choreography
  • When singing hold a note for a long time
  • Yodeling
  • Perform magic trick
  • Telling a good joke that is not too lengthy
  • Calling with another caller in harmony
  • Involving the audience
  • Playing an instrument

 

Elegant, unusual, sophisticated, sometimes even bizarre ideas can keep everyone’s interest level at a peak. So don’t underestimate the potential this can have on your ability to take your square dance to a higher level. In order to be a unique square dance caller entertainer you need to draw from the experience of watching an unusual performance or even street entertainers to draw ideas and inspiration from. Then you will come up with new ways of engaging your audience such as they have not been engaged before.

In the end, just call the very best that you can and remember to entertain!

Shaun Werkele

303-250-4735

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 training 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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Square Dance Callers: How To Practice Choreography Figures For Singing Calls

Honing the skills of a square dance caller takes practice! When calling a dance, one element that needs to be constantly monitored by the caller is the amount  of beats of music that each figure takes and the caller must have a lot of knowledge about how to make the timing of the calls be delivered in a smooth and relaxed style. Note, there are two different things going on when the music is playing.

The first is the delivery of the square dance call by the caller. Almost immediately following the call is the execution of the choreography by the dancers. The square dancers perform the movement in rhythm with the musical beats as they are dancing.

Furthermore, the object of delivering the calls in good and sufficient time is to allow the dancers to dance to that music in time. Record yourself and analyze your execution of the calls and within the phrasing of the music, first by listening to your vocal delivery of the calls and then get up and actually dance to the called excerpt. Feel how the dancers would move to the calls with the beat of the music.This will improve your timing and delivery of the calls as if you were actually at a square dance.

Take a few minutes and apply this technique to these three brand new original choreography break singing call figures that work really well for practicing square dance callers:

CALLING TIP! Integrate the more difficult  choreography for PLUS level singing call breaks in the hoedown portion before you actually call the singing call to the dancers!

Heads (Sides) Half Sashay
Sides Lead Right
Swing Thru
Boys Run
Load the Boat
Pass Thru
Swing Corner & Promenade Home

Heads (Sides) Pass the Ocean
Extend
Linear Cycle
Reverse Flutterwheel
Sweep a Quarter
Pass Thru
Trade By
Swing Corner & Promenade Home

Heads (Sides) Lead Right
Swing Thru
Boys Run Right
Three Quarter Tag the Line
Girls Face Right and Circulate
Diamond Circulate
Cut the Diamond
Girls Fold
Touch a Quarter and Roll
Swing Corner & Promenade Home

Feel free to call me if you need any help in learning to square dance call, I would be glad to help.

I will be running a free square dance caller school with several free short clinics in April 2016 for anyone interested in learning or improving their square dance calling in the Colorado Region. Details will be forthcoming soon.

Shaun Werkele

303-250-4735

 

 

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 training 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.

Square Dance Caller Contracts and Agreements For Engagements

The Importance of Square Dance Caller Contracts & Written Agreements

So what is the big deal of having contracts in the first place? This is why. Once you get a call from a square dance club or even from a corporation or small company that is looking to hire a square dance caller, you want to know how to handle the contract details so that everyone involved is comfortable with the terms of the agreement and all are safe knowing that everything is in order for the planned future square dance event.

There are a few things that you need to be certain that you have covered in any contract to work. With all contracts, be clear of all language in the agreement so as to avoid any confusion or disagreements with the party you are booked with. If you are booking with a square dance club, then discuss with them anything that you need ahead of time before they draft a contract with you to call:

Terms of Agreement

At the top of the contract the actual task you were hired to do, whether that is call for a local event, a state function, or a square dance club that is in the nearby area. If the group that contacts you is looking for a night’s square dancing as a party or a type of dancing diversion for their guests, then that should be included in the terms of the contract and more specifically at the top of the contract.

Defined Parties Information

This is the area, once again near the top of the contract, that defines specifically the name of the party hiring and the name of the square dance caller who is being hired. This is important so that everyone knows who is doing what.

Rate of the Negotiated Fee

This is the most important part of the contract. And often the hardest part to negotiate between the parties. All fees should be based on either a set fee for the entire dance, or a set fee that is determined by, for example, how long you call throughout the event.

Terms of Payment

When and where you will be paid and any stipulations that might apply to the contract. This should also include the length of time you are being booked for to do the dance. There should be language outlining your duties in order to get paid and how much your fee will be. You could be paid a flat rate for the night’s calling or you could be working on a percentage of the monies taken in at the door. If you travel to the event and it is far from where you reside, you may need to have a written agreement that you will be provided lodging as some square dance clubs hire square dance callers and they will pay for part or all of this accommodation.

Description of the Square Dance Event

The level of the square dance choreography and type of dance that will be called. What time the event will start, when it will end and details of setting up beforehand – time, what room in the building that everyone will dance in. By having all of this in the contract in writing, then everyone is on the same page. Equipment details – who is providing the sound system? Will there be another caller or a round dance cuer providing round dancing between tips? Will that person use their own sound system or will you share the same equipment? Emergency contact information and phone numbers of other “backup” officers in the club if needed in the future?

Terms of Cancellation

A set time to cancel, a time limit of days before the event for either party to cancel, and the consequences of not following those terms in the written agreement. This is another area that needs to be taken into serious consideration so that disagreements do not occur later down the road. Cancellations need to be mutual in agreement, otherwise problems will arise for both the caller and the club.

Signatures on the contract

In order for the contract to be valid, the responsible person hiring for the dance and the square dance caller being hired must execute in writing with their signature on the contract and all provisions in that written agreement. Only after this is accomplished, do you have a contract that is both binding and legally enforceable. This cements everything in place and confirms the verbally agreed to items in the contract, as long as this is spelled out in the body of the contract.

Written Agreements Versus Verbal Agreements

All of the language in the contract must spell out what is expected of you, the caller, and the other party, whether that is a club or an organization or school or even a private corporation that is hiring you for a square dance party for their employees or clients. If something is mutually agreed to in discussion make sure that this is mentioned within the contract. If it is not written, it might not be enforced. Any conversations, no matter how friendly, do not constitute an agreement, one more great reason why written contracts are needed to spell out the event and all responsibilities and agreed to items.

Different Contract Agreements

If you are calling for a club then the contract will cover everything outlined above. If you are calling for a local school or organization then you will have to supply them tax information for W-4 submission to the IRS. If you are calling for a corporate event then you may need to write a contract yourself to ensure that the commitment is solid. Whether you are calling for a modern square dance club, a square dance party dance, or teaching children to square dance, you need to disclose that you are licensed to use copyrighted music at the get together. BMI (Broadcast Music Inc) and ASCAP (American Sociey of Composers Artists and Publishers) offer specific licensing to square dance callers and entertainers so that this obligation to pay copyright owners of music is covered. It is always a good provision to have in any square dance calling agreement to ensure that this is in compliance with US laws.

Maintaining Obligations

There are many reasons why you need to uphold your commitment. One is to ensure that you are booked again by the local clubs in the area. In most cities and areas throughout the country there are tight and close networks between square dance clubs that are members of area councils and representatives of these clubs meet periodically. You would never want to risk tarnishing your reputation among any of these groups. Maintain integrity and keep your commitments to anyone you make one to and keep everyone happy who is involved!

 

Shaun Werkele

303-250-4735

 

 

 

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 training 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.

Best Guide For Creating a Unique Square Dance Choreography Sequence

National Square Dance Caller Education1Creative choreography in square dancing is something that I learned and became fascinated with when I was young and I was first learning to call. I remember starting out in Denver Colorado square dance calling with my old caller coach and mentor, Dave Kenney, who would always ask me the same set of questions when I would present him with a new choreographic idea.

Now that I look back on those moments of learning, I see that our interaction often was centered around analyzing square dance figures that in the end, really, was a solid foundation and set of rules for creating interesting square dance choreography.

One of Dave’s most common questions would be, “Oh, does that follow the rule for the call?” or “What is the body flow for that combination?” meaning, is that acceptable and legal insofar as the dancer is concerned?  This really got me to thinking about the relationships between calls and how to combine them in an interesting manner. And this allowed for me to become a better square dance caller.

Body flow and understanding the definition of the call is a great start to creating choreography. Beyond that, what exactly is involved in creating a unique modern western square dance choreography sequence? There is an artistry to creative choreography and the basis of that creativity is first realizing that you are in the process of developing ideas that you combine with your knowledge of the rules of square dance choreography and how to apply that to your particular dancing situation.

Creating is a skill that you develop with hard work and practice and applying your knowledge to the start of an idea, even if it that idea is based upon a very basic square dance call. Talent or luck has nothing to do with this. Putting forth great effort into and getting creative on a level that boosts your choreographic possibilities from both a calling and a dancing standpoint is where you want to be when you are working a new idea. Get inspired first, then take that energy and just run with it. Often you are shooting for a different angle on some old choreography. More often than not, this is the way you should be working and there are tons of simple ideas that you can use and indeed, you can take this further than any other square dance caller has done so in the past, if you wish.

Set of Rules for Writing Choreography for Square Dances:

  1. Follow the rules and definitions of the lists of calls as established years ago – Mainstream, PLUS, Advanced, Challenge
  2. Keep your combinations simple
  3. Make sure that your dance sequences have good body flow for both sexes
  4. Build upon previously called ideas to create interest on the dance floor

Here are some great outlines to follow when you are devising creative choreography:

  • Always create choreography when you are inspired.
  • Do not try to “resolve the square dance checkers” while you are creating.
  • Springboard off of other choreographic ideas, both traditionally based ones from the past, and today’s modern western square dance
  • Put away an idea that is not working for you at the moment and return to it later
  • Take a called sequence that you like the choreography to and try reversing the sequence. Look for a different angle on the possibilities that might arise.
  • Follow the definition (rule) for the call to the letter for execution. Then break the rules and create a variation that is totally different from what it was originally!
  • Write your ideas first, analyze later. Otherwise you will stifle any creative combinations that might emerge.
  • Test your ideas on dancers at classes first, dances second. Still, remember that classes are for the dancers to learn first, and for you as a caller to learn is always second place.
  • Observe other square dance callers and pay attention to what they use for choreography.
  • Meet with other callers and run ideas by them and get feedback.

 

When you feel inspiration to create choreography, try to sit down and focus that energy on putting together something inspired and the end result will be worthwhile. That creative variable in your square dance program, utilizing a call or idea, can be the one element that makes it possible for dancers to enjoy and maybe even comment on how enjoyable your choreography was for them at the dance.

I wish you the best in your calling endeavors!

Shaun Werkele

303-250-4735

 

 

 

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, training, 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.

Six Great Plus Get Outs for the Modern Western Square Dance Caller

Modern western square dance calling generally is something we have to “pick up” from the local callers around us. Sure, a lot can be learned from various written sources and literature on the subject, nevertheless, the most common way to learn the craft of calling is by exposure to other callers. Unfortunately, unless we are lucky enough to have stellar square dance callers in our local area, we can often pick up bad habits. Be careful who you learn from and what it is you are learning from that person, even if they happen to be a top talented square dance caller.

I’ve made it my business to learn a thing or two about square dance over the years, and I’ll share a few great Plus Level choreography get outs with you today. These are strong and effective choreographic sequences that will work for resolving the square and bring a smile upon the faces of the dancers. These progressively become more difficult as the list goes down the page:

Box 1-4 Wave:
Boys Circulate
Swing Thru
Acey Ducey
Girls Go Twice
Right and Left Grand

Box 1-4:
Right & Left Thru
Touch a Quarter
Split Circulate
Single Hinge
Fan the Top
Spin the Top
Acey Ducey
Right and Left Grand

Box 1-4:
Right & Left Thru
Touch a Quarter
Girls Run
Load the Boat
Pass Thru
Right and Left Grand

1p-2p Lines:
Reverse Flutterwheel
Star Thru
Veer Left
Crossfire
Girls Peel Off
Boys Extend & Trade
Girls Circulate
Boys Scootback
Left Allemande

1p-2p Lines:
Pass the Ocean
Girls Run
Crossfire
All Eight Circulate
Girls Peel Off
Left Allemande

Box 1-4 Wave:
Boys Circulate
Explode the Wave
Wheel Deal
Zoom & Spread
Ends Load the Boat
Centers Touch a Quarter
Centers Walk & Dodge
Left Allemande

Shaun Werkele

303-250-4735

 

 
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 training 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 Dancing is Hot and Ferris Wheels are Sizzling!

View of Ferris WheelI think most individuals within our modern society can see how our world has  changed so very much in the past fifty years or so. We have went from HEE HAW to the Kardashians reality drama series (yes, drama, drama, drama!) and the changes that occur over time truly are a mish mosh of everything in our world manifesting through media, celebrities, politicians, technology, social activities, and this all combines and morphs into a new and very different, always evolving culture.

There have been many changes in the square dance activity, just like many other areas of interest in our lives. Square dance attire has become more casual and varied in appearance. I think back to when I was a teenager in the 1970’s wearing silk shirts, bell bottom pants, and patent leather shoes. Or in the eighties wearing exotic leather boots and Jordache jeans. The women wore dresses with lush petticoats underneath their colorfully ornate skirts. It was quite beautiful and unique.

Anyway, getting to the title of this post, modern western square dance is hot for lots of reasons. It allows for people to gather in their community and meet at square dance locales that they can get together and dance at. This allows for something that is an integral part of our society, the very word that comes from society, “social.”

The word social actually has three meanings. The first is the use of social as an adjective, “of or relating to a society or organization.” Square dancing is a social activity. The second definition also uses the word social as an adjective, “relating to or designed for activities in which people meet each other for pleasure.” Anyone who square dances has a social life. And the third definition of the word social when it is used as a noun is, “an informal social gathering, especially one organized by the members of a particular club or group.” A social can be an event that has dance, food and fellowship. In other words, a square dance!

So if you think about it, traditional and modern western square dance both are activities that need to be a consideration for anyone clamoring for social interacting activities that help fulfill a basic human need. And that is the need for fellowship. Friendship. Laughter. Music. Food. Exercise. By participating in square dancing, you will be blessed with the reward of self satisfaction in being involved and dancing with others and you can return this fantastic feeling you get from that to others. And they can do the same. Feel rewarded and reward others. It’s an infectious behavior that really is rooted deep within every one of us.

You can participate on several different levels within the activity. You can join a square dance club. You can join a state or regional organization to help support the square dance activity. You can attend big festivals such as state dances sponsored by local associations in support of the square dance activity and this can be great fun. On the highest level, dancing, or if you are a caller, calling at the National Square Dance Convention is a great experience to add to your accomplishments in life that allows you to contribute to the activity on a very grand scale.

If you do not square dance, I hope that reading this article will inspire you to check into the rewards that square dancing offers and you can partake a little “social” into your life. Who knows what you will be rewarded for doing this. And the Ferris Wheels (for those who do not know Feerris Wheel is a call) all sizzle, ask the dancers!

Best Wishes!

Shaun Werkele

303-250-4735

 

 

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 training 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.