Styling of Square Dance Movements

Incorporating Style When Square Dancing

Dancing is about a lot of things if you think about it. It is about everyone’s fulfillment of the basic human need to have fun and this is accomplished in many ways. Moving to the music. Enjoying the cooperation of other dancers and succeeding in getting through the choreography. Exhibiting beauty, style and grace. Enjoying the social aspects of getting together. As a square dancer, you need to know the calls (choreography) but you also want to look good while you are doing the movements to the music. As a caller, you need to know what to teach that involves good styling and timing and how to present that to your group.

But what exactly are the basic elements that determine style in square dancing? The most prominent and the least thought of is the enjoyment that dancers derive from dancing and the extent to which this enjoyment is reflected not only in their facial expressions, but in their body movements that display the relaxed and emotional feelings that can be seen while they dance.

All dancing requires proper posture, a gliding smooth step, and a gentle grasp with other dancers, or occasionally a more firm grasp, when necessary. Square dance is a simple dance in terms of mechanical difficulty, and it is a joy to perform the movements on the dance floor when the calls are executed in a rhythmic, graceful manner and with body control.

Learning the steps of a square dance call or figure is only part of the dance. Learning the mechanics of the choreography is the bare minimum achievement to succeeding in being accomplished and dancing with confidence. Add to that some graceful styling moves and anyone’s self-confidence will become inspiring.

I have listed some highly important styling considerations that are used in both modern square dancing and traditional square dancing, and these are outlined below. Keep these in mind whenever you are teaching a square dance class so that you can foster strong and beautiful dancing for persons new to the activity:

  • The square dance step should be an easy, smooth gliding shuffle step that is kept short. It is a soft sliding movement that advances the dancer forward in a walking manner and at the end of each forward slide, the heel drops gently to the floor.
  • Standing erect and with good posture is at the essence of style and applies to all dance movements. When circling around in a square, avoid twisting the torso from one side to another. Some women who wear the classic dress (square dance costume)  with lush petticoats underneath their colorful and ornate skirts will twist as they circle to display the beauty of the skirts, and this is quite acceptable, however, doing this is a more advanced move and it takes practice to do well.
  • In honoring the partner, the man bows slightly from the waist as his partner, the woman curtsies by pointing the left foot, toe first, touching the floor right leg slightly bent in an elegant manner. The lady’s right arm is extended and often the right hand will hold her skirt.
  • When a man swings a lady, the swing finishes with the lady unfolding to the right side of the man, so that both dancers stand side-by-side in couple position, facing in the same direction.
  • When swinging a lady, the man supports her firmly with his right arm around her waist and when turning around each other, the move is smooth and relatively quick, but without pushing her around with undue roughness.
  • When standing in couple position, the inside hands should be joined, with the man’s palm facing up and the lady’s palm down. In certain cases and when some more advanced calls and figures require it, where the couple consists of two people of the same sex, the left-hand dancer turns the palm up and the right-hand dancer turns the palm down. Arms should be bent, with the hands held slightly higher than the elbow.
  • When a call such as Box the Gnat or California Twirl is used, the lady will be turning under the man’s extended arm held high. Hands are held loosely, with the fingers pointing up for the man and down for the lady. Only slight pressure is used as the hands revolve around each other. This firm yet gentle move takes practice and some dancers will twirl at the end of a swing.
  • When using forearm turns, each dancer holds the inside of the other dancer’s forearm in a loose style that requires the two to be almost at the same angle that is in line with their shoulders lining up. The thumb is kept close to the entire hand that is used for this.

Nationally, it has become accepted to dance with the handshake and the arm turn with the forearm for almost all figures used in a square dance. Some local areas have their own customs that they have developed when using styling. In traditional square dancing these general rules are followed, but there are some exceptions in Contra style dancing and specialty figures that have to be taught at that particular moment. For older dancers in age some styling is altered to accommodate their limited ability to move as freely as they once did.

As a square dance caller, it is your responsibility to teach dancers to be as good of a dancer as they can be. Take time to demonstrate with an experienced “angel dancer” the correct ways to incorporate style into every student’s dancing as they progress through the set of lessons. Style is not hard. It should be taught as the best way for dancers to demonstrate their pleasure in celebrating together as they fulfill a basic need to have social fun and fellowship with others and to exhibit the beauty of dance.

Even something as simple as square dancing.

 

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.

Advertisements

Modern Western Square Dance Calling: Expanding the Possibilities

Changing your Square Dance Calling Through Variety Research and Creativity

Variety

The music has to resonate with people in a new direction that inspires them to dance and want to participate. Part of your job as a caller is to provide variety that inspires, motivates the dancers to dance, and strives to create positive energy when you are on stage. Take a look at how you call now and re-imagine your approach to calling. Look for different ideas that take your calling in a different direction.

One step to providing some variety in square dance music programming is to use a Janusian approach. This is an opposite/combination concept,  one used by many great thinkers in the world both past and present. The concept is to combine opposites in a method, concept, or idea and come up with outstanding results. One way to apply this idea to square dance music is to use traditional square dance hoedown music for the first part of a square dance tip and then use an ultra-modern musical piece as a singing call to follow. Or a fast tempo song with aslower paced tempo song immediately afterward.

Another way is to combine easy choreography with more difficult choreography and come up with a new combination of calls that no one has thought of before. Don’t be afraid to stop the music for a moment and show the dance floor your new choreography idea if it is a little different. They need to succeed in order for you to succeed.

These two elements, music and choreography, whether they are combined or focused on in your program separately, will have a great impact on how original and different you can be as a caller. These are tangible, positive and immediate changes that you can make as a square dance caller. Variety is the spice of life. Make sure that you sprinkle a good helping of it in all of your square dance dishes that you serve.

Research

There are tons of ideas that you can borrow from both past callers and today’s callers that you can incorporate into your dance. Borrow choreography from other callers to come up with new material. Never call something if you cannot visualize the choreography and understand what you are calling. This is a necessary step to being able to call well.

Try this different opening choreographic sequence that will provide a fresh approach to both your square dance calling and the dancer’s dancing:

 

Bow to the Partner Bow to the Corner
Four Ladies Chain
Star the Ladies back Home do a Dopaso
(Turn Partner Left, Turn Corner Right & Turn your Partner Left)
Men Star Right One Time
Left Allemande
Right and Left Grand

 

Contact other callers and ask them for ideas that you might be able to use in your dances. They will be glad to help, just ask!

Create

Strive to be resourceful and creative in your offerings to your group that you call for. There is no real exact formula to being creative. But if you do not work at coming up with new ideas, then you will call the same old dance. Spend a little time coming up with new ideas that will make the square dance choreography interesting and fun.

Here is an original opening sequence that I use when I call and I hope you will find it useful:

 

Bow to the Partner Bow to the Corner
Left Allemande
Touch a Quarter
Boys Fold
Four Ladies Chain
Girls when you meet the Opposite Man Turn him by the
Left go Full Around and a bit more and the Men
Swing in make an Allemande Thar
Slip the Clutch…twice
Pass your Partner
Left Allemande
Right and Left Grand

 

Don’t limit your possibilities and don’t limit your ways of doing things. Don’t limit your musical choices to just one genre or tempo of music. Don’t limit your choreography that you use in your program for the dances that you call. Do resolve to work at providing something different and exciting to your dancers at your dance.

In order to continue to meet the changing musical and entertainment tastes of the world as we move into the future, we need to be creative in looking for different avenues. While changes in music and choreography for square dancing certainly is a part of it, maybe part of the answer has been in front of us all along and that is simply what we choose to use in our program in our dances that excites and creates enthusiasm!

As always, feel free to call me if you have any questions about square dance calling!

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.

For the Square Dance Caller: Forgotten Singing Call Figures

Singing calls provide a ton of energy and entertainment to a dance and, really, modern square dance became successful years ago due to the changes in all of the modern music that was produced  at that time. But reaching back, we can see that not only did the music evolve from the traditional square dance scene, so did the square dance choreography.

The following singing call figures are great examples of call sequences that were used in the early days of modern western square dance before the square dance call lists were established and nationally there was not a union of ideas and approaches through publications such as American Square Dance magazine. Simplicity was at the heart of these singing call breaks, and the choreography was not changed throughout the songs that were danced to:

 

Heads (Sides) Square Thru
Star Thru
Square Thru Three Hands
Left Allemande
DoSaDo
Go to the Corner Box the Gnat
Swing the Corner & Promenade

Heads (Sides) Promenade Halfway
Sides (Heads) Right & Left Thru
Star Thru California Twirl
Swing the Corner Girl
Left Allemande
Weave the Ring
DoSaDo & Promenade back Home

Four Ladies Chain
Star back Home do a Dopaso
(Turn Partner Left, Turn Corner Right & Turn your Partner Left)
Men Star Right
Left Allemande
Weave the Ring
DoSaDo with the Partner
Swing Corner & Promenade

 

If you do not square dance but you are interested in finding out about the social activity, local square dance clubs offer dance lessons that are available for anyone, and they would love to have you join a class today! It is a GREAT social experience that can open your life to new friendships and fun!
Ask at your local recreation center or check online for information on square dancing clubs and events in your city.

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.

Instruction Pointers for Teaching Square Dance Classes

Square Dance Teaching Procedures For Square Dance Callers

Teaching square dancing is both a method and a strategy. When both are not used together, then students in a square dance class will learn less effectively and at a slower rate. To ensure that learning is at an optimum level some thought needs to be put into what you, as a caller, will teach, what order you will both teach and construct the combinations of calls, and how well you present variety in both calling many calls every time you teach and from many different positions and formations. By doing so, the dancers will be able to dance and learn more comfortably if they are taught well.

Any student can learn something well if the subject or interest they are taught by their instructor is taught well.

The Goal of the Square Dance Caller is to:

(1) Help students to understand the mechanics of the calls taught

(2) Describe explicitly how the choreography (calls) is used

(3) Provide many different insights on possible variations when applying the rules of choreography

(4) Teach the dancers to dance IN TIME to the music

 

Teacher and square dance angel demonstration, repetition, and follow-up and review  on most recently taught choreography when in practice are critical factors for new dancer success. Discussion between students and experienced dancers following square dance instruction sessions is also helpful. Always remind the students that they can ask questions at any time between learning tips!

 

When Teaching a New Square Dance Call Follow This Set of Procedures

  • Teach the beginning formation (starts in Ocean Waves, Facing Couples)
  • Teach beginning facing direction ( In, Out, Facing Right, Facing Left)
  • Teach who is active in the call (Outsides, Centers, Boys, Girls, Head Couples, Couples in the Lead, etc)
  • Teach who works with whom (Outsides with Centers, Boys with Girls, etc)
  • Teach the mechanical parts that make up the call (some calls are compound and others are comprised of other calls combined together)
  • Teach variations (fractions, same sex working together, etc)
  • Teach the history of the call (historical background and how the call has evolved over time)
  • Teach the ending formation (ends in Ocean Waves, 2-Faced Lines, etc)
  • Teach ending facing direction (In, Out, Facing Right, Facing Left)
  • Ask for questions from the square dancers (to clarify their understanding or misunderstandings of the definition and mechanics)

Additional Tips That Will Encourage Square Dance Student Success

  • Concentrate on the featured new calls for the session
  • Allow the dancers enough time to absorb the mechanics of the call they are learning.
  • Be explicit in your descriptions of both beginning and ending formations
  • Always teach the dancers to touch hands with the other dancers to establish formations that they are dancing or learning at the moment (This is critical to learning to dance and generally all dancing centers around hand touching to align positions between persons)
  • Allow the students to understand the mechanics of the choreography and how it relates to other calls used before and after the square dance calls are given
  • Remind the dancers to relax and have fun
  • Allow slower learners extra beats of music to catch up with other dancers
  • Encourage and remind stronger dancers to wait and be patient a beat or two for beginning and slower dancers
  • Teach the dancers to keep their square tight in size so they will dance more smoothly and in better time to the music. Additionally, this will decrease squares from breaking down
  • Remind everyone that mistakes and becoming lost can be very normal – even the best dancers can make mistakes
  • Teach dancers to keep the square moving even if things falter or the square completely breaks down. Teach the most common and recognizable formations for dancers to regroup and continue on in the quickest manner

 

Always tell all square dancing students that dancing is a team effort and they need to stay together and cooperate like any team to ensure that the square that they are in succeeds. There is no fun in frustration, so avoid crossing the line into confusion and be ready to lighten up the difficulty of the choreography if there are annoyed and lost faces out on the dance floor when you are teaching. At the end of the day, fun is why everyone is present in the first place!

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.