Square Dance Callers: Mainstream Singing Call Figures

As a modern western square dance caller there is absolutely no excuse for you not to expand your knowledge, master a new skill, or focus on boosting the entertaining value of your dance program. Remember that improving your skills that you have is one of the best ways to make yourself both marketable from a monetary standpoint and your square dancing content strong from a creative standpoint. If you learn one new piece of choreography every day, you will overcome by 99% over your square dance calling competition who will most likely not do the same.

Here are three new singing call figures in the Mainstream level:

CALLING TIP! Always be prepared to change or adapt your dance program. Choreography and music should be something you can alter or change for the needs of the dancers.

Heads (Sides) Lead Right Circle to a Line
Pass Thru
Wheel & Deal
Double Pass Thru
First Couple Go Left Next Couple Go Right
Square Thru 4 Hands
Swing Corner & Promenade

Heads (Sides) Promenade Halfway
Lead Right Veer Left
Bend the Line
Touch a Quarter
Circulate Once
Boys Run
Swing Thru
Boys Trade
Swing Corner & Promenade

Head (Side) Ladies Chain
Sides (Heads} Lead Right
Circle To A Line
Pass Thru
Wheel & Deal
Zoom
Double Pass Thru
Leaders Trade
Swing Corner & Promenade Home

Change things up in your evening’s dance and let everyone enjoy!

Best,

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 instruction 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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Challenge: Transcend Your Square Dance Calling Hurdles

Some — if not all — methods of square dance calling offer different ways to move your calling forward, however, there are built-in restrictions, walls beyond which we cannot easily move through. Whether it’s the fixed number of beats that make up a singing call, the rules of tonal harmony when you are singing, or the need for better calling equipment, we often think of these as obstacles to creativity.

We always deal with limitations or restrictions, even if they are put upon ourselves, and this can be a big challenge for an artist, any artist, even if you’re a modern western square dance caller. I do not like being told that you can’t use that fast music, or you can’t step out of this box, or you can’t use a certain creative idea on a square dance call. What I do like is the creative tension that is brought on by this limitation and how to rise above that.

For this month’s square dance calling challenge, remember and write down on a piece of paper about a time when you had to deal with an obstacle in your calling, whether it was a choreography problem, a timing problem, or perhaps a teaching obstacle you had to confront in the past at a dance, workshop, or class. Did you manage to transcend the obstacle, or did you ignore dealing with it?

Of higher importance, did you find a solution that brought you to a higher place or initialized an improvement in your calling? What did you learn about yourself and your ability in the process?

Now take that one thing and look for a way to springboard and improve that for yourself. If you need a challenge and you cannot think of one, try this: https://shaunwerkelesquaredancecalleraugustrecords.wordpress.com/?s=singing+call+challenge

I offer these excellent tips on this square dance caller website for other callers to improve. And, since I’m a seasoned square dance caller coach, these informative articles are all beneficial points for me to offer to others to get started and they can serve as a calling roadmap to becoming a seasoned square dance caller. It’s fun learning, but without the proper direction and guidance, it can be difficult to improve and advance yourself in some ways.

Hurdles in life will force us to first create a goal, then focus upon it, and ultimately succeed.

Be free. Expand your horizons and dare to go where you have not set foot before. Be creative and strive to call better. Put together a formula for succeeding and you will.

Have a great day. Call if you need square dance caller instruction or any general question about 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.

Improving Vocal Technique When Square Dance Calling

Great Tips For Improving Square Dance Calling Performance By Strengthening Your Voice

Square dance callers have a different way of using their voice to execute a night’s dance. Although there is singing involved, the hoedown or patter portion of the dance involves a great deal of enunciation and semi-gutteral words that can wreak havoc on a caller’s voice. Below are some ways to not only strengthen your voice and increase your “vocal endurance” but, over time, these exercises will improve your singing range, the quality of your voice, and your vocal performance.

Warm Up

Warming your voice is essential for both practice and live performance. The length of time it will take you to become fully warmed up will depend on several variables, ranging from the room temperature and the humidity in the air to how active you’ve been during the day. Generally, the more regularly you practice with your voice, the better your voice will be prepared for more intense singing. Along with this comes the improvement of tonal warmth and vocal range. Getting your vocal chords warm is key to sounding your best whenever you deliver the square dance calls. I recommend these vocal warm-ups to get you ready to call both in practice and just before your dance:

The Fry Tone

The fry tone is a great way to warm up your voice and get your breathing control involved in the process. This is a low, crackling, gutteral sound that you make using very little air and it sounds like a bullfrog croaking. You can use any vowel to practice this technique and once you become comfortable with the fry tone sound you can use it to break your voice into a singing tone to sing actual notes. Try a fry tone at a low level of volume and hold the tone for as long as you can. This helps with controlling how little air you need to sing a note and how long you can sustain a single note. Then start a fry tone, roll it over to a singing tone and hold the note for as long as you can, riding that single breath for as long as you can.

The Lip Trill (Spaceship Trill)

This technique will open your vocal range up by keeping your laranx in a relaxed state. By making a sound like a small child imitating the sound of motorboat or a spaceship, the idea is a tongue roll like the Spanish “rrrrrrr.” Combine with this the flapping of your lips as you smile wide. Keep your voice register on the low end of your vocal range and increase the height of the notes that you babble with your lips flapping in a loose manner until you reach the high end of your vocal range. Keep the edge of the lips turned up in a smile throughout. Bring the trill back down to the note where you started the trill. This will keep your voice from getting tight and over time and practice, your singing voice will improve. Practicing this will improve your vocal range and encourage a loose throat while singing.

The “Ten” Bounce

Use a keyboard and play one note (starting with a comfortable low note) and while you do this, grin as wide as you can. Now say the word “ten” with a bouncing and stacatto style that is NOT singing the word, but still matching the “tens” with the tone of the keyboard note. Do this with five consecutive “tens” bouncing the notes as you work a note at a time chromatically up the keyboard. That is five “tens” at a time.

This technique forces you to keep your voice in good forward placement and make sure that you use your stomach muscles to help provide the air that you will need to make these notes “bounce.” This forces “diaphram” breathing and support and good placement in the facial “masque” that is used to make singing notes resonate. Project but do not overdrive your voice when doing this. Work your way up to a comfortable higher end on your natural singing range and then work your way back down. The results will astound you once you practice this technique.

Pitch and Timing

The Sigh-Hum

Humming is a great way to practice singing and improving your ability to sing a melody in pitch. Start things off with a soft and gentle yawn. This relaxes the laranx muscles and the tongue muscles and will set you up for the Sigh-hum. Now play a comfortable note for you to sing on the piano. Sigh and then gently hum the note that you play in unison with the played note. There are two things accomplished with this technique. First, you will be practicing singing in pitch with the note. Second, you are focusing on keeping your throat loose and relaxed so that you can sing higher, longer, and without straining.

Sigh-hum at least twice on each note that you play as you climb up the piano to the upper notes in your vocal range and work your way back down to where you started.

Pitch Improvement

Singing is a skill that can always use a little improvement no matter how much anyone has been singing throughout their lives. One way to improve is working on pitch accuracy with a piano or keyboard. In other words, the notes that you sing must land directly on the target pitch of tones in a melody. First, you never “hit” a note. You “sing” a note. Sing all notes and sing them in pitch by approaching them softly at first and with more authority after a few times. Authority means with more drive and energy and a little more volume and the vibrato in your voice will naturally develop over time. Always project your voice but never overdrive your voice and cause it to strain. Avoid straining your voice at all cost. Straining can lead to long-term and sometimes permanent damage to your vocal chords. Once the tightness in your throat starts, it is very hard to cycle of tightness to correct.

Play a simple and short melody of only three or four notes on a piano or keyboard and sing with the tones using the sigh-hum, ten bounces and then sing the words to the simple melody of the song you choose. Do this slowly and evenly and you will see improvement over time.

Using classic songs like Amazing Grace can offer some more applicable exercises to help get your ears and vocal chords in sync and this will add to your development of the melodic singing nature of your human voice. Use a piano or electronic keyboard and play the notes and “bounce tens” to the notes in the melody. Then sigh-hum the notes individually and hold the hummed tone for as long as you can and progress through the entire melody one note at a time. Then work on slowly singing the notes using the lyrics and begin slowly, then work your way into singing the phrase “Amazing Grace how sweet the sound” at different tempos and with as much feeling as you can inflect with your voice:

Amazing Grace For Square Dance Caller Vocal Practice

 

Practice With a Drum Machine or Metronome

Use a drum machine to practice some short choreography sequences that you use often and you will improve your timing. For more information on practicing with a metronome or drum machine check out additional instruction at https://shaunwerkelesquaredancecalleraugustrecords.wordpress.com/2015/04/20/modern-western-square-dance-calling-timing-is-everything/

By practicing timing it will elevate your ability to be inside of the square dance music, to be an integral part of what is happening around you with the dancers, to be able to call even the simplest square dance movements with an on spot, lazer-sharp groove that needs no musical accompaniment to make people want to get up and square dance. This only comes with practice.

Practice With Confidence

There is nothing more real and important than believing in what you do and what you can convey musically to the dancers over all else.

Regardless of opinions, spouting uneducated critics, and any insecurity and doubts you may have, you have to believe that your abilities are strong and that the square dance world is fortunate to have you,  a master of calling, of which you have shared your best choreographic ideas along with light humor and interesting and engaging talk and unique and entertaining music. Make sure that your voice sounds confident, warm, sincere and friendly whenever you are square dance calling.

Maintain this belief and it will will drive you to improve and to perform with a command that other square dance callers might lack. It is that simple. You have the ability to constantly develop ideas and take risks in practice and experiment with artistic freedom largely because you will have the strength of belief and with that unshakeable belief you will need little else.

Practice!

This is perhaps the most helpful training article I have presented so far. Feel free to call me at any time if you have a square dance caller question!

Best Regards,

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.

Memetic Square Dance Singing Call Figures

Square dancing has a long heritage and legacy that is still evolving to this day, much like music and dance. Since both of these elements are combined to call a dance, using square dance choreography that is in the “classic square dance” meme will always be a home run when incorporated within  your program.

Further,  two different ideas can recombine to produce a new and innovative idea involving elements of each choreographic parent idea. You can present simple square dance singing calls and along with that build the choreography up in difficulty as the dance progresses and push the dancer’s ability up as the night unfolds. You can present both new and old music and new and old choreography and build a great progression in choreographic material with the hoedown patter portions of each tip. This  is the best manner to make singing calls the most interesting and your overall program the most entertaining.

Below are a few square dance singing call figures that will make Mainstream level dancing interesting and engaging. Changing the choreography as you do a singing call by slightly altering the same choreography figure is a great way to offer great variety throughout your program without getting complicated.

Make sure you practice these with a couple of different singing call songs so you can help yourself build a congenial and effective presentation of the calls. All the figures start out the same but they all end differently. These make for some nice dancing and gives practice on Half Sashay and Circle Four Halfway:

 

CALLING TIP! Change the choreography in your singing calls to strengthen dancing ability and provide high interest in the overall program that you present!

Heads (Sides) Right and Left Thru
Half Sashay
Star Thru
Circle Four Halfway
Swing Thru
Spin the Top
Square Thru Three Hands
Swing Corner & Promenade

 

Heads (Sides) Touch a Quarter
Those Boys Run
Circle Four Halfway
Touch a Quarter
Walk & Dodge
Wheel & Deal
Zoom
Centers Pass Thru
Star Thru
Pass Thru
Swing Corner & Promenade

 

Heads (Sides) Right and Left Thru
Half Sashay
Star Thru
Circle Four Halfway
Veer Left
Bend the Line
Reverse Flutterwheel
Sweep a Quarter
Veer Right & Promenade

 

Heads (Sides) Right and Left Thru
Half Sashay
Star Thru
Circle Four Halfway
Star Thru
Half Sashay
Pass Thru
Girls Fold
Swing Corner & Promenade

 

If you call a workshop tip, working in a couple of singing call figures that apply the figures taught and the reinforcement of the calls is a superb approach to rounding off the workshop.

Best Regards,
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 Callers: Six Advanced Level Choreography Get Outs

“Hey, I did not see that coming!” Yup, great square dance choreography get outs usually are not extremely hard, but rather are different and unpredictable, with an eye-opening ending that the dancers may not see coming until the very last moment. This left field excitement is at the heart of presenting an idea that is quite unexpected and sometimes totally unanticipated. As a caller, you will not want the choreography to be too difficult, after all, the dancers might not succeed in getting through and then the whole sequence idea that you are calling will fail!

Here are half a dozen Advanced level choreographic get outs assembled for you if you might be a caller in the Advanced level that you can use for your square dancers and this six-pack of get outs become a little harder toward the bottom of the page:

1p-2p Lines:
Star Thru
Veer to the Left
Turn & Deal
Square Thru but on the Third Hand…
Right and Left Grand

Box 1-4:
Touch a Quarter
Girls Run
Pass Thru
Tag the Line
Leads Roll Right to an Ocean Wave
Extend the Tag
Right and Left Grand

1p-2p Lines:
Pass the Ocean
Swing Thru
Boys Run
Ferris Wheel & Spread
Pass Thru
Quarter In
Pass Thru
Horseshoe Turn
Right & Left Grand

Box 1-4:
Slide Thru
Right and Left Thru
Dixie Style to an Ocean Wave
Slip-Slide-Swing-Slip-Slither
Bend the Line and Roll
Everybody Circulate
Girls Peel Off
Right and Left Grand

1p2p Lines:
Pass the Ocean
Girls Trade
Boys Run
Couples Circulate
Girls Circulate
Cast a Shadow
Right & Left Grand

1p2p Lines:
Right and Left Thru
Pass the Ocean
Switch to an Hourglass
Hourglass Circulate
Flip the Hourglass
Right and Left Grand

My personal favorite is the fourth sequence and the last set definitely is the most difficult, with the Switch to an Hourglass. Some dancers struggle with the Switch to an Hourglass because they have problems visualizing the formation before they make their move on the floor.

Enjoy the figures and thanks to all that attended the 2-day caller’s school in Westminster Colorado this past weekend and made it a success!

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 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.