Singalong Pointers For Modern Square Dance Singing Calls

Use Singalong Songs For Musical Energy

In square dance calling, singing calls can accomplish many things – entertaining and engaging all of the dancers in a beautiful melody or a fast paced moving beat is a great way to enhance the pace of the evening and create enjoyment for all. One way to involve everyone on the floor is to call a singalong. Joining people to sing together instills a community of togetherness and it can be uplifting, fun, powerful, and exhilarating. But it can also be a huge failure! Making a singalong singing call succeed on a large scale does not just happen.

Here are some tips I find make a difference:

Be a Song Leader

Square dance callers need to have a powerful and confident style of singing on stage. They need to be able to project their voice over the dancers even when they are using a microphone. By projecting your voice in a strong and enthusiastic way then the dancers will all be able to hear the melody of the song, stay on pitch, stay on the beat. A confident singing voice is infectious. Just listen to any popular song and you can hear this in all lead singers on the recording.

Avoid Overpowering the Group

Be careful that you do not dominate the singing on the singalong and not enable the group to sing and hear themselves. A great approach is to stop singing at times once you have everyone singing well to help the dancers “hear themselves”. It’s fun to listen some yourself too! And gives you a slight rest on the vocal chords for a moment or two.

Hall Size and Acoustics

Acoustics in a room make a huge difference. A lively venue with good acoustics helps everyone hear their voices and that will aid in keeping the entire group together and this alone makes everyone feel good about how they all sound in unity. Good sound in a square dance hall is important overall. This is why.

It is generally better to call in a room that’s a bit too small than one that is too big. If you have a room that’s a little too small, it will be full of vibrant energy and the dancers will feel like they are at something that is popular, fun, and successful. If you are in a hall that is too large, it’s hard to hear each other due to bad echo from the emptiness in the room and all will seem more disconnected and the general sense will be that not enough people chose to come to the dance. Acoustics and sound tie into another part of calling the dance…amplification.

System Amplification

Amplifying a caller’s voice and music will sound best with quality amplification. You need to hear your own voice as well as you possibly can and the dancers you will be leading will be able to hear you clearly.

For people to sing well together they need to be led. Otherwise, it is very easy for most people to fall off the rhythm of the beat or off the melody with each other. The need for sufficient amplification systems and the importance of good hall acoustics is because the larger the dance, the poorer the acoustics can be due to ambient noise in the hall, and a well placed speaker system will definitely help overcome this problem.

The less experienced the singing ability of the dancers and the less familiar dancers are with the song that you select as a singing call that is to be sung, the more important this is.

Lyrics and Song Content

Everyone in any audience often know certain songs well enough to sing them without any help with the words. This is often true at campfires and sports events with families and other groups that have been used to singing together for a long time.

The best way to have the square dancers sing with you in unison is to first give the dancers the words. Simply say, “Hey, we are going to sing a song together. I am going to need your help with singing the words. Here are the words.” Then sing the lines you want them to sing. One key to success in the group singing with you, as the caller, is using a song that everyone will know and will want to sing. Old hymnal songs and classic songs that have been passed on word of mouth are well established in folk music and some are known worldwide.

Many people can pick up a simple melody quickly if it is not too involved.

Carry the Beat

For the dancers to sing together successfully, they need to stay joined together in their rhythm. Simply, the less experienced the singing audience is, the more critically important this is. As a caller you can can communicate the beat in the melody to everyone through your voice, but the instrumental music that you call to is even more important. Strong steady beats on the square dance version of songs are critical to carrying the dance beat and the singing rhythm, and great instrumentation of the melody needs to be carried to accomplish this. Guitar, fiddle and mandolin are all popular instruments in supporting melodies in square dance music.

Drop the Beat

Another great effect to singalong with a singing call is to incorporate a capella – to have the music drop out midway through a song for the tag verse. On the Promenade part of  a sequence drop the music when the dancers start singing the lyrics. then increase the volume on the music to start the next choreography sequence. Try calling out just before you do this: “Let’s try singing a capella now!”

Learn From Other Callers

A great way to pick up these ideas is to watch others. This is an entertainment ability in square dance and takes some practice. Learn from another caller that can perform this technique effectively and work on implementing this into your dance program.

Unified singing can be powerful if used properly, and together, the dancers can create their own musical energy.

Keep in mind that many traditional songs in our culture are often the result of a song having “entered oral tradition” that is, having been passed along from one singer to another orally over time, the result being added and changed verses to the original song and in some cases, unknown authorship of the song itself! Modern square dance calling is charmed to be a great vehicle to instill traditional songs into our cultural interests of today.

So have fun! It’s enjoyable to listen to a group singalong. And to participate in one. This kind of singalong is possible to use in traditional square dance calling and modern western square dance, too!

Ultimately, square dance is about building community, uplifting hearts, and pleasant amusement. Over time, I hope you enjoy leading groups in song as much as I have!

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 coaching 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

Modular Square Dance Calling: Seven “Wasted Trip” Zero Modules

Using zero modules in square dance is a great way to plug in an interesting idea within your calling sequence and not have to worry about the success of the dancers in executing precisely what you have prompted them to do. Not that anyone would want the dancers in the squares to not succeed, but the worry of getting an inconsistent floor through some sequences and then attempting to resolve the sequence is minimized by using modules. And this is the cornerstone of modular calling, as well.

And this is why. By applying some good choreography ideas and then returning the dancers to the same location offers the options of either continuing to build upon the original idea some more or simply resolving the square at that point. All square dance callers need to make that judgment by watching the dancers on the floor and determining whether to use another zero module or a quick get-out so that everyone can regroup their squares to keep the entire floor moving together.

Below are seven zero square dance modules that are “wasted trips,” meaning they return you back to the exact precise same order within the square and to the exact location on the floor. But truthfully, they are not wasted in the movement because the best zero modules offer great square dance choreography.

As always, work on understanding the choreography. Spend time moving square dance checkers if you need to. Get a strong visualization of the mechanics of the calls. These are all Mainstream square dance sequences that start in either a Normal Facing Line (1p2p Lines) or a Normal Facing Couples Box (Box 1-4) and end in the same starting formation respectively:

Box 1-4:
Touch a Quarter
Split Circulate
Single Hinge
Girls Trade
Girls Run
Tag the Line Face Right
Bend the Line
Reverse Flutterwheel
Sweep a Quarter

1p2p Lines:
Pass the Ocean
Boys Circulate
Girls Trade
Recycle
Veer Left
Boys Circulate
Girls Trade
Bend the Line

Box 1-4:
Touch a Quarter
Scootback
Centers Trade
Centers Run
Couples Trade
Centers Trade
Tag the Line Face In
Pass Thru
Bend the Line
Pass Thru
Bend the Line
Slide Thru

1p2p Lines:
Touch a Quarter
All Eight Circulate
Single Hinge
Girls Trade
Recycle
Pass the Ocean
Girls Circulate
Girls Run
Tag the Line Face Right
Bend the Line

Box 1-4:
Square Thru 2 Hands
Partner Trade
Dixie Style to an Ocean Wave
Girls Circulate
Boys Trade
Boys Run
Couples Trade
Girls Circulate
Bend the Line
Pass Thru
U Turn Back
Pass the Ocean
Girls Trade
Recycle

1p2p Lines:
Pass the Ocean
Swing Thru
Girls Circulate
Spin the Top
Right and Left Thru
Star Thru
Veer Left
Girls Cast Three Quarters
Center Girls Trade
Boys Face In
Girls Extend
Girls U Turn Back

1p2p Lines:
Star Thru
Veer Left
Couples Circulate
Tag the Line Face Right
Boys Hinge
Center Boys Trade
Boys Cast Three Quarters
Couples Circulate
Girls Circulate
Tag the Line Face Right
Couples Circulate
Bend the Line

Feel free to call me at anytime if you have a question or you need some help!

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.

Singing Calls: Making Minor Changes…

Modern western square dance callers will all make mistakes at their dances!….and dancers will make them too! Both calling and dancing can be challenging and amazingly hard at times due to the unexpected choreography of the caller. Throw in a collection of square dancers that have a varied range of abilities and everything can become jumbled… difficult for the dancers to complete all of the choreography and even harder for the caller to keep everyone moving, but the great thing about square dancing is recovering from those occasional mistakes is often part of the fun. In fact, making mistakes is proof that everyone is trying and learning!

When calling, a discrete judgment needs to be made about various square dance movements and how much the dance floor can handle as far as difficulty is concerned. Mistakes are OK, but if the dancers falter too much, the “dancing lesson” becomes almost miserable, and you have become the “funinator” and respect for you as a caller will become diminished. Since we are all very human in nature, we, as dancers, might simply blame the caller in our mistakes. And momentum and energy can be lost due to squares breaking down on the dance floor.

This is a very thin line to walk for a caller, providing great overall interest in the choreography that is presented while at the same time keeping everyone smiling and happy and dancing.

Singing calls, however, do not always permit the dancers much time to recover from involved choreography. Generally, basic and more simplistic choreography in singing call figures are the better ones to use in your square dance calling program. As a caller, you can encourage proficient dancing by offering different twists in your patter part of the hoedown and then follow that up with a themed quad of sequences in the singing call figures. What I am saying is you can improve your program with a stronger formula for calling and dancing success by working on new ideas first, in the hoedown part of the tip, and then following that up with those same choreographic ideas, or perhaps similar ones that are on the simpler side of things in the singing call figures.

Here are four figures that provide minor changes on the overused and cliched “Heads Promenade Halfway…Square Thru Four Hands” that will offer both strengthening dancer ability and some good variety in choreography at the same time:

 

CALLING TIP! Focus on using many different square dance calls throughout the entire night. This will make the interest high so that the dancers cannot anticipate what is next!

Heads (Sides) Promenade Halfway
Walk in Square Thru 4 Hands
Swing Thru
Boys Run
Ferris Wheel
Square Thru 3 Hands
Swing Corner & Promenade

 

Heads (Sides) Promenade Halfway
Walk in Square Thru 4 Hands
Swing Thru & Girls Turn Around
Wheel & Deal
DoSaDo
Pass Thru
Trade By
Swing Corner & Promenade

 

Heads (Sides) Promenade Halfway
Walk in Square Thru 4 Hands
Swing Thru
Boys Run
Ferris Wheel
Centers Touch a Quarter
Box Circulate
Box Circulate
Swing Corner & Promenade Home

 

Heads (Sides) Promenade Halfway
Walk in Square Thru 3 Hands
Separate & Walk Around 2
Eight & Back
Bend the Line
Touch a Quarter
Boys Run Right
Swing Corner & Promenade

 

The last sequence poses the most difficulty and it has a Bend the Line with Facing Lines that are Half Sashayed. This could be a little more difficult as this is not called very often in this choreographic position.

Give these a try in your evening’s dance and let the dancers learn a little and enjoy a lot!

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.

Call Square Dancers Through Involved Mainstream/PLUS Choreography Formations

Succeed in Getting Square Dancers Through Mainstream and PLUS Level Choreography Formations

Short History of  Traditional Square Dance Calling

In order to get a clear visual of the history of square dance calling in America, you have to take a look at the important role of the dancing masters. From the early times of the first settlers until well into the nineteenth century, English dancing masters would travel from place to place: staying in an area for only a short amount of time before continuing to the next town or village. These itenerant dancing masters traveled from town to town in New England and they would approach the heads of the townspeople, and depending upon the attitude and acceptance of the ones in charge, the dancing masters would arrange to conduct a short set of lessons and put on a dance for the local townspeople to enjoy. The dances taught were English Minuets, Cotillions, and the newest Contra dances and the choreography sequences had to be memorized by the dancers.

This was a huge undertaking, teaching dance movements in a relatively short period of time, and this traveling lesson/dance helped spread the popularity of country dance all across the Eastern coast, and it fostered the very beginnings of American square dance.

As decades passed, the Cotillion, a dance done in a square formation with eight dancers became quite popular on a national level in the mid-eighteen fifties, and this style of dance spread and evolved across the country. The choreography was usually called by the fiddler in the band, who would spontaneously shout out combined dance moves and directions to the dancers. Cotillions were danced to traditional square dance music that was based upon Irish jigs and Scottish reels in regional locales that joined music with choreography.

So historically, the square dance caller has a long legacy tracing back from the formal approach of the local dance master with his teaching of dance to everyday people to sequences delivered by the fiddler/callers who had to prompt the dancers through the choreography at dances. As modern western square dance continues to progress post-world war two, square dance has further matured and developed into many geometric formations and movements that work within this same old traditional framework.

Modern Western Square Dance

Indeed, today’s square dance has evolved to become more complex, and over time, calling has become more involved. along with this change there is a monumental challenge for callers to render and provide highly interesting choreography that the dancers are able to execute with success. By creating variations using Mainstream or PLUS choreography and formations and then combining a few elements to “direct” the dancers through and resolve the set back to the home position or to the corner dancer in sequence can achieve just that.

One key to success in square dance calling comes from the following steps that will lead to calling fun dances with interesting choreography:

Write a Creative Choreography Sequence

First, start with a choreographic idea that you want to expand upon and work on creating five creative choreography sequences from start to finish that you will call during your dance in a “tip.” The third tip (or other later tips depending upon how much interesting ideas you want to render) of the dance is usually the best time to use your expanded choreographic ideas on the dancers. Come up with a couple of ideas that will be quite interesting and will more than likely put everyone on the dance floor on the same level of learning – some new variation or combination of an uncommon dance move. You will want the sequences to progress and become a little more challenging for the dancers to build the interest of the floor.

Personally, I like to use Folds and Cross Folds and Tag the Lines on Mainstream dance and at the PLUS level I might use Diamond Formations that are different or variations of Linear Cycle or Crossfire because these are good for strengthening dancer’s abilities. Spin Chain Thru’s are good too, because generally, dancers are a little weak on these moves. Callers need to focus on presenting these calls more often in their dance choreography programs and the general population of dancers will be better at dancing through these calls/moves.

Spend Some Time Writing Out Directional Key Words

Now here is the part that will lead to success in dancing on the floor, and thereby allow you to succeed as a caller. Take the five written sequences of calls for the tip and type the calls out in Microsoft Word then print the pages and put them in a notebook. Notebooks work best for square dance choreography for a lot of reasons. A notebook is portable. You can write in notes next to the choreography if you want to add a new idea or you have a note that you want to address later to make a change on a second edit.

Next, close your eyes and think about where you are moving to in the intricate parts of the calls, the ideas that you know will be a struggle for some of the dancers. Focus on words that will make it easier to prompt and create directions for all dancers to where they need to move to. Write the key words out on another piece of paper. Think about what words will help the dancers the most, for example, “work with the farthest person,” or “person facing in move here, person facing out move there” and write these down as well. Additionally, refer to the prescribed definition of the written description of the square dance calls to help you with key words to use.

Now you can use this page to add to your use of the choreography. These key words are AS IMPORTANT as the choreography itself in ensuring dancer success.

Practice Calling With Directional Key Words

The key words are the KEY to making the combinations of figures work well. The directionalization process needs to be delivered immediately after the call and it will take some practice to deliver this combination seamlessly with all important words and choreography married together.

As Always, It Is In The Timing!

Delivering the choreography and the key words together in a smooth and tight manner is great, but having your prompting work together with the music in great phrasing is really when this works most effectively. All of the dancing will be smoother and your presentation will encourage a relaxed and more executable set of directions that will lead to instilling more confidence within the dancers, particularly when some are not certain where they are moving upon dancing a particular call or set of calls.

Use a metronome or drum machine and practice with the choreography this way. Then try clapping your hands and practice the delivery of the calls without any accompaniment. It is combining the delivered square dance call with the directional key words into a timed musical phrase that makes the sequences within the tip more danceable. Since the dancers feel the beat of the music and the “in time” phrasing, they will more easily succeed in their dancing efforts.

Callers should not have to directly teach the moves for the dancers to execute, however, by directionalizing the choreography variations with key words you have taught the dancers without “workshopping” the moves.

And you will look like a modern dancing master of the twenty-first century!

Good fortune to you in all of your 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.