Mental Game: Components of a Successful Square Dance

Calling a great square dance requires a few components that will make the path to that successful outcome easier to achieve. You may have called many dances in the past. You might be a new caller and you want your first dance to be a very positive and exciting event. Putting it all together takes a lot of work and you need to combine both detailed and extensive preparation and psychological strategies to help you reach the plateau of success in entertaining your square dancers at your event.

First, try to plan and prepare as much as possible before putting your sound equipment in the car and driving out to that dance you are going to call. By preparing your choreography as much as you can for every tip and selecting and practicing your music selections for the night, you will gain more self-confidence, and by planning and preparing you definitely will have a lot more control of things in terms of your program for the night. This is a way of controlling the factors that you can to allow for the outcome that you intend – a fun night for all.

Being effective in square dance calling

By preparing, you have instilled confidence into your dancers and yourself. I would like to point out, however, that you don’t always have everything in control. For instance, if you are going to meet with someone, you cannot plan every possible subject of the conversation in advance – nor is it feasible to attempt to do that. There are just way too many things that you might discuss. Similarly, you cannot control how the dancers will dance. As square dance callers, we might not have any knowledge of what the various dancers’ abilities and strength levels are when it comes to dancing modern western square dance choreography.

As you might already realize, as a square dance caller, the entirety of your program will be affected by the overall level and capabilities of the dancers and your performance of musical selections. If the floor is weak and sluggish, then everything is a little tougher and the choreography will have to be compromised for the dancers to succeed. Work at being prepared for that with some great opening sequences that are interesting and fun and present easier memorized modules or written sequences throughout the rest of the night. Encourage the dancers to interact with you and with each other and focus on fun and keeping the atmosphere light and pleasurable.

If you are a newer square dance caller, then preparing for your dance will be much more involved and time-consuming than subsequent times will be. If you are inexperienced, the first few dances that you call you are just going to be learning a lot anyway – and hopefully getting better in the process as you improve.

Further, it is useless to strive for perfection when you do anything for the first time. It is no different in learning to square dance call. You are setting the bar a little too high if you are aiming for perfection and you will just feel bad when you are not able to meet the too high level you have set for yourself.

Mental preparation is one of the most important aspects of preparing yourself for your night of calling. Your mental state is where you can optimize peak performance when you are under pressure. In all walks of life, high pressure situations place many demands on us. When we’re in a challenged situation is when we can meet those demands. The key is to increase your level of self-confidence, be fully prepared, and then you can focus on success!

Some mental approaches are to either one thing or combining things, listening to music, getting enough sleep, drinking some coffee, and then raise yourself in a psyched up state of mind for the big event you are going to perform. Establishing this type of routine can help to stay in control of your mental state and drive you to the goal you have: to call a great square dance that people will talk about and you can feel good inside about your overall performance.

You will want to call the whole dance perfectly, but perfection is unattainable. Remember striving for absolute perfection is just another way to procrastinate, so try to pursue excellence instead. If you have spent time preparing for the dance and you have worked hard, the end result will be excellent!

In mental preparation, the conversations you have with yourself leading up to and during the night’s program will influence how you behave. If you spend time before you go on stage thinking, “I’m going to fail,” and “Dancers are going to see how nervous I am,” then that is what the dancers will perceive. Your anxiety will be high and your body will react accordingly. Instead create a strong and powerful mental image of the dance that you will call. This highly powerful imagery should be made as realistic as possibly by including sights, sounds, feelings, and even smells. Visualize yourself performing well in an upcoming dance and it will be just what you want it to be – a great one!

For more inspiration on calling an outstanding dance check out this article:

Shaun Werkele


Feel free to call me if you have a square dance caller training question or any other question regarding square dance!

Have a great day!



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.


Original Plus Level Singing Call Figures Using Diamond Formations

Who does not love a diamond, the most precious and bedazzling gemstone of all? Of all modern western square dance calls on the PLUS dance list, Diamonds probably are the most fun. The concept of Diamond Circulate is an easy one to grasp, yet it can lead to many unique and engaging snips of interesting choreography.

Following is a trio of neat PLUS level singing call figures that implement Diamond Circulate. The one common denominator that two of these figures have is the Boys Hinge to set the Diamond Formation up. The second figure uses a Flip the Diamond with the Boys “Flipping” to the center of Parallel Ocean Waves. This is followed up with a Swing Thru. I recommend that all square dance callers expose this combination of calls to the dance floor before you use the figure in a singing call as this is not a “plain vanilla” combination for most dancers. Fun and different PLUS square dance calling!


CALLING TIP! Keep all of your square dance choreography to your email or scan and store them in Onedrive or Dropbox to make convenient access when you are traveling. This makes this resource more accessible for you!


Heads (Sides) Touch a Quarter &
Boys Run
Square Thru 2 Hands
Partner Trade
Dixie Style to Wave
Boys Hinge
Girls Turn Back
Diamond Circulate
Girls Cast Right Three Quarters
Boys Fold
Swing Corner & Promenade Home


Heads (Sides) Square Thru
Step to Wave
Girls Run
Boys Hinge
Diamond Circulate
Flip the Diamond
Swing Thru
Swing Thru
Boys Trade
Girls Turn Back & Promenade Home


Heads (Sides) Lead Right
Swing Thru
Boys Run
Girls Cast Right Three Quarters
Diamond Circulate
Flip the Diamond
Girls Trade
Explode the Wave
Partner Trade & Roll
Turn Thru
Swing Corner & Promenade Home


For more PLUS level square dance singing call figures go to

Square dancing allows many persons of all ages to meet and make new friends within a social environment that is safe, festive and musical.

Now is the time to check into square dance lessons for any and all that you know. September is National Square Dance Month and traditionally this is the time to join up with others in a square dance class.

Make contact with a square dance club where the fun commences with the very first night and it is a wonderful way to create a social exchange with others. There are even local special dances and regional festivals and national square dance events, such as the annual National Square Dance Convention !

This fall season make some new friends and enjoy all that square dancing offers.

Check out an activity that allows you to put aside the stress and pressures of today’s often too fast-paced world.

If you are interested in getting into square dancing and you are interested in finding out more, call me for more information!

Have a great day!

Shaun Werkele




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 calling 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.

Seven All-Time Most Important Modern Square Dance Calls

The Most Important Mainstream Square Dance Calls…

…And Why They Are…

Square dancing has a deep history of bringing forth choreographic ideas that, through years of use by callers and dancers, has allowed for growth in the complexity and diversity of many basic and fundamental calls. With these roots established originally in traditional square dance, post-World War II saw an explosion in square dance that led to the development of hundreds of square dance calls that evolved and progressed over years of use.

During this period is when square dance reached it’s golden years and everything was in place to allow the development of choreography on a more intricate and complex plateau than had been seen before. Additionally, this is when new square dance formations were established and a transformation in choreography brought the activity to the place it is today.

Following is a list of the most important calls that have been the choreographic backbone of modern western square dancing for the past fifty plus years. This collection of calls is the pillar of this style of dance and, as such, they are the backbone to creating modern square dance choreography for all callers.  These are the most important, but in many ways, some are the most popular for the Mainstream level of square dance as well. A few are very simple, yet most expanded into concepts as years passed in the square dance activity.

Here are my reasons for these important calls and each is supported with examples of other different calls that were written and conceived from these original choreographic icons of square dance:


Run provides a few great possibilities that take dancing further for a couple of reasons. Run does two things: it changes facing direction of the Runner (Centers, Ends, Boys, Girls) and requires the person being “Ran around” to side step into the Runner’s original position without changing facing direction. The Running dancers are more active in executing this move.  Run introduces a fast way to change formations such as from Ocean Waves to Two-Faced Lines. A simple call that transforms the square and positioning quite a lot, and it offers variations in fractional and Cross Runs that change positioning more and enabled the concept of “crossing” at higher dance levels. Run is a basic call with a very basic rule, and many fundamental possibilities can grow out of this call.

Scoot Back

Scoot Back is the one call that moves dancers around quickly and yet brings them back to the exact same set of dancers every time. The call involves using the same hands that are held at the beginning of the call, using the same exact hand for the dancers moving in, and joining the same hand with the same person in the same set-up as initially started. Whether left or right hand formations or Mini-Waves or Standard Ocean Waves, Scoot Back is an enjoyable call that is short and simple and the figure not only has has been the lead-off for many other more involved square dance calls at the Advanced and Challenge levels of choreography for square dance: Scoot and Plenty, Scoot Chain Thru, Scoot and Dodge, Scoot and Weave.

Swing Thru

Swing Thru is a call that is very specific in execution and because of this can pose a challenge to dancers at the Mainstream level. The call is one of the more graceful moves in square dance, however, the initiation of the call with the right hand (Right Hand Rule) can pose some difficulty for many dancers to become fully adept at getting through Swing Thru successfully. Since it can be executed in positions of Facing Couples and both Right and Left Hand Ocean Waves, following the basic rule is slightly more involved. Swing Thru is an antecedent to the “Swing” concept (Centers and Ends Turn Half) which leads to the innovation of many calls that are either compound or complex at the Advanced (A-1 & A-2) and Challenge (C-1, C-2, C-3, C-4) levels. Some examples of this concept include: Swing and Circle, Swing About, Swing and Mix, Swing the Fractions.

Tag The Line/Fractional Tags

Tag the Line is a splendid call that tests dancer’s ability to recognize the center of a Line and execute the passing of dancers and then to take the next direction (literally) whether that direction is an individual turning a quarter (Right, Left, In, Out) or all dancers taking another call after the passing completion. This call requires positional awareness to begin the move, and potentially it can provide a great deal of variety for all involved. Since the dancers pass through several positions on the way through then it becomes possible to establish Tag Positions – Quarter Tag, Half Tag, Three Quarter Tag -and the framework for establishing the call Extend the Tag. Once again, Tag the Line has become a lead-off call that has been combined with other more complex calls, creating quite a few hybrid calls used at higher levels of dance. Some of these include: Tag Back to an Ocean Wave, Vertical Tag, Extend the Tag, Variations of Tags (Half Tag, etc).

Spin Chain Thru

The Spin Chain Thru call is the longest Ocean  Wave Formation call on the Mainstream list and it is comprised of a compound set of Cast Three Quarters and Ends and Centers turn half  that creates a formation change – a connected temporary Ocean Wave in a Facing Diamond formation before it ends with Parallel Ocean Waves. It cleverly combines two concepts – “Spin” and “Chain,” two concepts that had expanded modern square dance in it’s heyday and have been the heart of conceptual definition for many other “Spin” and “Chain” calls. Numerous other compound calls on higher level dance lists owe a tip of the hat to the time withstanding parent figure Spin Chain Thru such as: Spin Chain the Gears, Relay the Deucey, Spin Chain & Circulate the Gears, Relay the Top, Spin Chain the Line.

Square Thru

Square Thru brings a lot to square dancing for several reasons. This fundamental call breaks down to the variations of Normal, Left, Fractions (how many hands are used) and it offers a lot of versatility in choreography. Perhaps used by square dance callers more than any other call ever (singing call figures exploit this call to excess) this move, too, is a parent figure for many other variations of the “Square” concept that have been danced for years at higher levels of square dance – Square Chain Thru, Square the Bases, Square Chain the Top – all were devised from the parent call Square Thru as their foundation.


Circulate is one of the primary calls that takes dancers quickly from one area of the square to another without changing the formation. This is huge, the simple “follow the leader” application of the rule for circulate which works from many formations and all dancers advancing is an independent move that does not involve other dancers. Or does it?  Although each dancer moves independently to the next position on the floor, without total harmony of the whole square in execution, a breakdown can come about quite quickly. Further, there is the most widespread possibilities with Circulate from a simple Column to Parallel Ocean Waves and moving beyond Mainstream to higher levels the creative possibilities are vast. This call is simple, yet many dancers never master all the possible combinations that can be called. Even the basic Circulates at the Mainstream level such as All Eight, Single File, Box , Split and Couples, or specifically, Boys, Girls, Centers, Ends, and when combined with Half fractions ( Once and a Half, etc.) can instill tons of new ideas that make Circulate the most versatile of all square dance calls ever!

All of these fundamental square dance calls have withstood the test of time, they are fun choreography to implement and execute, and they provide unlimited variety. The understanding of the mechanical basics of these calls creates an important step for both callers and dancers to advance from Mainstream up to and through the Advanced to Challenge levels. Improvement and advancement for some dancers requires learning in a more robust manner, and similarly, callers need to be quite proficient at choreography to master teaching on a progressive level.

Feel free to call me at anytime if you have a square dance calling question! I will be teaching a one-shot calling class on September 10, 1-4 pm at the Ranch Office Building at 11859 Pecos Street in Westminster, CO. Hope to see you there!

Have a Great Day!

Shaun Werkele



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.