Square Dance Calling: Open Mike Mentoring

The way a lot of square dance callers get into the art is to start out with a singing call at an open microphone night at a club dance. Some call this an amateur night, and rightly so. This is an opportunity for a newer caller to perform a singing call or two, and perhaps even a hoedown call, and get exposure and experience all at the same time.

At the end of the performance, the new caller feels good and excited and hopefully all of the dancers are polite and courteous and they enjoy the calling presented and compliment and thank the new caller. One thing the new caller will surely realize is that they are only starting to learn about the complexity of modern western square dance calling and they will need some guidance and mentoring to move forward in learning how to become accomplished in this specialized art form.

Learning to square dance call is very different from simply learning a singing call for an open microphone dance event. The difference is you have to know what you are doing if you are going to be proficient. You have to love calling – singing, teaching, writing choreography and tying all of that together. And you have to believe in yourself and what you are doing and then take that feeling and make a deep commitment in what you learn and how you use that to further your abilities as you strive to be a modern western square dance caller.

A good amount of people who call at an open mike dance are student callers who are working on building a foundation of knowledge and skills. Often they have been given some music to work on learning and after calling once, they are encouraged to learn calling. Inadvertently, some new callers will feel that they are better than they are once they get a little confidence after an amateur night. But it will take lots and lots of hard work for development and understanding many of the complexities of choreography, delivery, teaching, and entertaining.

A more experienced square dance caller often will work with a new caller. If a dancer wants to learn to call, the experienced caller can just give them some music and help them learn a simple singing call. From there, it is important to seek out a square dance caller coach to advance in every way. Over time, consulting with an experienced coach is only needed occasionally. From there, and with strong guidance, expansion into choreography writing and other areas of knowledge and skills will help refine the basis upon which everything started from.

There is an awful lot that needs to be learned after that first night calling. But by working with a set of achievable goals anyone can progress in a logical manner and build upon various areas. For example, homework will be a necessary part of learning, just like learning anything else. Knowledge of choreography is high on the list of things that need to be in place to learn how to combine modules, learn to sight call, and to use choreography in an interesting and effective manner.

And practice is the other necessary part of learning to square dance call. Delivering commands in time to the music so that the dancers are able to dance and move smoothly without “stop and go” movements is one of the most important elements of the art of calling. Music is another part that is important to practice. Relating to the music and its structure and using great phrasing and delivery is so important.

Understanding square dance choreography is essential to presenting smooth flowing calls and delivering those calls well. A common mistake that a new caller makes is rushing into attempting to sight call. I teach all callers to build a strong foundation in choreographic knowledge and understanding the mechanics and formations and definitive possibilities for square dance calls first, much more in advance of learning effective sight calling and square resolution.

Singing and entertaining is yet another facet of the calling gem. For some great practice tips, go to:

https://shaunwerkelesquaredancecalleraugustrecords.wordpress.com/2015/11/28/modern-square-dance-calling-how-to-practice-efficiently/

How long does it take to become a square dance caller, anyway?

On the average, just to become proficient in basic calling, and that does not necessarily include proficiency in calling a complete square dance, it can take up to two years. To be proficient and knowledgeable about choreography, singing performance, writing great square dance choreography, and having a complete package to offer as a caller always takes longer. There are so many things that have to be learned and some of those things only come with experience.

Overall, becoming a caller takes some time, patience, the guidance of a great experienced caller coach, and lots of work and practice.

And this all starts from that one night. The first performance at that open microphone night!

Good Luck!

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 calling 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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Classic Square Dance Singing Call Figures

Modern Western square dance has a deep rooted background that is based upon tradition. At a dance, the ultimate goal is to have a great time with friends. Dancing it up on the dance floor. There definitely is a time for dancing where the dancers do not need to think too much in terms of choreography, and this happens when faster paced song numbers that bring excitement – when all of a sudden everyone hears it – the song everyone can’t resist – is used in your program. The song the dancers just HAVE to dance to. Their feet really have no choice in the matter!

Classic songs that have a timeless quality are the perfect vehicle for using classic square dance singing call figures. Traditional songs in square dancing lend themselves well to dancing because of nostalgic reasons that take baby boomers back in time and many millennials might be familiar with some of these old square dance songs. Certainly, all persons will want to participate in an old tradition of dancing and participating in a sing-along in unison.

This is a perfect time to use some classic choreography that the dancers are already familiar with so they can really cut loose. And they might even know what is going to be called next. But that’s OK this time. A classic high energy singing call is a perfect time to instill the dancers with simpler choreography sequences to ensure overall success.

Below are four classic singing call figures that make for almost mindless dancing – just what is needed to jazz up a sing-along or a classic traditional song, or just a faster paced or highly energetic piece of square dance music. These are nothing ground-breaking or unique, they simply have withstood the years and have lasting worth and for that reason are classics.

So let the dancers Have. The. Time. Of. Their. Lives!

CALLING TIP! Check with the square dance club officers about their group’s ability level and whether or not they want star tips during the dance to help in making your program plan.

Heads (Sides) Promenade Halfway
Square Thru 4 Hands
Swing Thru
Boys Run Right
Ferris Wheel
Centers Square Thru Three Hands
Swing Corner & Promenade Home

Heads (Sides) Square Thru
Do Sa Do
Swing Thru
Boys Run Right
Bend the Line
Flutterwheel
Slide Thru
Swing Corner & Promenade Home

Heads (Sides) Promenade Halfway
Square Thru
Right & Left Thru
Do Sa Do
Pass Thru
Trade By
Swing Corner & Promenade Home

Heads (Sides) Square Thru
Do Sa Do
Swing Thru
Spin the Top
Right & Left Thru
Square Thru Three Hands
Swing Corner & Promenade Home

Simple and lively and enjoyable! Relax yourself and the dancers with these four classic sequences and happy 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 coaching information provided here serves as a source for square dance calling 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.

Microphone Techniques For Modern Square Dance Calling

Improve Sound Quality at Square Dances Through Better Microphone Technique!

Practically all modern western square dance callers don’t practice their microphone technique enough, and for this reason alone, sometimes nice voices do not get the performance exposure that they should. Poor sound quality on a sound system leads to weak communication with the dancers, and bad microphone technique when performing live is a great deal of the problem. The square dance calling art, which is a combination of singing and speaking, must also have a combination of correct microphone technique and a basic knowledge of sound systems that are used in square dance venues and, when combined, will result in clear and beautiful sound that enhances any square dance performance.

In order to entertain, communicate, and teach, every caller has to use their voice. This is an instrument (although some do not see it as such) that is processed through a microphone and an amplifier, then through speakers, and then out to the ears of the dancers so that the communication between caller and dancers becomes complete. Enjoyment and dancer success depends upon this clarity. So how is this accomplished consistently? Through good technique and efficient equipment.

Microphone Selection

Some callers have their own personal preference for a microphone, but uni-directional microphones are the most commonly used in the square dance realm. They are more sensitive than omni-directional microphones and they work quite dynamically in response to vocal sounds from your mouth. Another great thing about uni-directional microphones is they are less susceptible to feedback and “bleed” from outside noises such as music emanating from the speakers as you call. For this reason uni-directional mics are superior in calling in larger venues or at larger festivals in local regions.

Here is more information about different types of microphones

There are also normal wired microphones and wireless versions, both kinds can be hand-held or placed in a stand. The freedom to move around more is the advantage of using a head-set microphone, and they are useful for callers who need to dance and call at the same time. For singing call performance, however, the head-set is restricting in allowing for many singing microphone techniques.

Microphone Techniques

Clear communication is the most desired result of great microphone technique. Teaching and hoedown calling require smooth enunciation and clear projection. There are moments when you will be using less or more volume with your voice, singing higher or lower notes, or even whispering. Practice using different distances and positions to see how using the mic creates different effects. The most common mistake made by newer callers is when they hold the microphone too close or too far from their mouth. This results in all calling sounding muffled and distorted, too distant, or no audible recognition for everyone on the dance floor.

Since most square dance callers use uni-directional mics, the most primary rule is to hold the microphone horizontally at a 45 degree angle in relation to the ground and point the head at their mouth about an inch away. Any other way will lead to a thin and nasally sound that is not desirable. Practice working on this correct technique in your rehearsal time in front of a mirror to see and, of course, hear the  improvement.

Volume levels can be tricky, for if the sound is not loud enough, and then the volume knob is turned up, then there is a risk of both feedback and distortion. Pointing the microphone towards a speaker when you are too close causes a high pitched noise called feedback. Overdriving a microphone with your own voice or too much volume set on the amplifier will cause distortion. Clarity is the number one thing that dancers need above all else. How can they perform the dance moves for the calls if they cannot understand you?

To avoid distortion, ensure the mic is held no closer than 1 to 3 inches from your mouth during normal calling.  Every caller will have to experiment a little as this distance varies with individuals and their natural power and ability to project their voice.

To find the comfortable distance that you can move the microphone away from your mouth, try this. Gradually pull the microphone away as you continue to call and listen to the difference – at what point does the vocal sound start to fade too much?  By doing this, you will learn just how far you can move the microphone away. The optimum distance for clarity is between the closest and furthest points. All callers should avoid moving the microphone closer to their mouth when hitting high or more powerful notes and practice using the proximity of the microphone to enhance or lessen certain vocal effects until it becomes very comfortable and then the distance does not even have to be thought about too much.

Tips on Purchasing a Microphone

Before anyone ever purchases a microphone a little time should be invested in researching and trying out several types. A mic that makes one entertainer sound fantastic can make another one sound weak or thin and, although this can be adjusted in the tone controls using bass and treble knobs, the problem can be avoided altogether. Sometimes the problem can be in the microphone response. Finding a microphone with good bottom-end response and clarity that suits your deeper voice will be a much better long term solution than making tonal adjustments, particularly if you are at a festival somewhere and you end up using a sound system that is much different than what you are used to. A consistent sounding microphone that is dependable is essential.

In the recording studio, calling on a piece of square dance music might require that you carry several microphones to cater to all possible variables that change from studio to studio. In addition, owning a microphone for ‘live’ performance and one for ‘recording’ solves a few quality and clarity problems. Very often more experienced callers will give or loan used equipment to newer callers, but I still recommend that every caller purchase their own microphone that meets their individual needs and they can become really familiar with.

One great way to find an efficient microphone is to look on ebay and some online square dance shop websites to find inexpensive sound equipment. Both old and new amplifiers and microphones and speakers can be purchased in this way. Be aware that sometimes old and used equipment may have problems with the integrity of their sound quality. Contact the seller and ask some questions about the equipment and what the condition is for the item you are interested in. Be careful. Ask about a guarantee – will you will be satisfied with the working state and quality and the condition? Find out about the equipment’s history if it is used.

No one would be happy if they purchased a pair of square dance speakers and they were “spanked.”

Newer callers should get help in selecting a microphone from a more experienced square dance caller who can give them an objective and experienced viewpoint. If the newer caller has not purchased an amplifier, this is an area that they can use some help in, not only in paying a fair price for equipment that will last for years, but also in getting technical help from a mentor for the newer caller to familiarize himself with the technical aspects – proper use of the controls of an amplifier, speaker placement, and microphone technique. Coaching a student caller in many areas such as managing good sound quality (by demonstrating and explaining) is key in having effective guidance that will drive a student caller to improve.

It’s a Wrap…

A microphone is a very personal piece of sound equipment and the proper use of one is a fundamental principle of great sound quality. Bad sound in a hall can obliterate an otherwise well planned and called square dance. How do you prevent sound problems without the aid of a sound engineer or years of experience? Practice adjusting sound whenever you can. The more you do this the better you will become. And the easier it will become. And a microphone should be one of a new caller’s first investments.

Read more about using a square dance microphone here:

https://shaunwerkelesquaredancecalleraugustrecords.wordpress.com/2016/01/03/square-dance-callers-using-your-microphone-effectively/

Have a Great Day! Contact me if you have a question 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 coaching information provided here serves as a source for square dance caller training, 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.

 

6 Keys to Becoming a Master of Square Dance Calling

Six Ways to Achieve Square Dance Calling Proficiency

I believe there would be little argument that there is a right way to learn something and there is a wrong way. If you strive to be more accomplished and successful then what do you focus on?  Actually, that is not audaciously ambitious enough — want to be the very best? Who doesn’t?

So here is the best advice I can give any modern western square dance caller. Many have said that it takes 10,000 hours to master anything, but truthfully, if you align your practice and learning with the way your brain is naturally wired to learn, combine that with some good sense, then you can be more proficient in your learning and improvement approach. The time you spend is crucial, yet you can get to square dance mastery faster — much faster — by practicing the correct and effective way. You can accomplish this by following these seven steps:

1) Push Yourself Outside of Your Comfort Zone

It has been proven that everyone learns best when they are pushing their limits. Stretching your abilities and boundaries of difficulty is a key component to maximizing your learning threshold. Step outside of your comfort zone. Make it hard. When a person struggles with something is when advancement will happen. When you struggle, this is when you will see more improvement. The more time you spend outside of your comfort zone, the faster you can improve and learn anything.

Strive to spend a very high quality ten minutes practicing a new choreography figure than practicing a mediocre overused figure. By doing this, you learn something new that is more on the edge of your ability, and now you have added to your arsenal a new and more interesting choreographic sequence for your dance group. You want to practice your calling where you are on the edge of your capability and you make mistakes, failing in your timing and presentation, and then realizing those mistakes and correcting them.

More on the best way for you to practice here.

https://shaunwerkelesquaredancecalleraugustrecords.wordpress.com/2015/11/28/modern-square-dance-calling-how-to-practice-efficiently/

2) Maximize Your Uncomfortable Success Rate

You want to be successful only 60 to 80 percent of the time when training to be a better caller. That’s a maximized sweet spot for improvement in almost anything.
This is why and what typically happens:

When learning is too hard, many will quit. When something is too easy….then we often quit then, too.

Because of this paradigm, always strive to stay in that 60 to 80 percent zone. Make it a challenge. If you learn too little and everything you learn is too easy, then you definitely are not pushing your capabilities. If you are not succeeding much then change things by easing up a little bit because flailing is not good, either.  Are you succeeding 90 percent of the time? That’s too easy. You want to constantly be pushing, all the while adjusting the environment for improvement so that you’re succeeding 60 to 80 percent of the time.

One quick thing about practice. Do not ever overpractice. You will harm your vocal chords and then you will have to rest them for a while, perhaps as long as a month to 2 months, if you strain your voice. Just make sure that you are consistently pushing other elements of the square dance calling craft that you can improve on without overdriving your vocal chords, like studying choreography. Which brings us to the next guideline for mastery.

3) Set Time For Study Then Followed By Effective Execution

Think about improving as a pie cut into thirds. Cut a third of a piece for studying and learning choreography. The other two-thirds of your pie is the time you want to be actually calling. Practicing. Pushing yourself.

So get your focus on two-thirds practice time. Study only what you need to. Whatever it is you want to learn for the week,reach for being the best at it, be doing it. The closer your practice is to the real thing, calling at an actual dance , the faster you learn to master square dance calling. Your improvement will evolve by doing things like focused and hard practice, not by hearing, reading or talking about how to call.

It’s much better to spend about two thirds of your time analyzing and testing yourself in a practice session rather than spending lots of time absorbing and studying . Many situations will force the average caller to adapt to the situation anyway. Dancing levels are different not only at every dance, but sometimes even by every tip danced. You will need to be ready to adapt your program and your choreography and by using the rule of two thirds. If you want to, say, memorize a bunch of choreography, you would be better off focusing the other two-thirds of your time working on practicing calling the choreography and the mechanics and the creative possibilities that you might have to change at a moment’s notice at a dance. I recommend that you spend more time testing yourself on choreographic knowledge than memorization.

4) Find a Role Model Square Dance Caller

Really watching the best do what they excel at is one of the most powerful things you can do to reach mastery at just about anything. Learning by watching is motivational, inspirational and it is how we have learned since the dawn of modern man. Man is built to learn. By studying the best in the art of square dance calling, then we will strive more and concentrate and focus to be the best in performance, programming, and overall better in every way.

When we watch someone we want to become and be like and we have a really intensely centered idea of where we want to be, it unleashes a tremendous amount of energy that is creative and inspirational. It sounds very basic, but spending time studying every word that a great square dance caller presents in a night’s dance can be one of the most powerful things you do.

5) Create Yourself a Caller’s Notebook

Many famous persons throughout history have kept a diary or journal to propel their studies and improvement. Today, top performers in many walks of life will track their progress, set goals for improvement, and learn from and improve by using a simple tracking tool like a notebook.

Keep two notebooks. One for your practice and performance and another with choreography that you are learning or need reference to. The road to improvement requires a map or two, and keeping a couple of notebooks that you can write down what you accomplished this week and/or what you tried to do, where you made mistakes and what things you displayed notable improvement in is important to advancing your skills. Use a notebook to capture and record information. Use it to track your progress. The power of the notebook is underrated and underused and I could not imagine not using this extremely helpful tool.

6) Attend a Square Dance Calling School

There are many benefits in studying at a caller school. Learning and improvement will boost your confidence and lead to eventual mastery. Education is the process of facilitating learning. Knowledge, skills, good practice techniques, and positive habits of a group of callers are transmitted to other people looking to learn how to square dance call.

Discussion, teaching, training, getting positive feedback and coaching leads to a better method of improvement and it helps you boost your own overall personal development. Overall, attendance at a top square dance caller school and acquiring a certified education will have a positive and powerful impact upon your ability and carry you to a  higher level on your way to mastery. Learn proficiency, professionalism, and learn how to be more musical. Learn how to be an entertainer! Learn how to be a choreographer. Learn how to package yourself as a competent and confident and experienced and knowledgeable caller!

Commit to Achieving Square Dance Caller Mastery

Everything in life requires a commitment. To what extent you go to is the difference. Skill and commitment have a tied relationship. The more committed anyone is to something then this leads to so much higher levels in success and proficiency, and this is the difference.

Merely committing to the long haul will have huge effects. Committing to practice and study can push abilities off the charts, and that is the difference maker. It takes time to master square dance calling, and that commitment combined with the right temperament will always advance you to a higher place supported by all of the above concentrated activities. This correct combination will make all of the hard work and focus worthwhile. You can push your capabilities off the charts. Commit to the long haul.

Don’t give up.

Reach. Get out on the edge of your ability. Get into your 60-80 percent discomfort zone and reach past that.

Sadly, none of us were born as an expert at anything. But you can become one with practice and time. Expect to spend a few years of hard work to reach a level of mastery in square dance calling. Start now. You’ll be amazed at what you can achieve.

Have a Great Day! Contact me if you have a question 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 coaching information provided here serves as a source for square dance caller training, 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.

Square Dance: Diamond Formation PLUS Singing Call Figures

Diamonds are forever! In modern western square dancing using PLUS level diamond formation figures and sequences can be a lot of fun for everyone and using the Diamond Formation calls in singing call figures is one of my favorite things to do! Here are a foursome of great basic Plus level dance figures working the Diamond Circulate, Flip the Diamond and Cut the Diamond calls. These are a tad more difficult than my prior post I put out using the Diamond Formation…

https://shaunwerkelesquaredancecalleraugustrecords.wordpress.com/2015/05/21/shining-diamonds-for-modern-western-square-dance-calling/

…but if you spend a few minutes working through these, they will work fine for your night’s square dance calling program. Diamond Formations/Circulates provide interest and rarely are they are too difficult for the dance floor to handle. These first two focus on Split Circulate and 2 consecutive Diamond Circulates to change things around a bit:

CALLING TIP! Always look for singing call selections with a steady danceable downbeat, and even more importantly, choose songs that have a medium paced tempo for more involved choreography so that the dancers don’t feel too rushed!

Heads (Sides) Touch a Quarter
Those Boys Run
Touch a Quarter
Split Circulate Once and a Half
Diamond Circulate
Diamond Circulate
Flip the Diamond
Swing Thru
Girls Trade
Swing Corner & Promenade Home

Heads (Sides) Touch a Quarter
Walk and Dodge
Touch a Quarter
Split Circulate Once and a Half
Diamond Circulate
Diamond Circulate
Flip the Diamond
Boys Trade
Box the Gnat & Pass Thru
Swing Corner & Promenade Home

Or these two sequences have a Cut the Diamond:

Heads (Sides) Lead Right
Swing Thru
Boys Trade
Boys Run
Ladies Hinge
Diamond Circulate
Cut the Diamond
Ferris Wheel
Centers Sweep a Quarter & Star Thru
Same Four Pass Thru
Swing Corner & Promenade Home

Heads (Sides) Touch a Quarter
Those Boys Run
Swing Thru
Boys Trade
Boys Run
Ladies Hinge
Diamond Circulate
Cut the Diamond
Tag the Line Face Right
Wheel & Deal
Swing Corner & Promenade Home

All modern western square dance callers should try using the foregoing PLUS singing call figures in your hoedown calling portion of the dancing tip to build confidence and ensure ease of dancer execution. Part of effective calling is integrating your choreography into your entire square dance tip and your complete program that you call. Focus on developing the facility to program your own choreography and those ideas centered around your creative ideas in order to call the best dance that you can! Look for available square dance caller education sessions that focus on improving your choreography intelligence and teach you to think critically regarding your overall program.

Call me at any time if you need any help or you have any questions!

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 calling 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.