Modern Western Square Dance: The 25 Alive Choreographic Challenge!

Ruts in Square Dance ChoreographyCaught in a routine of square dance calling the same old sequences of calls or combinations of calls in your program for your dances? Being stuck in a rut is hard to overcome. If you think about it, a rut is a deep crevice that has been worn by overuse. It can be very difficult to jump out of a rut and make it back onto a more productive path for yourself as a square dance caller and this can apply to the dancers, as well!

The best way to break out of it and reach a better place where it will be possible to make progress – in providing more variety and interest – is to take a good look at what you call all the time. There are choreographic sequences that many DANCERS know what is going to be called next, and some dancers anticipate to the point that they stop listening to your calls because they have your modern western square dance calling boring routine down stone dead cold.

Now that is a deep rut indeed!

Overused combinations of calls will always lead the square dance activity down the same old path with the same old rut! Anticipation! Uninteresting and worn out sequences and combinations of calls. Dancer boredom!

Bring it to an end now.

This is the proposed challenge that I present to you as the entertaining caller that you strive to be: the five minute choreographic challenge!

Below are 25 square dance calls that have always turned into a broken record when followed up with the most anticipated sequences that have shown to be…RUTS! Although it may be a little difficult to change all calls, you can change some of the classic and highly anticipated combinations of square dance choreography. But you will have to do a couple of things to allow for dancer success on the floor.

One thing for sure is you will have to allow for a little recovery time if some of the dancers have anticipated the normal expected calls or newer dancers who never were taught very many choreographic possibilities for the calls. Another thing is you may have to occasionally use some key words to prompt the square dancers to get through any new combinations of calls than what they are used to doing. A little known secret that I will share with you is when you use directional key words between unusual combinations of calls this will both give the dancers directional help in addition to supplying the dance floor a little more time to execute the dance moves you present.

I highly recommend that you use your square dance choreographic checkers  on some of the more involved calls. Additionally, spend a minute or two thinking about body flow and what you would follow up the new combinations with. Shoot for five new ideas for every call on this list in twenty five minutes time. Then spend some more time writing out full choreographic module figures that work with your dance program to complete your focus on each call for your challenge. Make this your choreography study project a part of your practice routine.

This is a great booster whether you want to add creative and original sequences to your sets of square dance modules, or add to your arsenal of ideas that you have as a mental image list, or even ideas to incorporate into your sight calling:

  1. Flutterwheel
  2. Veer Left
  3. Walk Around the Left Hand Lady
  4. Tag the Line
  5. Swing Thru
  6. Square Thru
  7. Couples Circulate
  8. Touch a Quarter (from a facing couples box)
  9. Spin the Top
  10. Reverse Flutterwheel
  11. Walk & Dodge
  12. Wheel & Deal
  13. Pass Thru (from facing lines)
  14. Pass Thru (from a facing couples box)
  15. Lead Right
  16. Spin Chain Thru
  17. Scoot Back
  18. Double Pass Thru
  19. Ferris Wheel
  20. Half Tag the Line
  21. Pass the Ocean
  22. (Put) Centers In
  23. Recycle
  24. Touch a Quarter (from facing lines)
  25. Right and Left Grand

This will be an effective mental challenge for you and you will get some new choreography that will break your own bad habits of the “same old same old”…and some dancers can break their habits of anticipating and everyone will enjoy the dancing a lot more!

Related:  One Hour Singing Call Challenge

Write these on recipe cards or store them on your computer for easy use. Let the challenge begin! And good luck!

Call if you are interested in attending my three hour training session for beginning square dance callers in Westminster, CO on May 21. See the flyer on this link for more information:

Best Regards,
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.


Modern Western Square Dance Caller Teaching Guidelines

A great deal of square dancers who are interested in square dance choreography become callers or consider becoming callers because they are fascinated and intrigued by choreography. This is a good platform to build off of. However, not many modern western square dance callers are trained to teach choreography to persons in classes learning to dance. Teaching is an important part of actual calling, but the approaches of teaching square dance is often neglected. One reason is the focus is on actually learning to call a dance as opposed to working on a complete overall program of square dance calling.

So the objective standpoint of a person learning to call is to understand the framework of teaching and why great square dance teachers are so vital to the square dance activity. The first thing to take a look at to understand teaching is to understand learning. There are several learning styles, but the four basic types are:

  • Visual (spatial): You prefer using pictures, images, and spatial understanding.
  • Aural (auditory-musical): You prefer using sound and music.
  • Verbal (linguistic): You prefer using words, both in speech and writing.
  • Physical (kinesthetic): You prefer using your body, hands and sense of touch.

As a square dance caller, you will need to first determine your learning style preference and then examine how you actually teach. If you learn well aurally, then you will be a better fit for teaching square dancing to students in classes and to dancers at dance functions. The reason for this is square dance is a listening experience first, and a dancing experience second. Most teaching for square dance works in this manner.

Verbal communication is the most effective way to present choreography and its definitions and corresponding formations and descriptions. To be a good teacher you need to refine your communication skills and know the calls well – the mechanics, starting and ending positions, explain the changes in positions and formations, and be great at combining the calls together well in choreographic sequences that flow.

Further, visual learning is another huge part of the process in a square dance class. The dancers can see the formations and how to perform some calls when they are simply watching the active persons in their square perform the new calls. After a teaching tip is completed, many students in a class will ask questions about how to execute some call that they have just been exposed to. The best approach in this situation is to ask a few experienced dancers to demonstrate the call and allow visual learning to occur along with reviewing the definition and mechanics involved. This is a strong and robust visualization for many beginners and it is extremely effective.

Another effective tool for teaching dancers is supplying the dancers with a modern square dance instruction booklet. These will be a great help in understanding descriptions and the pictures of dancers performing the calls provide a great visual reference. By using visual methods in addition to aural learning, new dancers will succeed a lot more and have a much better understanding of the choreography. Reinforcement of the calls on a list is a great way to show the dancers their progress and measure their comprehension of the calls and formations, figures and basic mechanics of square dance.

Always present new calls in a class with a complete description of the mechanics of the call along with a detailed and complete definition. As a new caller teacher, you will need to make a list of many choreographic possibilities to teach your square dance students. Start with the basic formations from which to dance the call and build upon that with different variations and beginning and ending positions. Formations are the same. Introduce with the most simple formations and expand into more involved ones. For example, the Static Square is the first one taught. One of the last formations taught at Mainstream level dancing is the Tidal Wave and Tidal 2-Faced Line.

Put some thought into figures and arrangements that you will teach so that the dancers learn optimally. One approach is to teach and present the calls in a way that the students will hear the calls being used by other callers once they graduate from class. Build upon that and then add variations as the dancers progress in understanding the choreography.

Aside from the above pointers, newer callers can also listen to teaching presentations by attending an ongoing square dance class with an established caller. Weekly. The learning opportunities are great when you are able to study the teaching approaches that an experienced caller can show you. Just be particular about who you learn from and how their approach to teaching works. Observe and take notes if you feel the need to. A good caller teacher can give you good teaching habits. Here is some great information on  Creating Square Dance Choreography to give you some ideas on understanding choreography creation.

Most people teach in the same manner that they have a propensity to learn. Whatever learning style they prefer is how they will convey their perception of an idea. Teaching students and expanding their potential by drawing from all of the learning styles is your best bet, and you need to be analytical in studying the mannerisms and habits and methods that your mentor caller uses during the class sessions. By observing, you will see why calls are taught in a particular order, the struggles the dancers have in learning certain moves, and how to effectively reach the students in the class with proper wording and strong teaching skills.

Ask questions of established callers who teach and look for good advice. The best way to learn how to teach is to be offered the chance to teach a specific call on several sessions at an ongoing class and then receive critical feedback from the caller-teacher. This is necessary to travel down the road to improvement. Check into this article on creating choreography:

Analyze the methods that you observe and apply those approaches to what you want to be as a teacher. Practice ways to teach a particular call when you arrive at a good understanding of what is involved in both learning for the dancers and teaching for you, as a caller. Record yourself teaching a call. Analyze your teaching method and verbal approach. Did you give a clear description and instruction for the call you were teaching? Teach a call or two at a class with an experienced caller so that you get experience and advice on how to improve. Ask the more experienced caller if he can allow you to do this.

Keep in mind that every student in a square dance class will learn differently than you did. Everyone learns differently and you will need to accommodate for those differences. Understand the definitions and mechanics and different possibilities for the various calls that you teach or eventually may teach. Analyze your teaching methods. Use different teaching perspectives and approaches as mentioned above to allow for many learning styles for your classes that you will teach. Great teaching is vital and essential to dancer’s success and enjoyment in the activity!

Lastly, attend a square dance caller school to get more help in all areas of the art of square dance calling! I am offering a free class on May 21,2017 for a beginner’s ground level 3 hour session. Call for more details.

Please feel free to contact me if you are learning to square dance call and you have a question or need some help!

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.