Singing Calls For Modern Western Square Dance Callers: Pass The Ocean!

For modern square dance calling, one really easy way to bolster all square dancer’s overall capabilities is to avoid repetitively using certain calls and combinations. This is an outright and purposeful move that will affect your entire program. Once the dancers can execute basic calls such as Square Thru easily, backing off on the overuse of these calls many times in a night’s program should be implemented and you can do this quite easily. Just reduce using these combinations and you can begin to turn this lazy and bad habit around.

What will happen is this: square dance calls in singing call figures will become more interesting and, as an overview, all dances that you call will become more interesting.

To accomplish this requires some homework by creating choreography with square dance checkers and perusing your catalog of old square dance figures for more interesting figures that can break the repetitive chain of delivering the same calls and figures each night. It will take a lot of effort and time and commitment to reach a point that you can hear and see a significant difference at the dances you call..

Related:  Creative Ideas For Square Dance Caller Checkers

I would advise that you check any dance combinations you “write in your head” by moving some square dance calling checkers around. One great way to push yourself to coming up with new ideas that are interesting is to use this “mental image” method to create singing call figures. Creating choreographic ideas with mental imaging can be quite a creative way to make things different in your calling program.

To do this, you simply have to practice visualizing what you would like to call and focus on seeing the dancers in your head. If you struggle with this then try simply dancing one person’s role in the square and then dance another person’s position.

For example, first, you mentally visualize dancing the Head Gent’s position through a sequential idea and then you follow that up with dancing the Head Lady’s position on the same set of calls. Then try both (two people) dancing in your head. It takes practice!

Be careful of this one thing. Even if you have written some choreography that you feel works in your head, still, it can be wrong. Always move some checkers around and check your ideas because it definitely is always better to find out for yourself when you are at home practicing that your choreographic figure does not end with the dancers in sequence as opposed to actually calling the figure at the dance and finding out with the dancers that it does not work.

Pass the Ocean is a fun call for dancers and since the point and subject here is about avoiding cliche calls that do not really foster dancer improvement or confidence, all four figures below emphasize Pass the Ocean to initiate the sequences as opposed to Square Thru or couples Promenade Half:

CALLING TIP! Pay close attention to the capabilities of the local area clubs. Some areas of the country dance a little differently in terms of hand holds and certain strengths and weaknesses are sometimes regional. Use that observation to devise and alter your calling methods with more effective choreography!

Heads (Sides) Pass the Ocean
Ladies Trade
Extend (the Tag)
Swing Thru
Boys Run
Boys Circulate
Wheel & Deal
Veer Left
Tag the Line
Girls Turn Around
Swing Corner & Promenade Home

Heads (Sides) Pass the Ocean
Ladies Trade
Extend (the Tag)
Recycle
Veer Left
Boys Circulate
Girls Trade
Tag the Line Face Left
Couples Trade
Promenade Home

Heads (Sides) Pass the Ocean
Ladies Trade
Extend (the Tag)
Swing Thru
Boys Run
Boys Circulate
Half Tag (the Line)
Scootback
Split Circulate
Swing Corner & Promenade Home

Heads (Sides) Pass the Ocean
Recycle
Square Thru 3 Hands
Circle to a Line
Touch a Quarter
Everybody Circulate
Boys Run
Swing Corner & Promenade Home

Watch out for the Tag the Line Face Left followed up with a Couples Trade (I would give direction to the Boys to take hands and “bring” the Lady next to him along with him). Figure 3 is a little tricky with the Boys Circulate then everyone do a Half Tag, Scootback and then Split Circulate. Think about using these two sequences in your Hoedown/Patter calls beforehand.

As always, feel free to call if you have any questions!

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 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.

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“Pop! Goes The Weasel!” Evolution of a Nursery Rhyme in Square Dance

“Pop! Goes The Weasel!” A Traditional Square Dance Song

I remember dancing to a fantastic traditional square dance standard in 1973 when I was in square dance classes that worked around the nursery rhyme, “Pop! Goes The Weasel!” I never gave the meaning of the lyrics of the song much thought when we were dancing, but it sure was a lot of fun because the tempo of the song would intermittently speed up and slow down adding to the physical drama of dancing the tune. Obviously, the square dance caller enjoyed presenting this piece just for the sheer unadulterated fun that it produced for the dancers in struggling to keep up with the more frantic tempos as they would rise and swell like a rogue wave rolling in on a beach. And it was dramatic fun! Great memories.

As it turns out, there is quite a bit of long and detailed history behind this catchy classic musical piece that started out as an English ditty. It also has some mystery as to its origin. The imagery that is presented by the title itself first creates a striking visual portrayal of a weasel “popping” his head up out of a hole in the ground and then once again disappearing, as these kinds of animals behave in this manner naturally. Thinking upon the meaning of “Pop! Goes the Weasel!”, the overall gist is that the short and apparent opportunity is “here today and gone tomorrow” such as a weasel disappearing from view and all of the lines in the rhyme verses end with this similar repeating thematic idea.

Due to the bouncy and fast rhythmic beat and meter that the rhyme carries, this simple English tune most likely made its start as an orally repeated word of mouth chant/tune that was passed down from several generations and not just as a rhyme that was put to music later. “Pop! Goes The Weasel!” has an uncertain origin without an author and without a starting date of creation.

But the song has a historical background and an intimate reference of the unknown original author’s (or multiple author’s) most likely personal observations or accounts of poverty, drinking, pawning, and tailoring in the 17th century in London. The one verse that shows the rhyme has both relevance of a historical place and a common social behavior is pointed out here:

Up and down the London road
In and out of the Eagle
That’s the way the money goes
Pop! Goes the weasel!

 

This verse describes a night out at a music hall and one of the earliest night pubs called the Eagle tavern, located on the corner of City Road and Shepherdess Walk in Hackney, North London. The Eagle was an old pub which was rebuilt as a music hall in 1825 and existed many years before then. For many in London this was a popular stop and diversion. But drinking at the popular tavern cost money – so one needs money to have a night on the town. “Popping” in those times meant to pawn something – pop is the British slang for this. A “weasel” was also Cockney rhyming slang which originated in London, the original derivation being “weasel and stoat,” meaning a winter coat. During those times it was quite normal for even the poor to own a suit, which they wore as their “Sunday Best.” Hocking items for a short term until money became available was a necessary manner in the times of Victorian England.

This simple nonsensical rhyme that at first appears to have no specific intention or purpose starts to come to light once it is revealed that the reason for pawnbroking is to go out on a night on the town despite poverty wages and hardship in London:

A penny for a spool of thread
A penny for a needle
That’s the way the money goes
Pop! Goes the weasel!

 

This particular rhyme verse and most of the following verses have a lot of reference to tailoring, cobbling, and hat making and the expenses that were necessary to survive in the workforce during the beginning of the apparel revolution.  Further, some of the lines in the verses indicate addictive behavior of these drunken cobblers and London hatters, part of the working class in London at the time of the seventeen hundreds. Our modern society of today would name them as drug addicts and “compulsive drunks.” And here’s the explanation.

Hatmakers worked with a highly toxic substance called mercuric nitrate, which was used in the manufacture of hats. Hatters commonly suffered from “hatter’s shakes,” a form of nerve damage which manifested its symptoms similar to Parkinson’s Disease. This came to be known as “Mad Hatter’s Syndrome.”  We see this similar disorder in painters who handle toxic solvents and thinners for too many years. Hatters could have been mad in either or both of the “angry” or “insane” mannerisms with aggressive tendencies and they possibly were delusional, and further, many had many behavioral problems that they had developed as a result of the occupation of hat making.

Mad hatters most certainly were crafters that dealt with attempting to maintain rationality with their condition and, as a result, were plain grumpy, in some kind of pain, and were involuntary victims through toxic chemical exposure – drug addicts as a result of their trade. They occasionally were short of funds and they pawned or “popped” their weasel – a weasel being a sewing tool used in the textile trade – so that they would be able to purchase liquor and pursue other cavorting.

Garments were created by first using a tailor’s flat iron, a “dead weasel” which was a hatter’s tool, a spinner’s wheel used for measuring in spinning yarn. A part of the sewing, or weaving, trade, this tool counted the amount of yarn that had been spun, essential in the process of the manufacture of many linens and other clothing, such as a coat for which the weasel was used to spin. Using a weasel allowed the spinning craftsman to not have to count the revolutions of the wheel. Forty revolutions and the machine would make a loud popping sound. This was some early automated industrial technology, indeed.

Round and round the cobbler’s bench
The monkey chased the weasel
The monkey thought ’twas all in fun
Pop! Goes the weasel!

 

The overall explanation of the meaning of “Pop! Goes the Weasel!” is a logical and well supported account. But there seems to be more to this song than that. The above verse has the lyricist describing the fight between temptations  of drinking and chasing after playhouse girls soliciting sex – of lamenting over too little time at the work bench and too much time and money out and about carousing. This set of verse continues about the matter in the verse below:

Every night when I go out
The monkey’s on the table
Take a stick and knock it off
Pop! Goes the weasel!

 

This verse is a bit more obscure than the first two – a “monkey” is slang for a playhouse girl or a prostitute. All of the verses that involve the word monkey are verses referring to prostitution. The monkey is on the table, possibly meaning the street where street walkers solicited their business. “Knocking off a stick” was also old London slang for having sex or seducing someone. All of the verses that deal with the monkey are referring to cavorting in Victorian London. This person wants to go out and have a “grand old time.” And that will take some money, so  it will require that the hatter/tailor/weaver put his trade at risk when he pawns his occupational tools for habitual alcohol and sex! Pawn that spinning wheel!  “Pop! Goes the Weasel!”

Half a pound of tuppenny rice
Half a pound of treacle
That’s the way the money goes
Pop! goes the weasel!

 

This commonly is one of the first verses recited in the rhyme. It describes some of the ingredients to make inexpensive meals from food available during this time.  Rice and treacle – a syrup used in all sorts of foods including rice pudding – would have been a popular and much less costly dish to prepare for the poor that lived outside the walls of London and many of these working class Londoners would have worked in the textile industry. The point is, if you were a tailor, a hatter, or cobbler and you have no money, you most likely needed to stretch your dollar on your food budget and you might even be pawning something to make it through the week. So “pop” goes the weasel!

I’ve no time to plead and pine
I’ve no time to wheedle
Kiss me quick and then I’m gone
Pop! Goes the weasel!

 

All of these lyrics in this rhyming ditty circulated quickly throughout Victorian London. I believe this song was so popular for several reasons.

First, the melody and the fast and driving up-beat tempo were very catchy. This is one of those melodies that can repeat in one’s head over and over like a stuck phonograph record.

Second, the subject content dealt with drinking and cavorting. Amazingly, people enjoy talking about these kinds of subjects because they border on the “taboo” of society. Talking about, singing about, and of course doing these activities were a grand escape for many in this harsh industrial environment at this time. These activities removed many workers from the reality of slaving away at the textile mills in nearby London in the late sixteen and seventeen hundreds and all could associate with that, and, indeed, many would hang out at the local pub.

Third, the act of pawning was something that was commonplace in London with the existence of “pop” shops that were also based there. Many could fully relate to pawning, cavorting, drinking. These activities were part of life in the seventeen hundreds and eighteen hundreds in London.

Ultimately, the deep message within this infectious ditty is that a fun night on the town is well worth a week of low wages, schlocky cuisine and miserable living conditions. In short, it was how many dealt with their working class reality.

Other lyrics were devised over time that gained currency in the sweat shop textile industry conditions in old working class London:

My mother taught me how to sew
And how to thread the needle
Every time my finger slips
Pop! goes the weasel!

You may try to sew and sew
And never make something regal
So roll it up and let it go
Pop! goes the weasel!

 

The first recognized written announcement of this gingerly paced dance tune was in 1850, once it had migrated to the United States, and the article was entitled “Pop Goes the Weasel for Fun and Frolic.” The publication referred to this as an “Old English dance lately revived” and there were quite a few articles both in the United States nationally, as well in Great Britain and its provinces, that indicate this song was hugely popular in the 1850’s on a very large social scale.

This new “country dance” was even formally endorsed by Queen Victoria herself according to an English advertisement in 1854. The thing about this song is the only lyrics that were published in the music was the “Pop! Goes the Weasel!” line. There were no words initially printed because the song was obviously a bit risque, and since the lyrics were at least a hundred years old and people simply did not understand the Cockney rhyming slang that was in the lyrics, they were left off.

And without published lyrics, then this led to more creation of new verses in the “New World.” This English song and its melody became widely accepted in America as a party style song as well as a popular fiddle tune, and was even performed in the minstrel shows.

“Pop! Goes the Weasel!” as a song was a means by which many virtuoso and country fiddlers used to display their skill on the instrument. American fiddlers in the South in during the mid-nineteenth century and on through a great amount of the early 1900’s played the piece as a trick music piece to showcase their playing at contests. It was well established to start the song with the violin held in a normal playing position and then upon reaching the word ‘Pop’ in the tune to pluck the E string and shift the violin to a radically different position quickly (such as behind the back or above the head) and without difficulty in perfect timing with the meter of the music. The objective was to put on a visual performance that would bring out the loudest applause from the spectators. Early music stars!

The tune was very popular during the American Civil War in both the blue and grey camps and in the years after the war toward the late eighteen hundreds it had evolved into a children’s rhyming game similar to musical chairs by the beginning of the twentieth century.

In America, the words were changed and altered (some of the American people out there misunderstood the original lyrics and the original meaning became diluted). Here are some of the most popular verses that emerged once the song’s meaning of the weasel became more widely known nationally as the small animal that burrowed in the ground. The song became a dancing and musical sensation and it continued to grow:

All around the mulberry bush
The monkey chased the weasel
The monkey stopped to pull up his sock
Pop! goes the weasel!

All around the chicken coop
The possum chased the weasel
And after him in double haste
Pop! goes the weasel!

Jimmy’s got the whooping cough
And Timmy’s got the measles
That’s the way the story goes
Pop! goes the weasel!

My son and I went to the fair
We saw a lot of people
We spent a lot of money there
Pop! goes the weasel!

 

Indeed, “Pop! Goes the Weasel”! became a popular dance at parties as well as a nursery rhyme and children’s game as years passed. The changed meaning and added lyrics of the 6/8 jig became a very popular traditional square dance as well. Many people did not know of the deep origin of the meaning of the song. But it did not matter any longer.

Related:  Essential List Of Traditional Square Dance Music

Traditional square dance embraced the song because of the quick tempo and its catchy melody. The following is one of the most frequently used traditional set of calls and this square dance version has lasted throughout the years of traditional dance:

Pop! Goes the Weasel! (Square Dance Calls)

Opening/Introduction:

Allemande Left with the Corners all
Grand Right and Left go round the hall
Meet Your Partner and Promenade
Give her a glass of lemonade
Promenade Eight ’til you get straight
Pop! Goes the Weasel!

First Main Figure:

The First ol’ Lady Out to the Right
And don’t you dare to blunder
You Circle Three Hands round and round
And Pop the Lady under
The Lady Moves on, the Gent Goes Right
You Circle round like thunder
Double Three Hands round and round
Pop Them Both on under

Then She Goes On, the Gent Goes On
Now is it any wonder?
That after Double Three Hands Round
You Pop them Both on under
The Lady Comes Back, the Gent Goes On
It’s more than easy, it’s easier
Circle Four Hands round and round
Pop Them Both on under

Second Break Figure:

Allemande Left with the Corners all
Grand Right and Left go round the hall
Meet Your Partner and Promenade
Give her a glass of lemonade
Promenade Eight ’til you get straight
Pop! Goes the Weasel!

Second Main Figure:

The Second ol’ Lady Out to the Right
And don’t you dare to blunder
You Circle Three Hands round and round
And Pop the Lady under
The Lady Moves on, the Gent Goes Right
You Circle round like thunder
Double Three Hands round and round
Pop Them Both on under

Then She Goes On, the Gent Goes On
Now is it any wonder?
That after Double Three Hands Round
You Pop them Both on under
The Lady Comes Back, the Gent Goes On
It’s more than easy, it’s easier
Circle Four Hands round and round
Pop Them Both on under

Third Break Figure:

Allemande Left with the Corners all
Grand Right and Left go round the hall
Meet Your Partner and Promenade
Give her a glass of lemonade
Promenade Eight ’til you get straight
Pop! Goes the Weasel!

Third Main Figure:

The Third ol’ Lady Out to the Right
And don’t you dare to blunder
You Circle Three Hands round and round
And Pop the Lady under
The Lady Moves on, the Gent Goes Right
You Circle round like thunder
Double Three Hands round and round
Pop Them Both on under

Then She Goes On, the Gent Goes On
Now is it any wonder?
That after Double Three Hands Round
You Pop them Both on under
The Lady Comes Back, the Gent Goes On
It’s more than easy, it’s easier
Circle Four Hands round and round
Pop Them Both on under

Fourth Break Figure:

Allemande Left with the Corners all
Grand Right and Left go round the hall
Meet Your Partner and Promenade
Give her a glass of lemonade
Promenade Eight ’til you get straight
Pop! Goes the Weasel!

Fourth Main Figure:

The Fourth ol’ Lady Out to the Right
And don’t you dare to blunder
You Circle Three Hands round and round
And Pop the Lady under
The Lady Moves on, the Gent Goes Right
You Circle round like thunder
Double Three Hands round and round
Pop Them Both on under

Then She Goes On, the Gent Goes On
Now is it any wonder?
That after Double Three Hands Round
You Pop them Both on under
The Lady Comes Back, the Gent Goes On
It’s more than easy, it’s easier
Circle Four Hands round and round
Pop Them Both on under

Breakdown of Calls

Here is a short description of the mechanics of the choreography in the singing call which is repeated four times. Each of the four sequences are color coded to see the beginning and end of each break. The Break Figures do not change the sequence of dancers and interrupt the rotational Main Figures.

Related:  Mechanics of Square Dancing Singing Calls

Break Figure:

Everyone does an Allemande Left with their Corner, then execute a Right and Left Grand. When they meet their Partner, all Promenade home. This is a prequel to each of the four repeated Main Figures each time.

Main Figure:

Couple One Lady Leads out to the Right, joins hands with Couple Number Two and “Circle up 3” clockwise once around and a half more. Lady One now is looking toward Couple Two.

Couple Two raises their inside hands and they make an arch and Lady One ducks through the arch, releases hands and walks to the Right and Faces Couple Three where the “Circle up 3” clockwise once around and a half is executed once more. Lady One now has her back to Couple Three.

At the same time, Gentleman number One will Lead out to the right and Circle Up 3 with Couple Two clockwise once and a half. Both Couples Two and Three make an arch and Lady One ducks through the arch, releases hands and walks to the Right and Faces Couple Four as Gentleman One dives through his arch and faces Couple Three.

Lady One facing Couple Four and Gentleman One facing Couple Three will each Circle 3 around once and a half, the couples each make an arch, and Lady One will step through 2 steps and Turn Around and wait for Gentleman One to duck through his arch with Couple Three and walk out to face couple Four. Then Lady one will step forward to the right and join her Partner facing Couple Four.

Couples One and Four, facing, will Circle up 4 Once and a Half  clockwise. Couple Four will make an arch and Couple One will duck through the arch and go back to their home position, Gentleman One backing up slightly as Lady One walks while turning to face the center of the set to end in a perfectly squared fashion at the Home position.

All dancers repeat the movements for the other three Main Figures, but changing the Active persons with Sequence 2, 3 and 4, respectively in order of the Couples 2,3, and 4.

It’s a Wrap!

Of all four above sequences comprised, which are almost the same each in choreography, although other dancers will take turns being the active couples, they all rely on very basic calls that can be taught easily and quickly. Using the Circle Up 3 and Circle Up 4 makes the dance a little more whirl in motion and nice fun, and the song makes for great interaction for dancers of all ages. Try this as a sing-along with everyone singing the “weasel tag.”

Related: Singalong Pointers For The Square Dance Caller

Everyone can relate to this old tune that is a nursery rhyme set to an up-tempo beat in a square dance setting. It was a great match then and it still is today.

Fun and enjoyment is the very essence of “Pop Goes The Weasel.” Consider giving it a try when you call a square dance party. Take everyone back in time through a classic square dance song.

 

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.

 

 

Modern Western Square Dance Calling: Focus in Mind

For a square dance caller, a deadline can be a remarkable tool for productivity. When the upcoming dance date is around the corner and the program must be fully prepared and practiced, the deadline is a stressful but effective motivator. (sometimes there are some upsides to stress). Even the most clever procrastinator can be made to respect the looming presence of a deadline date on the calendar.

As powerful as a deadline can be, it’s not always the right tool for the job. While everyone in the real world has successfully submitted to them in the past, it can be tempting to apply the old “do or die” to everything we want to accomplish. But there are times where an arbitrary deadline can actually foul a process, limit ideas, and prevent us from attaining results.

Deadlines are fantastic for tasks with known outcomes and relatively clear paths to completion. Even if those paths are occasionally diverted by obstacles and unforeseen challenges, the deadline is perfect when we know what we have to achieve.

Being on task and on schedule go hand in hand.

But when it comes to creative processes such as those used by entertainers and artists, focus and discipline can be quite different. Without clearly defined outcomes, a deadline is less meaningful. The value is not in the finishing of a thing by a certain date, but the iterative ongoing process in satiating personal productive curiosity, giving attention and making efforts in improving and honing your craft.

“Increase your business” or “Create a better style of square dance calling” can both fit into this category, especially when the specific qualities of the final outcome are not all so clear for all to see.

Keep in mind that advancing involves more than just having a goal and focusing on the deadline. Here is a highly effective method for ensuring that you’re putting in the time and effort required to develop these process-based projects.  It is the concept of the time log.

Related:  MY TIME LOG: How To Use It!

By using a study and practice regimen like MY TIME LOG (it is free, check it out), you can both track the amount of dedicated time you spend working on your overall improvement goals and you will follow a more effective program. By noting everything in your practice routine you can keep a running total of your completed efforts. Read more about it in the link above.

Track your time spent on choreography and what those goals are.

Set practice sessions with an improvement log.

Create a notebook to access when you are calling WHAT YOUR PROGRAM WILL BE and what you need to focus on.

Related:  How To Practice Efficiently

Creating Modern Square Dance Choreography

If you need to sit down and write some choreography, get serious about it and sit down and write something. Don’t login and check your email. Keep every distraction away from you that you can! Resist the temptation to read internet news articles and check in on distracting topics that are not helping you improve. Get out your square dance checkers and take an idea and see what you can come up with.

Start by taking a look at your overall choreographic program and spend a little time daily writing some ideas that work well together. Here are two ideas that you can try in a square dance workshop.

You could try springboarding off of this fresh and novel idea of using Spin the Top in some unconventional ways starting with this simple zero module. The Square Thru sets up the flow of motion for the dancer’s hands to start the Spin the Top with the right hand. Since Spin the Top is almost always called after a Swing Thru in Parallel Ocean Waves this is a bit of a curve ball for most dancers. Similarly, the Wheel & Deal takes the dancers out to a Facing Line of Four from a Tidal 2-Faced Line and this might take some good directionalization on your behalf:

Heads Square Thru
Box 1-4 (Zero or Corner Box)
Spin the Top
Boys Run
Wheel & Deal
Slide Thru

The next choreographic snippet you might consider is using Half Tag the Line with a different twist in having the Boys leading the march by facing in and starting the move. This example puts everything back to normal quickly and resolves to a Zero Box:

Box 1-4 (Zero or Corner Box)
Star Thru
Pass the Ocean
Girls Trade
Girls Run
Half Tag (the Line)
Boys Run
Right & Left Thru
Slide Thru

Related: Hey, Flo! It’s Square Dance Perfect Zero Module Madness!

Make Practice Time Effective

Using MY TIME LOG is effective in multiple ways. First, it holds you accountable to improvement. By keeping a simple record, you can visualize how much time you’re really spending in pursuit of making noticeable improvement. Second, by programming and planning your practice time, this method can give you the motivation and discipline to keep going when your motivation has lulled. Third, it keeps you focused. Fourth, it will foster enthusiasm by starting a program that can reset your  improvement over time.

The second part of the practice regimen for MY TIME LOG is to log your vocal practice time in three ways:

  1. Rotate your song repertoire – thereby expanding your catalog
  2. Add the “One Thing” – one new idea into your practice daily
  3. Review and practice songs only twice and record and aim for improvement

Think about this: The simple act of  getting realigned and focusing on stopping the unproductive time you have spent not working on improving is enough to get you going again. Another thing that tracking and logging can help you with is actually seeing more objectively how to adjust your expectations. Understanding how much time it’s taken you to get as far as you’ve gotten can be recorded, tracked and noticeable improvement can then be realized. Finally, the log of hours can manifest within you a true sense of discipline and pride in that discipline. You have evidence of your improvement journey and you can always reflect upon and be proud of that.

Related: Square Dance Calling Performance Boosters!

If you’ve got any ideas or suggestions on how square dance callers can be more productive please let me know in the comments. I will cover it in an article or two. I’m always looking for better ways to get more done. The process never really stops.

Have a great week!

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.

 

 

~Beckoning Challenge Program Of Modern Square Dancing~

Challenge Square Dancing – A Special Niche

Challenge square dancing is a lot of fun and it is different than traditional square dance and even modern square dance style dancing. It is a small, specialized interest in the square dance activity.  The entire central point of this more specialized group of dancers (that are found in not large numbers) is to successfully complete the square dance calls at this much, much higher level of difficulty.

But the dancing is not focused in the sense of participating in a competitive situation that encourages fighting or to ultimately decide which dancers are superior in terms of their ability or proficiency. Rather, the focus is on cooperation in the execution of more mentally challenging choreography than what is the normal degree of difficulty in square dance.

Watch and see…you will be amazed at the complexity that this niche of modern square dance can offer and how involved and tightly knit the interaction is between the dancers!

How It Works-

In modern western square dance the choreography is based upon learning a dancing vocabulary starting with “Circle Left” and plateauing for most people at less than a hundred calls, commonly referred to as the Mainstream program of square dance. The dancers in this square dance video are able to dance nearly a thousand calls and much more than that!

Concepts, variations of calls, and square dance formations that are much more uncommon than anyone would first realize are used by the caller to provide high interest and present difficult “dancing puzzles” that need to be solved.

There are absolutely no memorized traffic patterns for their feet to shuffle, rather the task of the square dance caller is to combine the calls together in an involved and challenging delivery that the dancers respond to as a team of eight persons in “real time.” What is intriguing is the dancers all know and are quite familiar with the basic mechanics of the square dance calls, they mostly have never heard any of the choreographic sequences of the calls assembled in these particular routines before. And they particularly did not know what was going to be called next.

 

Challenge Square Dancing Groups and Gatherings

Challenge Clubs

All Challenge level dancing meets weekly in groups that are socially joined a bit differently than the typical square dance club. For clubs at lower levels there is more interaction between the local clubs because there are more clubs and usually more dancers in those Mainstream and PLUS clubs to interact socially.

For this reason there are fewer dancers and callers at the higher levels of square dancing, therefore, there are only a few areas in the country that have Challenge level clubs with a high level choreographic program and with a capable caller getting together on a weekly basis.

Advanced and Challenge Tape Groups

Dancers sometimes form a small group that will meet regularly to dance and learn higher levels to pre-recorded live square dance Challenge level dancing. These are private and often small social groups that meet weekly to hone their dancing skills and focus on increasing their proficiency at the hihger levels of modern square dance.

Local and Regional Dances

It is common to see local Advanced and Challenge clubs to offer and promote hihger level events suited for dancers within this niche. These are organized with the goal to support Challenge dancing and to bring together more dancers on a special basis with a special square dance caller who will draw interest for all who attend the event.
Generally, state square dance festivals and regional special dances centered on Mainstream dancing offer a limited Advanced program, and Challenge dancing is almost never seen at these kinds of events. These often feature callers from other areas than the dancers normally dance to.

National Challenge Events

At all National Square Dance Conventions and most large festivals there is Challenge dancing on the program, however, most of the calling and dancing is only at the C-1 level.

National, International & World Events

The best and highest attended Challenge event is the entirely Challenge level programmed weekend for all levels of dancing at the Academy for Advanced and Challenge Enthusiasts (AACE). Assembled for Challenge dancers annually, this event emphasizes programs with dedicated dancing sessions for all levels of Challenge – C-1 – C-2 – C-3A – C-3B – C-4. The event accommodates some A-2 dancing on the program as well.

The larger overall dance event, the National Square Dance Convention, provides a program for Challenge and all of the levels of Challenge are danced within one hall that houses rotating levels throughout the day’s program.

The International PLUS – Advanced – Challenge Convention (IPAC) hosted in Europe is programmed for multi-level high level square dancing. The event happens every other year and is well attended.

The International Association of Gay Square Dance Clubs (IAGSDC) offers a full program of Challenge dancing at their festivals and conventions and many local gay clubs dance several levels within their program.

 

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.

 

 

Hot Square Dance Nights and Cool Barn Dances

A square dance party night is called a lot of things. A “square dance one-nighter party.” A “square dance fun night.” A “barn dance.” A “western party.” When I was a new caller, a “one night stand.” At the end of the day, they all mean the same thing. As a square dance caller for hire, these gigs are pretty much all the same type of thing and should be approached with the same attitude, and that is for the hired caller to provide a great time to everyone who walks in the door.

The success of the party night starts as soon as you are called upon to entertain for that special group that is interested in having such a party. Good advice for any square dance caller (both traditional and modern style) approached to do a square dance party is to be certain that you and the event organizer have a clear agreement of what you are hired to do. Do not assume anything. Ask a lot of questions concerning the event and make sure that you both have a good understanding in detail about what it is you will do at the party:

  • Where is the party to be?
  • What time will the event start?
  • How many people will be present?
  • Will there be any breaks?
  • Will there be any drinking of alcohol at the party?
  • What will the average age of everyone present be?
  • Is this a special event – birthday or other engagement?
  • Will the party be inside or outside?
  • What types of music will you expect – modern – traditional square dance – mix of all styles?
  • Is the group expecting a demonstration or will they participate, or both?
  • Will there be any other entertainment?
  • Is the building or venue suitable for good sound?
  • Is the area within comfortable sizeable and safe for dancing?
  • Is there electrical power available?
  • How long will the event last?
  • What is expected of me?

Once you have a clear understanding of what the event is, ask more specific questions to avoid problems about setting up for the party:

  • Is the electrical power supply easily accessible?
  • Will you have a table available for me to use?
  • Ask for specific directions to avoid confusion.
  • Is there a stage to perform on?

Once you have an understanding of what will be required and what the event organizer expects, you can quote a fair price for calling at the party. Then follow this list of things to cement the agreement and prepare yourself for the event:

  • Ensure that the organizer has your contact information.
  • Confirm the meeting time for setting up and a contact for that
  • Make sure that you have the organizer’s phone number and at least one back up contact
  • Be prepared to send a contract to the organizer if they do not send you one in a timely manner
  • Sign and date the contract and send back a copy to the hiring party
  • Prepare for the event using information discussed and all of this should be briefly described in the contract
  • You must plan a program for the dance fulfilling the agreed to terms

Related:  Square Dance Contracts Information

Build your program and music for the evening by keeping in mind the time frame allowed, time of year (particularly if outdoors), type of event (family event such as a barbeque or a corporate work party) and age of the participants. Your program must be fitting for your group in style of dance – modern versus traditional or combined – in choreography and you must also bring an abundance of great musical selections so that you can offer sonic versatility in really appealing and great music they can relate to.

Choose the square dance calls you want to teach and outline your program. You can always change things around and modify your program if you need to. Think about teaching simply and keeping things fun.

Not having a program in place is not a good idea at all. The other thing is you will need to be highly entertaining and charismatic. Have some fun ideas that will liven up the crowd.

Related:  Modern Western Square Dance Calling: Sparkle Your Entertainment!

Consider all possibilities of programming such as having a line dance somewhere in the program. This will allow everyone to get up and dance, even if they do not have a partner. A square dance mixer is a great way to promote intermingling and fun. Most people have not tried this kind of dancing, so it is a novel way to break the ice socially.

Another great idea is to have all the dancers make the “big circle” in introducing some of the very basic calls to a large group at the beginning of the night. This always is the best way to get everyone learning and moving quickly and the engagement is quite energetic for everyone dancing. Later on you can break everyone off into squares and work on teaching the basics of dancing in an actual square of eight people.

All of these square dance party programming ideas are very different from normal dance programming for Mainstream club level callers. Spend some time with it. You will need to do this to make it pay off.

Related:  Preparing For a Square Dance

Square Dance Equipment Check

Have all of your equipment ready to go well in advance. Speakers. Stands. Laptop. All necessary cables and extra power cords. Be ready for any possible problems with equipment, or if you are outside, be prepared for weather changes. In Colorado, the weather can change quite quickly from mild and sunshiny to windy, cold and inclement within a few minutes. Doing parties requires being prepared for weather changes. A backup laptop and amplifier is always an added insurance policy for equipment failure or any sort of computer malfunction.

It is a good idea to bring some choreography that you can refer to if you need to. Stored on the laptop is great, but you should have a hard copy of any choreography you have targeted for use for the night. I personally like recipe cards or a binder notebook with call sequences or a reminder list to prompt you to remember key things you want to teach and perhaps the precise order to do so.

Bring along your contract in case there is a misunderstanding about the terms you had agreed upon. And some business cards just in case someone asks you about calling for their group. All of these items need to be ready and organized and ready to go before you leave for the party.

Make sure that everyone has a lot of fun and they enjoy the dancing. After all, this is the very reason you were hired for the event. Keep in mind that teaching and calling classes is very different from a square dance party.  Everyone in attendance is there to have fun, you were not hired to teach them condensed dance lessons or intentionally recruit anyone for square dancing. You can be one of the best callers out there, but if the crowd does not have a lot of fun and you do not connect with everyone there, you have failed miserably. The organizer will not be happy. And you will have not fulfilled your contract agreement and most likely will only be returning as the ice cream server.

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

Related:  Ways to Be a Showman as a Square Dance Caller

 

Shaun Werkele

303-250-4735

Feel free to call me if you have a square dance caller in training question!

Have a successful and fun gig!

 

 

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.

Square Dance Calling: How to Engage

Create a Festive and Positive Environment at the Square Dances that You Call

If you want to be well remembered and really get the square dancers at your event engaged, you need to make your square dance calling presentation fun and enjoyable. Without coming off as old-fashioned, corny and, even worse, not projecting a sense of trying too hard and appearing overly eager to please your group of dancers., being dynamic and engaging could take a little work on your behalf. And if you follow some simple guidelines, then you will do a lot better!

A good performance at a dance or event lacks getting stressed out. This leads to an end result of failing to perform all that well. Luckily, calling a great square dance is something that can be practiced and perfected. Focusing on being interesting is a great start, but let’s look at the most important aspects of giving a memorable and fun night to your square dance crowd.

Start Off Right

At the beginning of the night, you are new to the entire square dance club. There is little rapport, no trust in your ability as you have not called yet, and the atmosphere is fairly neutral. Even if some of the dancers that have come know you personally, the style of your calling will be a little foreign to them. The best way to encourage a warm and friendly atmosphere is to get some kind of emotional response out of the dance floor right at the beginning. The first tip is all about connecting and feeling the dancers out on their abilities and strengths in terms of choreography. You want to engage, it doesn’t matter what you particularly do, you just need to connect with everyone on a warm and personal level. Laughter, calling a fun little quip on a Flutterwheel, whatever you can do to get all of the dancers out of that initial feeling of indifference with you. There are different kinds of effective ice-breakers to start a night’s dance, but generally speaking, the most successful callers utilize one of these tactics:

  • Surprise the entire dance floor
  • Provide a few simple yet unexpected square dance get outs
  • Drop a bombastic statement after squaring up the dancers
  • Say an interesting and fun anecdote
  • Tell a short joke
  • Open up with a short childhood story that has a humorous ending
  • Quote a famous person and elaborate on it from some personal experience
  • Use an interesting or inspirational bit of nostalgia
  • Mention something significant about a recent sports team or recent social event

Just remember if you use an engaging tactic that you need to keep whatever you do short and move on once you’ve gotten a reaction. Strive to keep things light and consistent. Famous speakers throughout all of history have known the importance of keeping their words short and simple and in projecting well thought out sentences packed with focused meaning. To be effective, you must not meander or carry on for too long and lose the attention of the dancers. They came to dance! Allow them to do so, and on a grand scale!

Build a Choreographic Program

Ease the dancers into more involved square dance choreography by focusing on building upon modules that you can combine and then make those more involved. Important choreographic ideas need to be presented with a constant and smooth presentation throughout the night’s program. Once you’re done warming up the crowd with the initial first tip, you can ease them into important choreographic ideas that you will be presenting. This begins with tip number two. Keep the same consistent presentation style in your calling all night. You need to have a specific structure that you won’t deviate from too much at any given point. Everything will go easier if you just keep things interesting and engaging and efficiently creating an enjoyable atmosphere for everyone present is key.

Focus On Excitement

From an entertaining viewpoint, if you’ve started off a bit ironic, using dry wit, you can’t just jump into a boring monologue. If you’ve started off with a bang, telling a couple of great little jokes and getting the crowd riled up, you have to keep them happy by throwing in little jokes here and there throughout the entire evening. A good game plan consists of several important singing calls that need to be performed well. This means working up a few singing calls that you are able to engage well with and perform well in terms of singing and entertaining.

Avoid Lengthy Announcements

With the club announcements there is a strong tendency to lose the audience fairly quickly, and after 3-4 minutes it certainly can become a test of endurance for the few bravest listeners. Not only will people’s attention start to drop rapidly after sitting or standing and listening to lengthy talk, some of the items will become watered down and the core details will leave the dancers in the audience with little information to take away from the whole announcement time. To avoid rambling, direct all dancers to the flyers displayed on the tables nearby for more complete details on upcoming dance events and let everyone get back to dancing. Truth is, if your flyer is good, then they will see it and want to attend your future dance.

Create a strong structure for your program. Start with the ice breaker, introduce basic and simple choreography concepts at the beginning, elaborate on lesser used various choreographic ideas (like some ideas from the Circulate and Tag the Line families of calls) add interesting and fresh combinations of those ideas, use those ideas in singing call choreographic figures, and leave your dancers at the end of the night with a positive and “good feeling” takeaway message. Ideally, everything you call needs to flow naturally from one part to the next like you are reading an exciting novel chapter by chapter.

Related:  Singing Call Choreography

Use Short and Effective Square Dance Modules

Sometimes you will lose the dancers somewhat in more involved choreography, calls that are used less, and more creative and different abstract ideas. At that point it is important to reel everyone back in by calling some good, old-fashioned and simple, basic choreography. Incorporate a sing-along singing call that engages everyone and eases any tension that might have crept into the air from too much difficult choreography.

Make short choreographic sequences that are easier to resolve to the corner and most people are more than familiar with. By making choreography look simpler, not only will you help your dancers get a better understanding of the dance calls by enabling them to visualize the figures more clearly, you will also draw a connection between you and them.

Related:  Square Dance Choreography Methods with Dancers

As you can see, there is quite a bit to learn when it comes to giving a good presentation of square dance calling, one that is both memorable and fun. It takes a lot of work and practice. And dedication.

Be sure to work on your square dance calling skills daily and feel free to call me at any time. I will be glad to 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 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.