For the Square Dance Caller: Build Compelling Choreography

The process of creating square dance singing call figures begins in finding within yourself a new recipe, and sometimes that entails taking the same old figures that have been the basis for square dancing for the past several decades and expanding that foundation into something new, fresh, and innovative. Writing creative square dance choreography that is of an effective quality in terms of both dancing interest and being memorable really rests on a bit of control.

What? It seems a bit odd, doesn’t it? Artistry in a systematic way. But the truth is, if you use some organization and good time management, you can be creative in many aspects of square dance calling just as many people who create in other arenas of the world and in life in general. You can plug into your creative potential by focusing on these optimized methods of writing square dance figures that can be powerful and then watch what happens on the dance floor as you present your efficacious combinations.

To create singing call choreography start things out with this simple method:

Generate as Many Great Choreographic Ideas as You Can

Start with a particular call or combination of a few calls you want to promote as a new dancing idea that you want to focus on and build up the figure from there. If you cannot think of an idea then think about something that you might have danced that was called by another caller lately. Or attend a class that a local caller is teaching and see if something that is being taught might spawn an idea or two for you that will work in creating something new and different. Get your hands on some old vinyl square dance records and look over the written choreography for each song for a choreographic nugget that you can mine into something great.

Make Something Out of Your Choreographic Ideas

The key thing here is callers need to envision a choreographic idea and then carry that idea through to fit in the big picture of what they are aiming to create. For individual dance programs and more. Only then can they create something that the dancers find interesting and is relevant in the big picture of square dancing overall. Shoot for creating as you are inspired and take from that inspiration to make something out of your ideas that will make anticipation a minimal thing in your program while the dancers are moving through the figures.

Choose Your Best Choreographic Ideas

The best ideas are really what you decide to choose from your list of square dance calls that you have created. Choose by looking for choreographic ideas that are astoundingly simple at first and focus on finding a powerful combination of square dance calls that will triumph over your group as you call. Use fractions of calls or variations of the most basic calls and leverage some creativity from those ideas.

Explore Uncharted Ideas

This is where you have to change your mental thinking patterns. Writing choreography, like many creative processes, takes a focus period and a rest period before you realize great ideas. And then they will come to you. For instance try fractions of calls or variations of just about any call that can be executed and you are on your way to putting something together that will keep interest high and anticipation low among the dancers.

Write Singing Call Figure Cards and Keep Ideas in a Notebook

Chronically consumed by ideas? Sometimes… Sometimes not. Usually new ideas come in spurts and so this is the time you use a caller notebook to manage your choreography. Being organized requires that you document and manage your choreography so that it is accessible for both practice time and at dances. Make your notes readable at a glance so that you can remember your ideas and command the calling of the dance comfortably. Larger lettering is good. Generally, any sequence that you write should not exceed the space of a card, and that is skipping spaces. This seems to be the ideal length of time that a sequence of calls should be before resolution of the square to the Corner Lady and Promenading in sequence to the Home Position.

Apply the Rules of Good Body Flow and Timing

The most important elements of a great singing call figure definitely counts on smooth mechanics in the execution of the moves and being able to dance those figures in time to the music. Generally, the dancers need more beats of music to perform the calls as opposed to less. The timing of the calls needs to be danceable – another aspect that you need to consider when you direct the dancers through your calls is the timing on the delivery of the calls. Your calling (delivery of the commands) must be given before the dancers are finished completing the call that they are dancing through at that moment. By doing so you will eliminate “stop and go” dancing and encourage nice smooth dancing to the music for the dancers. Body flow and delivering the calls in spot on timing combined with interesting choreography is the cornerstone of great square dance calling!

Related:  Write Your Own Square Dance Choreography

Manage your time by setting aside creative sessions. Schedule them so that they happen. Time to reach inside of yourself and find your square dance caller creative choreography water well and draw from that spring!

As someone who cares deeply about the state of square dancing, I give you the highest regards and wish you the best in your square dance calling endeavors!

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 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.