Modern music is an audacious move for square dance callers. I do not mean that in a bad way. What I am saying is taking a more modern musical approach is a good way to being better at what you do. Working at being different is the essence of audacity, to be bold, daring, and to add a little creative innovation to your way of doing things in regard to square dance.
In order for modern western square dance callers to step out and make changes in their programs in a normal night’s dance many will have to change a lot of the music that they have used normally. Perhaps some of these selections date back years from today. Take a look at your catalog of songs that you regularly use and assess all of those songs. Ask yourself, “How modern are all of these songs that I use?” and then ask yourself, “How many of these old music pieces can I put to rest and how many new musical pieces can I integrate into my normal program that I call?” This is a great starting point in the process of changing your square dance calling habits.
You might be asking yourself, why bother with changing the music that I use? There are several good reasons why. One is by changing up to modern music, you project a better, more modern image of the square dance activity. Second, couple that with the positive energy that you will induce upon yourself that will result in even more enthusiasm simply because you have compelled yourself to learn something new and different. There is no better way to tackle a new task than harnessing the forward momentum of learning something new.
There still is a place in the modern square dance activity for traditional square dance music, and I strongly feel that all square dance callers should fervently include the traditional styles of music in their night’s calling, as well. This is the root of the entire square dance movement, and there is a rich history and tradition that we should always salute and, for this important reason, keep a little of this in your program always.
Using modern style music, whether it is music based on today’s top forty music or techno-pop or hip-hop or electro dance, brings on the need for establishing some guidelines you might want to follow when you are going to use this type of music.
First, avoid distracting vocal music, it can be very hard to call over and the dancers will not hear your voice commands very well. Things that can distract such as vocals, background instruments… these parts need to be removed in order to present a piece of music that can engage the dancers more and the non-dancing people watching will love hearing the updated changes in your music from what they had perceived years ago. Just about everyone who has not heard or seen a modern day square dance, whether at a regular dance or an exhibition, will be quite surprised at the changes in today’s square dance music that is being used by more and more callers all the time.
Second, by listening to any new musical piece over and over you will get a great feel for what you want to make editing on. Make a list of sections that you want to change. Save that new song variation as a new file and set it aside for a day or two. Go back and listen and see how your changes work in terms of smoothness and overall “danceability” and “callability.” Another neat approach to creating new and original is to mash two different songs together, and come up with something totally new and fresh!
Third, try your new music on some dancers, preferably at a square dance class where you can get some feedback on your new music. Ask if the music seemed to flow and if they could hear you well enough. Dancer feedback on your calling is always a really good thing to receive. It keeps you in touch with the dancers and you have a much better idea about what they like and do not like about your calling. The sound, the kind of square dance music called to, the speed of the songs, and your calling technique, of course. These all are things you want feedback on. Make changes if you need to, that is why you get the feedback responses from the dancers in the first place.
Obligate yourself to adding more new and exciting square dance music for your calling engagements and then you will truly make your square dance event an over the top dance to be remembered by all!
As always, you can contact me at any time you have a square dance caller question, or if you have a comment that you might like to add.
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 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.