Memorizing Calls & Figures For Square Dances

Methods That Will Improve a Modern Western Square Dance Caller’s Memorization Of Calls

The essence of successfully square dance calling a more involved bunch of choreography to a group of dancers often is in a memorized set of calls. By having a memorized routine you can then deliver with mental confidence and accuracy and you can even focus on your timing, directions and better enable the floor to succeed in getting through your choreography. So now the big hurtle to clear is focusing on memorizing the sequences that you want to deliver.

Visualize The Choreography Through Mental Imaging

When you want to remember a sequence, you can picture yourself dancing the calls in the square and focus on your path that you make as you move through the square as a dancer. This is a memory journey that you map out as a dancing route through the completion of the particular sequence you are memorizing. By plotting yourself a visual mental journey through the eyes of a dancer you can learn the memorization of calling sequences much more easily. This takes practice, but if you can visualize then you can draw upon that map to keep the sequence of calls in proper order. By using mental image memorization you can simply access the calls that you need when you need them.

Use Square Dance Modules

Modular calling is a method that is useful because it allows for both variety in choreography and the control of resolving the square into a recognizable in sequence dancing formation. By memorizing modules prior to the dance all of the dance figures and call combinations presented are given with the options that afford the caller the judgment/decision about whether to give another module or continue on with a get out to bring everything back together again.

Related: How Square Dance Modules Work

Write Your Own Choreography

Several things happen when you write your own choreography. You must understand what the calls do, where they take the dancers in the square, and how to combine the calls in an interesting and smooth manner. This is kind of a tall order to have to fill. The upside is you can then remember what you have created much more easily than if you try to memorize and use other square dance caller’s material by rote. I find that anything that I have written myself I can much more easily recall later on at the dance because the ideas came from my own creativity. Make it easy on yourself in remembering a set of calls by creating the whole thing yourself.

Related:  Creativity With Square Dance Checkers

In The End…

Memorizing figures will enable you to add another tool to your toolbox of abilities as a square dance caller. Make it a part of your calling routine in practice and live at square dancing events. Visualization of square dance calls, writing choreography and using modules can be combined to aid you in strengthening your calling for all dances that you entertain at. If you make an effort to memorize even a little of your overall program, then you will have an arsenal that can pay off for years to come.

Have a great time calling out there! Contact me if you have a question or you need a square dance caller coach!

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.

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Practicing Guidelines For Modern Western Square Dance Callers

It might be hard to believe, but in a month or two you will have to practice in a different way because your ability to square dance call will have changed…and every modern western square dancer who attends your dances will have changed their abilities and adapted to your style of delivery. Even the basic choreographic figures that you call. The same goes with songs you use if you call to that group or club regularly. For these reasons, a rigid and tired set practice session with the same ol’ songs will not push you to improve as much as you need to be pushed… the same stagnant schedules that are not specific to you and practicing that way will not take you further.

And this is why. Square dance callers need to create a routine that is big enough to include all items that they need to practice in order to reach both their short and long term goals. Not just the half dozen singing calls that they use far too often and generally overpractice and overperform.

To do this effectively, you will need to know how to distribute each of those many practice items across many days. In other words, do not create a one – day schedule that you repeat each day, but instead a 5-10 day schedule that is effective, flexible and correctly distributes those items over several days for maximum results.

Related:  MY TIME LOG For Callers

As a caller at any level of ability, you need to track every minute of every song that you practice in a log. This is important for many reasons. The most obvious one of these reasons is to track your progress. Another reason is to observe any songs or choreography figures that you may have missed (or not completed) practicing on a previous day or even during your week of practice sessions. By doing things this way, you will always know the exact things you are neglecting and then you can go back to those specific things that you missed and practice them. Both are critical contributors to your overall calling improvement and success.

Practice Smarter…Not Harder!

On another note, do not assume that the more you have a song or choreography figure mastered (in your opinion), the less you need to practice such items in your song repertioure. Set aside some time in your logged time for practicing so that you can maintain a strong ability set for everything you might have to call. Further, learn how to accurately and consistently KNOW how your various skill levels (for each particular choreographic figure you need to practice) needs to best AFFECT how often each figure should be practiced. Ultimately, your skill level at this particular time for each practice session should be directly determined by, as an example, how much time each day that specific timing phrase for a figure needs to be practiced. Check the MY TIME LOG to see how long you should set time aside for practicing timing.

Related:  Understanding Timing and Musical Phrasing

Know how to correctly and effectively balance your personal urgency in wanting to improve on something new (like a new singing call) and your quest to achieve your long term goals. A singing call which you feel is urgent for you to master may be part of your short term goals. Most of the time you just need to be patient and follow the outlines in MY TIME LOG and make it a twice practiced through item and it will really be a part of your long term goals by way of your practice of material. Depending upon how often you add the song to your practice regimen, it potentially may be part of both, or neither. So in each of these cases you might need to create a song and choreography schedule differently for that particular need.

Understand Your Limits and Use That Knowledge to Succeed

Understand what you can capably call and use that to develop ideas to improve. Learn to fully understand the different separate strategies to reach short and long term goals through your practice time when you work through your practice routine. Then build your choreography ideas and your ability to sing and entertain to implement those different strategies for each item on your schedule as it pertains to each type of goal you have.

Adapt As You Improve

As time goes on, you will have to make changes to your catalog of songs and add new choreographic figures to meet the interests of the dancers. There are a couple of reasons why you need to update your ways of studying, writing choreography, singing songs that will need to be changed in your program.  Strive to fully understand the different ways you have to adapt to your practice needs.

Why? Because your skill level and overall your square dance calling goals and challenges will naturally evolve as you improve as an entertainer and choreographer. Simply, what and how you practiced last month will NOT be the most effective approach for you to practice this month.

Your practice routines must change as your calling changes, each time taking into full account the above mentioned factors that affect how you call.

Maximize Your Practice Time

One thing that helps a lot with efficiently used practice time that goes hand-in-hand with the MY TIME LOG program is to time your practice session in segments. After you’ve created your new calling practice routine, it is important to use some kind of automated timer, such as an egg timer, that will keep track of your practice time for each section of your practice routine. This will keep you moving forward and tell you when it is time to move on to the next part in your schedule.

Combining the MY TIME LOG and using an automated timer in this way will keep you on the edge of maximal improvement in the least amount of time!

Square Dance Caller Coach For Direction

Obviously, sorting it all out and figuring out how to correctly do everything you need to do to improve on a regular basis is extremely daunting and kind of overwhelming even if you have a LOT of experience as a square dance caller. Consider enlisting a caller coach to help you out in your quest to improve.

Related:  Master Your Square Dance Calling

You can access lots of great and useful information on my website and some of these articles will give you easy-to-follow step by step instructions to get you started on the road to improvement right away. If you have not checked any of them out, please take some time to do so.
OK, so now it’s up to you… You can make a huge positive change in your square dance calling ability… or you can do things the same way you’ve always done it – keep struggling, remain stagnant in your practice habits as you hope that some day something might turn for you.

Call me at any time you have a question, I would be glad to help you out!

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.

Modern Western Square Dance Singing Calls: Recycling the Zero Module

The singing call figures and corresponding modules that I put together in the previous article  Modern Western Square Dance: Expanding on Singing Call Choreography (Revisited) which was about increasing not only choreographic variety but also strengthening dancer’s abilities in your evening program by using singing call figures with similar combinations of calls netted me the nuts and bolts to very easily write EVEN MORE singing call figures based from the ZERO modules that I wrote that were in the article.

Overall, any level square dance set of calls that you program can be more engaging if you come up with some great ideas and actually USE them in the program. That really is what you should focus on when you are practicing and using MY TIME LOG. This practice regimen is designed to push you into learning and using different choreography ideas and be well prepared to deliver the calls in a night’s dance.

Related:  Modern Square Dancing: Building Variety In Singing Call Choreography

Old modules can provide new choreographic ideas, singing call figures, workshop ideas, they can even be recycled into newer modules that you can get even more mileage out of at dances. Or they can be changed to work at different levels of square dancing with some study and homework!

By using calls and combinations of calls that are new or thought provoking for the dancers, you are promoting stronger dancing through these different choreographic ideas. As a square dance caller, your evening dance program needs to be loaded with sequences that give interest and make anticipation of calls almost non-existent.

 

CALLING TIP! 
Always approach choreography writing with the newest dancer’s capabilities in mind. By making the weakest dancers on the floor your focus and using some imaginative choreographic ideas, your program will then become a learning desk for all!

Heads (Sides) Touch a Quarter
Those Boys Run
Swing Thru
Spin the Top
Recycle
Sweep a Quarter
Touch a Quarter
Scoot Back
Boys Run
Slide Thru
Swing Corner & Promenade Home

Heads (Sides) Touch a Quarter
Those Boys Run
Touch a Quarter
Split Circulate
Boys Run
Reverse Flutterwheel
Sweep a Quarter
Swing Thru
Swing Corner & Promenade Home

Heads (Sides) Lead Right
Touch a Quarter
Walk & Dodge
Bend the Line
Touch a Quarter
Everybody Circulate
Boys Run
Swing Thru
Boys Trade
Swing the Corner & Promenade Home

Heads (Sides) Touch a Quarter
Those Boys Run
Right & Left Thru
Swing Thru
Boys Run
Half Tag (the Line)
Walk & Dodge
Partner Trade
Boys Walk – Girls Dodge
Swing the Corner & Promenade Home

 

Look into taking some of your old singing call figures and rewriting them into something unpredictable. Or if you have any modules take look at them and see if you can rewrite them and come up with some new figures that you then can inject into your program and reinforce better and stronger understanding of the calls for the dancers.

Workshop tips within your night’s program should provide some new or needed choreographic ideas that can be taught quickly.

All in all, if you work on changing choreography and present new ideas that foster stronger dancing, you will have done something both powerful and beneficial to the square dance activity!

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.

Square Dance Calling Made Easier: Six Tricks You Should Know!

Strong Focus with a Square Dance Educator and a Smart Practice Regimen Can Propel Your Square Dance Calling to New Heights

1.  Start With a Strong Mindset and a Song or Two…

A strong focus is necessary to achieving anything in life. For square dance calling a strong will to improve will carry you far. With the right frame of mind, you can corral together your mental strengths and work on removing your weaknesses.  Performance of square dance calling takes a lot of focus to become proficient. Only then can you succeed on a higher scale than you are currently at. Take your enthusiasm and energy and launch things off with the purchase of a couple of good, solid songs with a simple melody and a strong and driving back beat. As a new caller, you will have a tendency to buy more square dance music than you initially need.

Remember your repertoire needs to only be what you can physically call in an evening. For a start, music you use right now is a path to reaching a higher plateau in your abilities, so pick that enthusiasm and make some goals!

2.  Goal Setting…

Start your improvement with goals. Make time in your daily schedule that you can get focused on calling and use that practice to boost your knowledge and vocal improvement and really make it rewarding. There’s no absolutely right manner to approach many things in life, but with set goals at least you are on track  – starting with learning the proper way to deliver calls in time, writing strong choreography that the dancers will like, strengthening your vocal performance, selecting powerful songs in your program, all of these areas need to have goals in place and a schedule focused on how to reach the plateau that you are striving for.

In other words, use a structure that aims your practice with your end goal – to basically improve your calling on an attainable and effective scale. So make reasonable goals. Goals will drive your improvement.

Related:  My Time Log Calling Practice Sheets

3.  Analyze and Improve

After you have goals, you need to analyze your current abilities and your weaknesses and objectively learn how to improve from that analysis. If you can commit to a daily practice session take time to analyze your regimen and the details of what you practice.

You should make notes about what to work on to improve and strengthen your ability. Study square dance choreography and make it something that you take an analysis on in terms of dancing – good flow and mental difficulty – and spend time studying regularly. Just taking the effort to step into analyzing the things you do will provide you the stepping stones to improve and it will at the same time prevent you from making the habitual mistakes you most likely are continually falling into doing far too often (the rut trap).

Related:  Master Square Dance Calling

Analyze what you want to accomplish, practice it. Practice your program and then analyze it.  It’s one of the very best ways to reach that place of being professional and experienced and relaxed and ready!

4.  Practice Schedule

Being fluent in anything takes hard work and practice. Your performance of square dance songs on a highly proficient level will take some time. Set aside a regular time slot to work on your practice sessions. Decide on how much time you can realistically afford to invest in improvement. It is absolutely essential that you do this to reach the goals that you have set. Even without the consideration of setting goals, you need to always strive to find a new way to provide interest and pump up the energy in your performance. With goals, all that is needed is discipline to become proficient. If you falter in maintaining your practice schedule, you will sacrifice reaching any plateau that you want to accomplish. Long term gains depend upon being consistent.

For instance, if you want to become a better traditional style square dance caller, study some old choreography figures and then add those ideas to your well of your square dance calling ideas yourself. Historic and traditional square dancing makes for a strong background for all of square dancing and you can draw from that heritage for ideas that you can always use in innovative ways. Call with devotion and reap the rewards. When you’re focused on your practice and improvement the whole learning routine becomes easy and exciting on a personal level.

5.  Study the Art of Calling a Square Dance

Callers in the past have created a legacy and a creative library to draw from for new ideas. It is important to realize that you can take ideas and apply them to your style that you are working to develop. From the traditional square dance masters in the beginning of square dance to modern day square dance artists in the art of square dance calling, learn and then use those ideas to advance. In order to improve yourself as a caller you must never stop being committed. Follow through with your plan and this is how you can improve by adding new ideas and variations on the original called ideas from yesteryear and you will come closer to moving forward.

Look at other callers and what they do. Both good and bad things. You can learn from their strengths and weaknesses in their technique, program and developed abilities. Analyze them and then take a look at yourself and fill in the wholes that will make you a stronger and more effective caller.

6.  Education in Square Dance Resources

Weaknesses are usually based upon lack of skill and knowledge. Valid and reliable opinions about how to improve can be applied to how you approach your square dance calling improvement situation. Any feedback you receive needs to be smart and honestly supportive and helpful.

Opinions on this scale are constructive, and sometimes a bad opinion can adversely put down a newer caller. Getting any feedback on your calling should come from a caller coach who can direct you in the most effective areas of improving in many areas such as selecting music, writing choreography, learning to entertain, or even overcoming obstacles such as weak teaching habits with new dancers. This is when you can get focused on improvement approaches.

Keep in mind that everyone’s approach is going to be a little different, and so is their motivation. But the discipline of working in a disciplined practice regimen with the guidance of a square dance caller coach can elevate your improvement on a much higher scale! Stay focused and be committed to learning in areas that you want to advance in.

Related:  Square Dance Calling School

This article is not a “one size fits all” guideline. Every caller will need to practice in tune with their individual set of goals, and many will need to practice in vastly different ways to achieve their ultimate end-goal: mastery of calling.

Contact me for any help in square dance caller training. Smart habits, directed goals and doing the right things to get you what you want to learn will only lead to better square dance calling for the entire activity to enjoy!

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 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.

“Game On!” Organizational Pointers For Square Dance Callers

Verily, all agree there is a strong relationship between being prepared and being organized. Being ready allows for you to be at your best and call the most fun and enjoyable event that the dancers will long remember and truly appreciate. For example, you are prepared to call a square dance party in a few days and you have checked your program list and you have all of your equipment ready to be loaded into your vehicle when the moment arrives. You have reconfirmed the date and time of the event with the party organizer for the party to check if there are any changes that you might need to be aware of. And when you call at the event, you will encounter a lot of things that you will not be able to fully control.

Getting a good grip on what you can is the next best thing!

So what can you focus on to keep everything in good order and keep everything prepared as best you can? Creating to do lists and following an agenda are great starting points. Below I have put together some criteria that you will want to add to your checklists to use whenever you have a dance to call in the future:

  • Equipment check list of everything that you will need to perform at the event.
  • Program plan – spend as much time as you need to put together a well thought out program of choreography and music.
  • Practice Plan – this needs to be an ongoing and well in advance organizational move.
  • Create a song list for the music program.
  • Make a choreography program for every tip that you will call.
  • Contact the party event host/organizer to confirm details
  • Create other essential checklists: what general choreography you will use for all kinds of different dances and different levels, dance level teaching checklists, even a checklist for completing all checklists!
  • Set your computer calendar’s alarm for the week before calling dates you need to remember, from an anniversary dance to regular type dance. Regional and state festivals. National conventions. Everything that you will attend. By doing this, you will have a reminder on making sure that your travel plans are well-planned in advance and that will give you enough time to buy anything you need on your trip.
  • Create an “emergency” box for the car trunk: extra extension cords, extra electrical cords for equipment, spare microphone, an assortment of electrical connectors such as quarter inch jacks, adapters, and any other items you might need like a cheap rain poncho, tape, paper notepad, blank recipe cards, extra pair of dress pants, an umbrella and an extra shirt.
  • Use computer technology to help you to remember things. If you want to remember things, put it in writing, or in a digital notebook like Evernote.
  • Keeping your to-do lists and other information written somewhere allows you to look back at it anytime, especially when you do not have an internet connection (or you have fallen down at the grocery store, hit your head and forgotten your own name!)
  • Create back-ups of everything that you don’t want to lose such as square dance music, choreography and square dance computer files and have a second computer dedicated only to square dance calling that you can count on for a back-up.

Related:  6 Keys to Caller Mastery!

Making the Gig a Success

Leave well in advance of the program’s start time, and give yourself extra time in case of heavy traffic or an accident along your route. Arrive in plenty of time to set up your equipment, test the sound, and relax just a bit before you start. Find the contact person as soon as you arrive. Introduce yourself and others who might have come with you. Take a visual tour of the area to determine the best place to set up for sound and safety of your equipment. Sometimes you might want to visit the place you will call beforehand so you will know what to expect and you can look for any problems that you will want to be able to deal with when you do call the event.

Remember, safety of your equipment is your responsibility. If your equipment gets damaged or if someone gets hurt by your equipment, you are liable. Keep your equipment away from water or excessive heat and position the cables and cords where people will not trip or get tangled up in them. Speakers need to be placed not only where the sound will be good but where they will not get knocked over, damaged, or injure someone. Make sure your table is sturdy enough to hold your equipment and not collapse if you or someone else leans on it. Make sure that you set up all equipment in an organized and safe manner.

Related:  Microphone Tips For Square Dance Calling

The Big Why…

All of these things are your responsibility as a professional modern western square dance caller.  Being organized makes everything simple and more fun for the dancers. Because you will not be stressed out and you will be ready to start on time. You will not forget anything crucial to making the event go extremely well.

“The game is on.” Once you have done a few of these square dance events you will get a better idea on what really works great and what is better left unsaid. Literally.

Whichever of these organizational tasks you decide to do, remember that you can’t completely organize your calling career in one go. It’s a long, never-ending process so be patient. But do make a decision to get organized right now then take small steps until you see some organization that will reduce your worries. Soon enough, you will be making a habit out of it all.

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.

Modern Western Square Dance: Expanding On Singing Call Choreography (Revisited)

Awhile back I put together a post about increasing variety in a night’s square dance by using singing call choreography and hoedown choreographic modules together in the same tip that match in similarity, thereby make dancing much more interesting and your overall dancing program more entertaining. You can see it below.

Related:  Building Variety In Singing Call Choreography

The primary idea is to strengthen dancer’s abilities by introducing a call or a position/formation that is not used enough throughout the typical dance program and then slot that choreographic idea a few times in a hoedown/patter and then follow that up with a singing call figure using a very similar basic choreographic rendition. This is all immediate and within the singing call portion of the tip.

I have written examples for each singing call break below that has a corresponding zero module choreographic idea. These can be used as an appealing and unique “warm-up” used in the hoedown or patter portion of the tip. Using simple zero modules that bring the dancers back in sequence allow for very quick resolution of the dancers and helps in making a successful roundabout for everyone to keep moving. Repeat the module a few times as you need to so that the dancers “get it.”

This way they are then ready for the singing call figure that utilizes the same unique idea presented in the hoedown/patter. Work this approach throughout the later tips of your evening program and you should put some effort into writing some more sequences that modulate back to a zero ending for each of the four figures and their corresponding zero modules below. These are not all perfect zeroes, but they will end in an in sequence, in order resolution of the dancers:

 

CALLING TIP! 
Ask the club president if there are any new dancers and what they would like to have reviewed in terms of calls that they could use some review and voila! you have your workshop tip set in place for all to learn from!

ZERO – 1p2p Lines:
Pass the Ocean
Spin Chain Thru
Girls Circulate
Boys Run
Bend the Line
Right & Left Thru

Heads (Sides) Promenade Halfway
Sides (Heads) Right & Left Thru
Touch a Quarter
Those Boys Run
Spin Chain Thru
Girls Circulate Once
Swing Corner & Promenade

ZERO – Box 1-4:
Swing Thru
Spin the Top
Recycle
Sweep a Quarter
Touch a Quarter
Scoot Back
Boys Run
Slide Thru

Heads (Sides) Lead Right
Swing Thru
Spin the Top
Recycle
Sweep a Quarter
Veer Left
Boys Circulate
Girls Turn Around
Swing Corner & Promenade

ZERO – Box 1-4:
Touch a Quarter
Split Circulate
Boys Run
Reverse Flutterwheel
Sweep a Quarter
Step to a Wave – Recycle

Heads (Sides) Right and Left Thru
Lead Left
Touch a Quarter
Split Circulate
Boys Run
Reverse Flutterwheel
Sweep a Quarter
Pass Thru
Trade By
Left Allemande & Promenade Home

ZERO – Box 1-4:
Right & Left Thru
Swing Thru
Boys Run
Half Tag (the Line)
Walk & Dodge
Partner Trade
Reverse Flutterwheel
Slide Thru

Heads (Sides) Touch a Quarter
Walk & Dodge
Swing Thru
Boys Run
Half Tag (the Line)
Walk & Dodge
Partner Trade
Pass the Ocean
Boys Circulate
Swing Thru
Boys Trade
Girls Turn Back & Promenade

If you do call a workshop tip within your night’s program, working in a couple of reinforcing singing call figures that apply the choreographic material that was taught is a superb approach to rounding off the workshop!

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.

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.

“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.

 

 

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.