Entertaining With The Colour Of Music

Music naturally affects people in a certain way. It paints a tapestry in life comprised of certain colours. And all songs can evoke strong emotions in different people. As square dance callers we can be the musical agent in allowing others in joining particular types of music with particular colours.

As colours, songs are a device to evoke a strong emotional response or inspire many in lots of different ways. Do you have a favorite song that captures the essence of, say, 2018? As simple as it sounds, scientists have found that listening to particularly uplifting or conversely, sad music, changes the way we perceive the world.

Music and mood are intrinsically linked. Modern studies continue to manifest how these influences work at a neural level. Science has proven that the music we listen to engages a wide range of internal systems that reflect our inner thoughts, perception and emotions.

I would go so far as to say that all people use music to change their mood in a day, project a mood to others that might be within earshot of a piece of music, or even connect a crowd of people like, well, square dancers.

Dark and dull to bright and vivid, music has the power to paint many colours because of the emotional capabilities of a set of notes. And the instruments that convey the melody can be in a mix of emotions from sad to happy. And sad songs do not always translate as unhappy to all listeners. Parts of many sad songs will have a bright and positive melody line that offsets the minor-tinged lines and often the lyrics in songs can be both sad and happy at the same time.

Dancing to Music Holds the Power to Treat Depression!

Dancing offers a therapeutic opportunity to emotionally boost mood in a cathartic way which affects all who participate. I witness this all the time at square dances. Why does it happen? Because music carries emotional content that touches our mix of emotions. Memories often are tied with songs like we are replaying a soundtrack of our lives.

Everyone everywhere uses music to boost their mood and manage their overall feelings at the moment and in life on a larger scale.

Under the right circumstances, music and dance is healthy to all ages simply because of the emotional content and how the act of dancing improves their mood. Because music is effective for treating depression and it helps to deal with the stress and anxiety related to treating coronary heart disease. Add to that element dancing and you have an outstanding combination in improving your life!

As square dance callers we are the agent to provide these benefits and entertain at the same time. To me, I feel that makes this a great responsibility and honored place to be-calling for fun and allowing others to benefit in many different ways.

Square dancing is a social network that offers so much. If you are interested in best finding out, look to contact someone locally. There are many clubs throughout and nationally there are organizations that can help you if you need help getting information on groups and opportunities to partake in this great and wholesome activity.

Best Regards,

Shaun Werkele




Mission Statement: The purpose of this post is to create a greater visibility of the square dance activity for future dance population growth on a national and local level. The coaching information provided here serves as a source for square dance caller 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.

Panoramic Aspects of Calling Square Dances

As a modern western square dance caller you should always think hard about what you want to do and your role in the square dance activity. Calling at various levels – called “dance programs,” whether that is Mainstream, PLUS, Advanced and Challenge, can beckon a powerful set of questions –

Why are you striving to expand to a more involved choreographic level in the first place?

Do you have the skills to call at the higher level that you are interested in?

What will it take to advance your abilities to call at a higher level?

What will the “fun” factor be for yourself in regards to what level program you call at?

Will there be enough dancers to support a group at a higher level?

Advanced and Challenge levels are much more involved and harder to call – where you are dealing with concepts, new formations, more DBD (Dancing By Definition) dancing, and involved ideas like galaxy formations, phantoms and a higher focus on fractionalizing of complex calls.

Does your calling style even match the level you would like to call at?

If you call more from an entertaining style then you might have problems with higher level concept calling and being accepted by more critical people at the Advanced and Challenge levels of dance. Or perhaps your heart and soul longs to embrace the traditional style of square dance. There is a lot for any caller to offer square dance as a social doorway which bridges together our American musical and dancing past.

  Related:  How to Teach Square Dancing

Remember, there are good callers and bad callers at every level and within every modern dance program and even within the traditional realm there exists strong dancers and weaker dancers. Making a change “up” is not necessarily the best move you can make for yourself, even if you feel that it is. You might just be “not built that way” and you may not like the stress of the increase in calls and complexity.

Overall, square dance calling is an activity that offers many niches for a dancer to participate in as well as for a caller to entertain in.

Just take a look at the tremendous strides that have been made in the area of standardization of square dance calls that are directed at the average person, as a member of a square dance club, that belongs to local and national organizations, which meet to promote the perfection of square dancing skills and healthy social interaction.

Regional dances are still very much in evidence and universally many people gather in social locales for party dancing based on old-time, simple figures.

Empower yourself as a caller who is on the crossroads of change and advance yourself in ways that will make a difference to the square dance activity. Focus on everything you need to as far as choreography goes, and adapt to being versatile and wearing numerous calling hats across several different levels of modern square dance. Be prepared to entertain at a square dance party. Or call an involved and mentally challenging square dance tip.

Or even some traditional square dance choreography. You never know what will come along. Once I called on a golf course at night! Heck, another time I called with only an accordian player and a guitarist and it was a great success! You adapt, change and have fun yourself. If you are not having fun as a caller, try to figure out what it is that you are not enjoying about the whole thing and change it.

After all, square dance reflects the personality and temper of people – which is a huge part of their human and socially attractive, fun and lasting appeal.

Related:  Modern Western Square Dance Calling: What is Involved?


Best Regards,

Shaun Werkele




Mission Statement: The purpose of this post is to create a greater visibility of the square dance activity for future dance population growth on a national and local level. The coaching information provided here serves as a source for square dance calling 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

“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





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




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 Callers: Analytical Creative Choreography

I tend to lean on the thought that a great deal of ANALYTICAL people develop and find excellent solutions to problems all the time. While the CREATIVE types ask bold questions about things. It is something that cannot be helped, it seems that artists of all walks of life think in such a way. But when these two types of people meet up and combine forces, real magic starts to culminate. This is simply because the best question is asked. And then it becomes a beckoning idea that needs to be answered with the best solution. The strength of this situation can drive a powerful response that is based solely upon the effort of constructing a blueprint to solve the question at hand.
— the CREATIVE has the vision to ask questions that reach deep, and the ANALYTICAL person responds by troubleshooting and designing the function.

Sometimes this is a team up between two separate individuals. Sometimes the artist asks the question and then they “change hats” to the become the designer and work through to a solution. As for myself, personally, I find my self wearing both hats often on the same projects.

For myself, creating goes a long way back. My square dance path is a little non-traditional. I was always an artistically adventurous person while growing up and I was always a little bit different from other kids that I grew up with. I was attracted to and loved drawing and I even went to some art classes to study the possibilities that the art medium had to offer for me through expression. A couple of years later, I got into square dancing with my family, and after graduating from the local square dance caller’s association caller’s school at age 14, I got involved with the Advanced and Challenge levels of square dance. Fortunately for me I have a deep background in the creative realm.

Creating – an illustrator is mainly thought of as someone who draws a lot. But that is a little too narrow of a viewpoint and it lacks an understanding of the nuts and bolts of creating. A square dance choreographer assembles a set of figures or even combines a set of already existing parts that when combined create something new and usually different than anything that was ever used as a square dance “idea” before.

Related:  Making Minor Changes in Singing Calls

To create choreography, any square dance caller out there can combine a few calls together and command something that has “danceability.” This is a technical ability that is not too involved – one does not need to be the “Fred Astaire” of square dance, but it is important to possess a foundation in the basic mechanics of choreography –  what works and what does not.

What is necessary to square dance call fantastic choreography is the conceptual ability to create like a designer – as an illustrator who interprets a challenging dance combination that is interesting, yet achievable by most dancers on the floor – keeping in mind that all combinations of calls and figures need to reasonably flow and the square dance calls are not too difficult to execute.

Related:  Getting Dancers Through Difficult Choreography

A choreographer has to provide unique ideas that often represent a little puzzle solving for the people dancing without “blowing their minds” or “breaking them down” as a unit of eight dancers.

Some of my first few choreography projects when I was younger involved creating different ideas than what I had first assembled the ideas, they were not very dancer-friendly. Over time, through education and experience, I found that writing choreography really elevated my skills in putting together great choreographic ideas. At the time, there weren’t many dedicated and young square dance callers that called at the Advanced and Challenge levels of square dance. Eventually, I transitioned back over into Mainstream and PLUS levels of square dance where I could be more of an entertainer and never looked back. But I never forgot the importance of fully understanding the mechanics of the calls and how to combine them well.

Related:  7 All-Time Most Important Square Dance Calls

Writing square dance choreography is a creative process that uses both analytical and creative ideas. Having one constructive piece but not the other is extremely limiting. A great choreographer in all kinds of dance balances and sharpens both.

If you have more of the art or draftsmanship person in you, this might limit the technical and difficult calls that you combine and ultimately create. If you’re more of a conceptual thinker but lack an artist’s fundamental creativity, it limits the way that you can express your choreographic ideas in, for example, singing a figure in a singing call.

Related:  Square Dance Singing Calls: Practicing Basics

Creative figure for a singing call:

Heads (Sides) Square Thru 4 & Sides Rollaway
Swing Thru
Boys Run Right
Pass the Ocean
Girls Trade
All Eight Circulate
Swing Thru
Boys Trade
Swing Corner & Promenade Home

Creative sequence that is a nice Zero Module when you are in a Box 1-4:

Touch a Quarter
Single Hinge
Girls Trade
Spin the Top
Spin the Top

Perhaps you can only write choreography around a few basic and simple figures. Perhaps that is all you need and all your dancers need.  It’s never so black-and-white, in the end, but putting the two creative abilities together in choreography creation yields high-quality, conceptually brilliant choreographic ideas that will turn heads and impress all dancers on the floor.

Contact me if you have a question or you would like some help in learning how to create choreography.

Or call me to make square dancing part of your special event plans and set your group up for a fun and unique square dance party if you need a square dance caller!

Best Regards,

Shaun Werkele





Mission Statement: The purpose of this post is to create a greater visibility of the square dance activity for future dance population growth on a national and local level. The coaching information provided here serves as a source for square dance caller education training and perspectives on dance. Future articles will be developed to improve the programs of square dancing and how those learning to square dance call can help contribute to the preservation of both modern western square dancing and traditional square dancing and to aid in the growth of the square dance activity.




Basics: How to Teach Square Dancing

How to Teach Some of the Most Basic Square Dancing Calls

Traditional and modern western square dancing have a universal appeal which encompasses all ages and levels of ability and social commitment. Teaching square dance to young children, teenagers, adults, senior citizens, and even some handicapped groups continually draws unique interest and social interplay to this great activity. One thing that is attractive about all dancing is it gives insecure persons an opportunity to shed their inhibitions and the opportunity to derive enormous satisfaction from interacting with others in a friendly setting.

Every local square dance caller has their own way of calling a dance and just about every caller will add short rhythmic lines to add excitement to a square dance. The dancers’ challenge is to listen for the dancing directions within the patter and then the entire square will act as a team and execute the square dance calls.

Following is a short outline for teaching the most basic set-up of the “squared set.” This is taught the first few minutes of any square dance party or any beginner class. It is imperative that all directions be simple in description and extremely clear so as not to confuse anyone learning for the first time.

Both modern style and traditional square dance follow these fundamental teaching instructions:

  • The basic setup for square dance is the “squared set” which is comprised of four couples, making a total of eight dancers, who stand within the formation of a ten foot by ten foot square, each couple taking a side, or position facing inward, toward the center, to create a square shaped figure on the floor. Each couple has their backs parallel to one of the four walls in the room.
  • Within the “Set” each Lady stands on her dancing partner’s right side.
  • The First Couple is facing toward the back of the hall and have their backs to the caller platform.
  • The Second Couple is on their right, the Third position is opposite to the couple in the first position, and the Fourth on the First Couple’s left hand side.
  • First and Third Couples are identified as the “Head Couples” (1 and 3) and the Second and Fourth are “Side Couples” (2 and 4).
  • For every man’s position the Man’s “Corner” or “Corner Lady” is the woman on his left. The Lady’s “Corner” or “Corner Man” is the man on her right.
  • The “Home” position is the traditionally established location on the squared set of eight persons that everyone ideally returns to at the end of any directed sequence that the dancers move through. Tell the dancers they are standing at the “Home” position, which is the starting and finishing position of all square dance figures at all levels of dance.

Basic Square Dance Terms:

Set – Four couples comprise a set. Each couple stands on the side of an imaginary square.

Couple – Two dancers side by side, each comprising half of a traditional pairing that historically has matched a man standing on the left side with a woman directly to the right. There are four couples in a Set.

Partner – In a square set, Partners stand side by side, the Ladies (Women or Girls) to the right of the Men (also called Gentlemen, Gents, or Boys)

Corner – The Gentlemen’s Left- hand Lady is the lady standing on his left, or his Corner Lady. The Corner Man is the Gentleman standing directly to the right of the lady. Both terms Corner and Left Hand Lady mean the same thing and these two gender based position identities are directed in the perspective of the Gentlemen in the square.

Opposite Lady (or Gent) – The lady or man standing directly opposite a dancer’s position, as in the case of Gentleman number one  and Lady number three.

Home – The station at which all couples occupy at the beginning of a square dance set of calls.

Left Hand Couple – The couple in a set standing one station to the left of a designated couple in a squared set. For example, Couple 4 is the Left Hand couple in relation to Couple 1.

Right Hand Couple – This is a couple standing one position to the right of a designated couple in a set. For instance, Couple 2 is the Right Hand Couple to Couple 1.

Right Hand Lady (or Gent) – The lady or man that is occupying the position to the right in a squared set. For example, Lady 2 is the Right Hand Lady of Gentleman 1 in a Set.

Teaching Techniques

Worldwide, throughout the years of this activity’s progress, all modern western square dance callers have developed their own method of calling a complete dance. At the heart of this approach is the selection of choreographic ideas for both hoedown patter calls and singing call figures.

When teaching, all of the focus should be on the featured call that is being taught at that particular moment in the session, and not just repetition of the call should be instilled, but also the new dancers need exposure and clear explanations and familiarization of different basic dancing positions and variations of that call along with formation awareness.

The primary mindset as a square dance caller is to direct every student dancer through various positions and combinations of choreographic calls smoothly, rhythmically, and in an energetic and entertaining manner. To accomplish this all callers, whether they call modern square dance or traditional square dance, need to provide to the dance floor succinct and concise explanations of how the mechanics of a new call should be delivered without complicated and confusing words.

The process is simply:

  1. Teach the starting position (and formation)
  2. Describe the action – what specifically happens as the call is executed
  3. Explain the change in relationship of positioning
  4. Tell the dancers what their specific individual instructions will be throughout the call
  5. Give the dancers a visual understanding of their ending position of the call
  6. Devise different variations that show the dancers other possibilities that the call offers

The ultimate goal for the caller to convey to the learning dancers is that they understand the basic movement of the call and to know that there are other choreographic possibilities for almost every call ever written. By learning the rule, rather than the most common traffic patterns that are called, all dancers will be much stronger and confident in their dancing and they will be able to apply this to many different positions.

At the end of the teaching session for the new call, announce that if dancers have questions regarding the call to come seek you, their teacher, for more help. This allows any new and/or confused and struggling dancers another opportunity to get questions answered and for you to teach a different and more “hands-on” direct approach for the new dance move and how to dance it successfully.

Command Calls

The most basic square dance calling approach is to use the “command call.” This is when the caller simply gives the call, then waits for the proper number of beats of music until the next command is given to the dance floor. It is calling at it’s very simplest, stripped down and lacking any extra wording whatsoever. Command calls can accompany either hoedown music or the singing call portion of a square dance tip. Tracking the number of beats is absolutely essential to the timing of this style of square dance calling where the rhythm is so prominent and drives the dancing.

Command calling is most prevalent in the Advanced and Challenge levels of modern western square dancing where it is used to keep the calls simple and direct.

Patter Calls

Once dancers have a fundamental understanding of the new call, and they have been walked through the call enough times to feel physically and mentally relaxed with the new square dance call, square dance callers can make simple command calls more interesting by adding “patter.” The best way to describe patter calling is, along with the command the caller delivers, there will be added clever words to either provide more description of the mechanics of the call, or simply to dress up and help fill the silences that come between commands. This usually is rhythmic and directive at the same time. You can read more about how to approach directing dancers through creative sequences in this informative article:

Related: How to Formulate Square Dance Choreography

The best way to teach new dancers how to get through a combination of calls when they are confused as to where to move to on the dance floor is to advise them to watch other dancers within the square. Advise them to combine this approach by staying in place, not panicking, and then wait for the next call. By teaching dancers this method of recovery, they will better be able to dance in harmony together and they will succeed in completing more involved square dance choreography.


Of course, directing the dancers with well timed patter that works in rhythm with the music is a cornerstone of great square dance calling, and to not provide musical phrasing that is in synchronization with the beats (working in 4/4 time or 2-beat) will only alienate the dancers and you will not be guiding the dancers by the musical beat of the song. Work on using rhythmic and effective patter words in your practice sessions and everyone at all classes and regular dances will benefit from you doing so.

Spend some time and productive thought into preparing for teaching at classes, parties, or even local club dances. You can read more about the choreography process here:

Related: Rules for Writing Choreography for Square Dance Classes

Have a great teaching session!

If you need a square dance caller to teach for your gathering, please keep me in mind. If you need help in improvement in your square dance calling, please contact me. I will make your group’s event plans fun with an entertaining square dance party!


Shaun Werkele


I will be offering a short and condensed beginning caller class on May 21, 2017 for a special three hour session focusing on customizing your calling style, singing call performance tips, and a one hour choreography session. See the ad flyer below. Please call for more details.






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.



66th National Square Dance Convention 2017

66th National Square Dance Convention June 21-24, 2017 Cincinnati, Ohio


The Square Dance Is On!
The National Square Dance Convention is here again in Cincinnati June 21 through June 24 in downtown Cincinnati at the Duke Energy Convention Center.

The Duke Energy Convention Center  is located at 525 Elm Street, Cincinnati, Ohio where the venue is adjoined to the city’s Skywalk  system, providing quick and easy access.

Below is the app you will want to get to find dining, shopping, entertainment and other Cincinnati information. A notable feature on this app is you can take advantage of location services, dubbed ‘near me’ which supplies you with tons of easily accessible information on the the best Downtown Cincinnati has to offer. You can view requested features in list form or via the interactive map, making navigation very simple.


Complimentary public wireless internet is offered in the Espresso Café at the main entry of the center and in limited spots on the second and third levels. For a daily fee, wireless internet is also available in other parts of the Duke Energy Convention Center. Secure wireless connections and networking options are in place for all telecommunications for this event.

No outside food or beverages are are allowed in the Duke Energy Convention Center. Food options are available within the center. PNC Bank ATMs are available in the convention center on Level 1 at the main entrance (Fifth Street and Elm Street) and in the Fifth Street Concourse (Hall B).

Within the center there are ample choices for food samplings distributed throughout the entire facility. The majority of the food outlets are located on the main level (Level 1). Some of the food offerings are listed below:

Espresso Café (Entrance Lobby)   Coffee and pastries

Black Angus (Hall A)   Serving great tasting burgers, salads and fries

La Rosa’s Pizza (Hall A)  Serves 7 inch personal pizzas

Skyline Chili (Hall A) Chili sandwiches, deli, soup, salads

Caliente (Hall A)  Fresh Mexican cuisine, burrito bowls and nachos

Panini Bistro (Hall B)  Gourmet premium sandwiches made-to-order

Cincy Fresh (Hall C)  Classic concession fast food, hotdogs, hamburgers

Additionally, there are many great restaurants and places to dine in the downtown area and you can find more information on Cincinnati dining on this link.

The Downtown Cincinnati Parking Lot Map has more information about available parking for square dancers in the vicinity around the Duke Energy Convention Center and the downtown area. Parking garages and parking lots are located north and south of the convention center. Many lots are close and convenient to this event and there is good access to and from I-75 on 6th and 5th Streets and other major roadways from there. Elm, Vine, Walnut and Main are the principle streets north and south and street metered parking is available in the nearby downtown area. Rates vary according to different time limits and vicinity parking rates vary throughout the downtown area as well. See here.

Street Parking Rates Downtown Cincinnati

Helpful Driving Directions
How to get into downtown Cincinnati from major highways
Heading Northbound:
On I-71/75: take the Second Street exit immediately after the bridge. Turn north and drive up Elm, Vine or Main streets.  On I-471: simply take the Sixth Street exit.
Heading Southbound:
On I-71: take the Third Street exit that begins before Lytle Tunnel. Turn north and drive up Elm, Vine or Main Streets.  On I-75: take the 7th Street exit (on the right) or the 5th Street exit (on the left). Keep straight after light at the end of ramp.
Heading Eastbound:
On U.S. 50: take the Second Street exit. Turn north up Elm, Vine or Main Streets. Or exit Fifth Street.
Heading Westbound:
On U.S. 50 (Columbia Parkway): take the Third Street exit. Turn north up Elm, Vine or Main Streets. Or exit Sixth Street.

A special note on major road construction: the Third Street off-ramp from I-71 southbound will be closed for one year beginning July 20, 2016. Traffic will be detoured as follows: Gilbert to East Eighth to Sycamore to Third to I-71 South

The City of Cincinnati has a very integrated and complete bus system. For schedules and fare information go to:


For more transportation information call (513) 621-4455.

For general entrance into this national square dance event, please use the main entry facing both Elm Street and 5th Street. There is a Cincinnati Destination Kiosk available for local restaurant information and nearby local attractions. Additionally, there is shielded Skywalk access from the sides of the building. All flooring in the dance halls will be the removable hardwood that can be reused at future National Square Dance Conventions.

Housing is available at these premium downtown hotels:

Magnificent Millennium Hotel Cincinnati

Hyatt Regency

Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza

Hampton Inn & Suites-Cincinnati Downtown

Homewood Suites by Hilton Cincinnati-Downtown

The Westin

The Skywalk access is available from the first three hotels above and the adjacent large parking garage. All outlying hotels have rooms available, however, some are requiring a 4 day stay on reservations. Early arrivals, before Wednesday, June 21, 2017, need to advance book for those nights.

Check out the Cincinnati Zoo on 3400 Vine Street with a great variety of animals and it is one of the top zoos nationally. It has a modern and clean appearance, and is easy to park and walk. All of the exhibits offer up-close visual opportunities for the entire family.

Make a visit to see the Cincinnati Reds at the majestic Great American Ball Park with Art Center. Recognized nationally and internationally as a world-class sports venue in the heart of the the US, this venue offers great promotions, great varieties of all kinds of cuisine and drink, and all can find something great and exciting at a Red’s game. There is plenty of room to roam outside the actual game and ticket prices are available at all levels. You won’t want to miss this much fun at any other ballpark!

Smale Riverfront Park has become a renovated centerpiece of downtown Cincinnati and it offers a great variety of enjoyment along this beautiful waterfront park with an antique carousel, unique children’s playground areas, water features that provide lots of fun in beautiful weather. Connecting paths lead to other parks, fun swings and benches galore to sit upon and offer a visual escape for a few minutes or a few hours while taking in the scenic views along the Ohio Riverfront. This area has been improved a great deal from the riverfront that many knew from 10 years ago with an interactive and artful layout that is both whimsical and relaxing. It celebrates the history of downtown Cincinnati, and offers simple and outdoorsy entertainment for all ages.

The Cincinnati Art Museum holds an impressive collection primarily representing artists of both contemporary and classical art, from European painting to native American pottery. This nice sized museum has some of the best collections of American paintings in the US. who have left their historic artistic heritage to the public. Free to all, however, the parking lot is not. Try visiting here, you will be glad you did! A great variety of work representing the past two hundred plus years. Have lunch at the Terrace Café.

With the American Sign Museum you can view hundreds of signs from the past. See signs from places from your childhood in a nostalgic trip to a time long forgotten. This must-see stop is a wonderland for those who like to trace their history through a true slice of Americana. For the young and old, or just those young at heart, you’ll love this place for the historic and educational insights. Signs both big and small, those from bygone eras and so many that everyone will know. Try the guided tour!

Check out the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. This cultural and educational center is highly interesting with details about the history of slavery in the United States, worldwide, and enlightenment about the sex trade. Tons of accurate historical information with pictures, videos and descriptions all relating to graphic and realistic portrayals of the slavery and freedom movement. This is a tribute to those who overcame oppression and the content is not suitable for younger audiences. This museum is in the banks area near the river close to downtown. There are many good restaurants in the area to stop for a bite to eat.

Shopping is aplenty throughout Cincinnati. There are plenty of specialty shops, antique stores, restaurants, clothing stores, and more than 200 retail businesses all highlight the general area around downtown. Spend a little time in the downtown area and experience life in the Midwest, loaded with restaurants, local events and enjoyable modern shopping.

The Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG) is only 13 miles away from the national convention venue.

The Dayton International Airport (DAY) is just 66 miles north of downtown Cincinnati.

Check out a local square dance club or two while you are in town, either before the convention or after! This fun-filled and family focused annual square dance festival will be fully loaded with fantastic, energetic fun, education for square dance callers and square dancers alike, plenty of things to do, entertainment for all, and, of course, the reason to go in the first place. Square dancing!

Shaun Werkele


Progressive Mainstream Singing Call Figures: All Eight Circulate

Advocate for some progress as a modern square dance caller who is expected to entertain your square dance! And make it a high priority to better connect your square dancers with vibrant progressive singing call figures! For a basic outlook on square dance calling, nationally most square dance callers have a tendency to get too comfortable calling the same sequences every time they call. This can create a repetitive problem if you only call locally, the dance program of singing call figures will sag in fresh and original ideas and the choreography can be all too predictable.

There has never been a better time to change things up with a new singing call sequence or two to make the interest high so that the dancers cannot anticipate what is coming next and it provides opportunities to spring new and creative ideas in choreography on all.

Here are four All Eight Circulate sequences that are not all that hard but since All Eight Circulate is not called nearly enough this is a great set of calls to incorporate into a singing call:

CALLING TIP! Hoedown calls offer the opportunity to introduce new and creative ideas in choreography for the dancers. Use this to chance to level the dance floor to the same plateau and strengthen dancers of all abilities at your dance!

Heads (Sides) Square Thru 4 Hands
Swing Thru
Boys Run
Couples Circulate
Wheel & Deal
DoSaDo to an Ocean Wave
All 8 Circulate
Swing Corner & Promenade Home

Heads (Sides) Square Thru 4 Hands
Swing Thru
Boys Run
Couples Circulate
Chain Down the Line
Pass the Ocean
All 8 Circulate
Swing Corner & Promenade

Heads (Sides) Promenade Halfway
Touch a Quarter
Those Boys Run
Touch a Quarter
Split Circulate
Single Hinge Girls Trade
All 8 Circulate
Swing Corner & Promenade

Heads (Sides) Promenade Halfway
Touch a Quarter
Those Boys Run
Right & Left Thru
Square Thru 2 Hands
Partner Trade
Pass the Ocean
All 8 Circulate
Swing Corner & Promenade

Enjoy using this with your square dancers!


Shaun Werkele




Mission Statement: The purpose of this post is to create a greater visibility of the square dance activity for future dance population growth on a national and local level. The coaching information provided here serves as a source for square dance caller education training and perspectives on dance. Future articles will be developed to improve the programs of square dancing and how those learning to square dance call can help contribute to the preservation of both modern western square dancing and traditional square dancing and to aid in the growth of the square dance activity.

Call Square Dancers Through Involved Mainstream/PLUS Choreography Formations

Succeed in Getting Square Dancers Through Mainstream and PLUS Level Choreography Formations

Short History of  Traditional Square Dance Calling

In order to get a clear visual of the history of square dance calling in America, you have to take a look at the important role of the dancing masters. From the early times of the first settlers until well into the nineteenth century, English dancing masters would travel from place to place: staying in an area for only a short amount of time before continuing to the next town or village. These itenerant dancing masters traveled from town to town in New England and they would approach the heads of the townspeople, and depending upon the attitude and acceptance of the ones in charge, the dancing masters would arrange to conduct a short set of lessons and put on a dance for the local townspeople to enjoy. The dances taught were English Minuets, Cotillions, and the newest Contra dances and the choreography sequences had to be memorized by the dancers.

This was a huge undertaking, teaching dance movements in a relatively short period of time, and this traveling lesson/dance helped spread the popularity of country dance all across the Eastern coast, and it fostered the very beginnings of American square dance.

As decades passed, the Cotillion, a dance done in a square formation with eight dancers became quite popular on a national level in the mid-eighteen fifties, and this style of dance spread and evolved across the country. The choreography was usually called by the fiddler in the band, who would spontaneously shout out combined dance moves and directions to the dancers. Cotillions were danced to traditional square dance music that was based upon Irish jigs and Scottish reels in regional locales that joined music with choreography.

So historically, the square dance caller has a long legacy tracing back from the formal approach of the local dance master with his teaching of dance to everyday people to sequences delivered by the fiddler/callers who had to prompt the dancers through the choreography at dances. As modern western square dance continues to progress post-world war two, square dance has further matured and developed into many geometric formations and movements that work within this same old traditional framework.

Modern Western Square Dance

Indeed, today’s square dance has evolved to become more complex, and over time, calling has become more involved. along with this change there is a monumental challenge for callers to render and provide highly interesting choreography that the dancers are able to execute with success. By creating variations using Mainstream or PLUS choreography and formations and then combining a few elements to “direct” the dancers through and resolve the set back to the home position or to the corner dancer in sequence can achieve just that.

One key to success in square dance calling comes from the following steps that will lead to calling fun dances with interesting choreography:

Write a Creative Choreography Sequence

First, start with a choreographic idea that you want to expand upon and work on creating five creative choreography sequences from start to finish that you will call during your dance in a “tip.” The third tip (or other later tips depending upon how much interesting ideas you want to render) of the dance is usually the best time to use your expanded choreographic ideas on the dancers. Come up with a couple of ideas that will be quite interesting and will more than likely put everyone on the dance floor on the same level of learning – some new variation or combination of an uncommon dance move. You will want the sequences to progress and become a little more challenging for the dancers to build the interest of the floor.

Personally, I like to use Folds and Cross Folds and Tag the Lines on Mainstream dance and at the PLUS level I might use Diamond Formations that are different or variations of Linear Cycle or Crossfire because these are good for strengthening dancer’s abilities. Spin Chain Thru’s are good too, because generally, dancers are a little weak on these moves. Callers need to focus on presenting these calls more often in their dance choreography programs and the general population of dancers will be better at dancing through these calls/moves.

Spend Some Time Writing Out Directional Key Words

Now here is the part that will lead to success in dancing on the floor, and thereby allow you to succeed as a caller. Take the five written sequences of calls for the tip and type the calls out in Microsoft Word then print the pages and put them in a notebook. Notebooks work best for square dance choreography for a lot of reasons. A notebook is portable. You can write in notes next to the choreography if you want to add a new idea or you have a note that you want to address later to make a change on a second edit.

Next, close your eyes and think about where you are moving to in the intricate parts of the calls, the ideas that you know will be a struggle for some of the dancers. Focus on words that will make it easier to prompt and create directions for all dancers to where they need to move to. Write the key words out on another piece of paper. Think about what words will help the dancers the most, for example, “work with the farthest person,” or “person facing in move here, person facing out move there” and write these down as well. Additionally, refer to the prescribed definition of the written description of the square dance calls to help you with key words to use.

Now you can use this page to add to your use of the choreography. These key words are AS IMPORTANT as the choreography itself in ensuring dancer success.

Practice Calling With Directional Key Words

The key words are the KEY to making the combinations of figures work well. The directionalization process needs to be delivered immediately after the call and it will take some practice to deliver this combination seamlessly with all important words and choreography married together.

As Always, It Is In The Timing!

Delivering the choreography and the key words together in a smooth and tight manner is great, but having your prompting work together with the music in great phrasing is really when this works most effectively. All of the dancing will be smoother and your presentation will encourage a relaxed and more executable set of directions that will lead to instilling more confidence within the dancers, particularly when some are not certain where they are moving upon dancing a particular call or set of calls.

Use a metronome or drum machine and practice with the choreography this way. Then try clapping your hands and practice the delivery of the calls without any accompaniment. It is combining the delivered square dance call with the directional key words into a timed musical phrase that makes the sequences within the tip more danceable. Since the dancers feel the beat of the music and the “in time” phrasing, they will more easily succeed in their dancing efforts.

Callers should not have to directly teach the moves for the dancers to execute, however, by directionalizing the choreography variations with key words you have taught the dancers without “workshopping” the moves.

And you will look like a modern dancing master of the twenty-first century!

Good fortune to you in all of your 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 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.


Styling of Square Dance Movements

Incorporating Style When Square Dancing

Dancing is about a lot of things if you think about it. It is about everyone’s fulfillment of the basic human need to have fun and this is accomplished in many ways. Moving to the music. Enjoying the cooperation of other dancers and succeeding in getting through the choreography. Exhibiting beauty, style and grace. Enjoying the social aspects of getting together. As a square dancer, you need to know the calls (choreography) but you also want to look good while you are doing the movements to the music. As a caller, you need to know what to teach that involves good styling and timing and how to present that to your group.

But what exactly are the basic elements that determine style in square dancing? The most prominent and the least thought of is the enjoyment that dancers derive from dancing and the extent to which this enjoyment is reflected not only in their facial expressions, but in their body movements that display the relaxed and emotional feelings that can be seen while they dance.

All dancing requires proper posture, a gliding smooth step, and a gentle grasp with other dancers, or occasionally a more firm grasp, when necessary. Square dance is a simple dance in terms of mechanical difficulty, and it is a joy to perform the movements on the dance floor when the calls are executed in a rhythmic, graceful manner and with body control.

Learning the steps of a square dance call or figure is only part of the dance. Learning the mechanics of the choreography is the bare minimum achievement to succeeding in being accomplished and dancing with confidence. Add to that some graceful styling moves and anyone’s self-confidence will become inspiring.

I have listed some highly important styling considerations that are used in both modern square dancing and traditional square dancing, and these are outlined below. Keep these in mind whenever you are teaching a square dance class so that you can foster strong and beautiful dancing for persons new to the activity:

  • The square dance step should be an easy, smooth gliding shuffle step that is kept short. It is a soft sliding movement that advances the dancer forward in a walking manner and at the end of each forward slide, the heel drops gently to the floor.
  • Standing erect and with good posture is at the essence of style and applies to all dance movements. When circling around in a square, avoid twisting the torso from one side to another. Some women who wear the classic dress (square dance costume)  with lush petticoats underneath their colorful and ornate skirts will twist as they circle to display the beauty of the skirts, and this is quite acceptable, however, doing this is a more advanced move and it takes practice to do well.
  • In honoring the partner, the man bows slightly from the waist as his partner, the woman curtsies by pointing the left foot, toe first, touching the floor right leg slightly bent in an elegant manner. The lady’s right arm is extended and often the right hand will hold her skirt.
  • When a man swings a lady, the swing finishes with the lady unfolding to the right side of the man, so that both dancers stand side-by-side in couple position, facing in the same direction.
  • When swinging a lady, the man supports her firmly with his right arm around her waist and when turning around each other, the move is smooth and relatively quick, but without pushing her around with undue roughness.
  • When standing in couple position, the inside hands should be joined, with the man’s palm facing up and the lady’s palm down. In certain cases and when some more advanced calls and figures require it, where the couple consists of two people of the same sex, the left-hand dancer turns the palm up and the right-hand dancer turns the palm down. Arms should be bent, with the hands held slightly higher than the elbow.
  • When a call such as Box the Gnat or California Twirl is used, the lady will be turning under the man’s extended arm held high. Hands are held loosely, with the fingers pointing up for the man and down for the lady. Only slight pressure is used as the hands revolve around each other. This firm yet gentle move takes practice and some dancers will twirl at the end of a swing.
  • When using forearm turns, each dancer holds the inside of the other dancer’s forearm in a loose style that requires the two to be almost at the same angle that is in line with their shoulders lining up. The thumb is kept close to the entire hand that is used for this.

Nationally, it has become accepted to dance with the handshake and the arm turn with the forearm for almost all figures used in a square dance. Some local areas have their own customs that they have developed when using styling. In traditional square dancing these general rules are followed, but there are some exceptions in Contra style dancing and specialty figures that have to be taught at that particular moment. For older dancers in age some styling is altered to accommodate their limited ability to move as freely as they once did.

As a square dance caller, it is your responsibility to teach dancers to be as good of a dancer as they can be. Take time to demonstrate with an experienced “angel dancer” the correct ways to incorporate style into every student’s dancing as they progress through the set of lessons. Style is not hard. It should be taught as the best way for dancers to demonstrate their pleasure in celebrating together as they fulfill a basic need to have social fun and fellowship with others and to exhibit the beauty of dance.

Even something as simple as square dancing.


Best Wishes!

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 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.