“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.

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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.

“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.

 

 

Let’s Square Dance PARTY!

Tips On Square Dance Calling Your Best at a Social Event

A party is a way to friendly interact and socialize at a lively gathering with other people and have a memorable time. The positive vibe of going out with friends and surrounding yourself by a bunch of fun people is a great experience to add to someone’s social life diary.

And there are so many things to love about a square dance at one of these get togethers. The whole thing becomes an age spanning, ice-breaking bundle of fun for everyone present, regardless of a lot of things. Ability is not so important at one of these gigs, and for the whole group, regardless of the type of event that is being put on, simple fun and interaction is at the heart of it all. Do make sure that you have good solid ways to teach the simple steps and calls that you want to use for choreography.

Related:  How to Teach Square Dancing Basics 

As a modern western square dance caller, you will be contacted regarding someone’s need for square dance entertainment at a social function of some kind. The key thing is to have lots and lots of good fun and impactful music for everyone to enjoy on your night’s program.

Many callers have made a successful entertainment run out of calling square dance parties and this exposure to square dance is the basis of experience for most younger millennials and their families as they get their first taste of basic traditonal square dance moves (a great amount of the basic calls of square dancing have origins from the traditional period of square dance) and the presentation of all sorts of square dance music.

Success will be determined by two things: your choices and preparation.

Related:  Square Dance Entertainment Pointers

Calling a successful party depends upon how you present your overall program and your methods of entertaining, and generally, how well you engage and create interaction and great fun will determine if you have triumphed or  failed at what you were hired to do.

It is very important to load your program with lots of entertaining ideas. Simple ones that involve everyone such as a “Boys louder than Girls” contest to instill a little friendly competition between everyone. The truth is, if your program ideas are not strong and engaging, then the impression that you impart may be that square dancing is boring and old-fashioned. Or it just plain is not fun. Entertain with the impression that square dancing is fun and something that everyone present finds interesting and different from what they normally do. Because it is. Your performance is a representation of what the square dance activity is. If you follow this one simple thing, you will succeed on a much higher scale than otherwise.

To succeed you must engage everyone that came to the party. That they have had one of the most memorable and unique times of their entire lives. Maybe even the greatest night at a party they have ever had. You must be a showman and an entertainer that leads everyone through a night of all nights. Your presentation and overall demeanor must be one of high spirits and festive happiness. You must interact with everyone present and be the life of the party and, unquestionably, you must inspire the crowd to want to have another square dance party. To do any less means failure.

Make sure all in attendance enjoy themselves. This is the only real reason you were hired.  You can be the best square dance caller in the world, but if everyone did not have a blast, you have not fulfilled your obligation of your contract and most likely will never be asked back.

Avoid that situation at all costs.

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.

 

Mechanics of Square Dance Singing Calls

Mechanics of Square Dance Singing Calls

History of the Singing Call

Looking back at the history of square dancing music, the singing call became an evolved and progressive outtake that stemmed from traditional dance. This initially started with the “dance masters” during the early days of colonization along the Eastern seaboard cities and as new popular songs were composed, dance figures were composed and adapted to fit a set of choreographic moves that were appropriate to the music.

This was a genius move on the behalf of the dance masters, leading to many dance tunes that were taught to the local folk. These sets of dance moves and figures were often specific only to a particular song. The choreography had to be learned and memorized by the townspeople so they could perform the moves at their social gathering celebrating in grand festive dance.

Compositions changed and progressed continually as the decades passed, and the singing call came to be a huge part of square dance as singing pop ditties became more and more popular over time.

Most people do not realize that the actual choreography is equally as important as the music itself. And the timing in beats that comprise the structure of the dance song is unique only to square dance music.

Structure of the Square Dance Singing Call Song

Practically all modern western singing calls have a structure that has been the same for decades with the deep roots described above. The basis of the original song structure in some form mostly resembles the melodic and rhythmic nuts and bolts of the original parent song that was recorded and loved by everyone in the popular world of music. After the square dance explosion post WWII, the evolution of modern music has set the pace for change in square dance and this is symbolized and is embodied most through singing calls.

The format developed from the need for a progression of dancers within the square restricted by an allotment of time of a typical song – 3 to 4 minutes long. This simple structure is repeated seven times throughout the song at 64 beats each. There is an introduction of the song, then there is the often identical set of melodic phrases that add up to the repeating seven figures that comprise the body of the singing call, and then there is an ending to resolve the song’s “musical story,” so to speak.

Here is an outline of the anatomy of a singing call:

SONG INTRODUCTION
OPENING FIGURE
FIRST FIGURE (WITH CORNER ROTATION)
SECOND FIGURE (WITH CORNER ROTATION)
MIDDLE (BREAK) FIGURE
THIRD FIGURE (WITH CORNER ROTATION)
FOURTH FIGURE  (WITH CORNER ROTATION)
CLOSING FIGURE
SONG ENDING

The 1st sequence is the INTRODUCTION, which brings the dancers back to their original partner.
The 2nd and 3rd sequence are sequences that are called a FIGURE, which the caller instructs the choreography to change partners by a counter-clockwise rotation that progresses the Ladies to the Next man to her right, the new “Corner” and takes the Ladies around the square.
The 4th sequence is the MIDDLE (BREAK) FIGURE, which is often the same as the opener.
The 5th and 6th sequences are again the rotating Partner FIGURE which continues to progress the dancers by Singing and Promenading a new Partner around the square.
The 7th sequence is the CLOSING FIGURE which is often the same as the opener and middle break.

The SONG INTRODUCTION and SONG ENDING – the musical beginning of the song and the conclusion of the song. The beats can vary from song to song for any intro and any ending. Caller cues might be delivered during the introduction beats of music such as the ever popular “Circle Left.” It is typical to conclude a singing call with a Partner Swing or Eight and Back or even a Bow to the Partner ending is sometimes appropriate.

Dancers change partners during the figure choreography which will be the 2nd, 3rd, 5th and 6th sequences, and this is usually accomplished by progressing to the next Corner man for the Ladies. By doing this, all Men will Swing and Promenade with all Ladies by the song’s end. Dancers remain with their current partner during the 1st, 4th and 7th musical sequences.

Pointers For Calling a Singing Call

The presentation of square dance calls (choreography) is the most important part of the singing call for the dancers. All callers should study the commands as they relate to the music so that they understand where to deliver the calls for the singing call. The delivery of the calls in relation to the music is crucial to making the song a vocal performance. One thing that should always be kept in mind about vocal delivery on singing calls: sometimes the timing is too late, or even too early, in the actual delivery of the  calls in relation to dancing of the choreography with the music.

Related:  Entertainment Pointers For Callers

As a caller, think about recording your performance and dancing with the music to ensure that the choreography is delivered early enough for the dancers to execute comfortably. Make some notes so that you will remember the areas that you might have to deliver the calls early.

Using the “Cue” Delivery of Calls

Most times the caller will sing the actual melody in the form of square dance calls as they need to give those commands. Sometimes this implementation does not work and the need for simply delivering the calls in a spoken tone of voice in time with the music is a better approach to take. If a newer caller is attempting to learn the singing call by listening and mimicking the recorded performance by the featured singer on the vocal portion of a singing call, they might be learning timing that is not fitting for the dancers to dance to. Practice your timing and check it by dancing the recorded snippets of sequences and always watch the dance floor closely while you are calling “live.”

Related  Using Directional Words When Calling

Lyrics and musical phrases do not always synchronate with the timing needed to perform a particular call, or even an entire sequence. Study the music, dance to your calls on a recorded practice session, and determine if changes to places within the song are needed. Many callers will work through several edits of a sequence to make it so it can become a better and more danceable performance.

Build a Repertioure of Singing Calls

Over time, with experience and practice, callers can build a solid and diverse singing call catalog of songs that they can draw from. Another thing that will happen over time is the improvement of delivery of calls and the dynamics of performing a singing call optimally. Study your program as a caller and expand your singing call ability and song repertioure so that you are a prolific and popular caller in your area.

Related:  How To Practice Square Dance Calling

Beginning callers almost always begin by learning a singing call and performing it at a club dance for the first time. By working with a caller coach, they can learn how to take those first singing calls and expand that into learning to be a well-rounded and highly experienced square dance caller.

I can provide guidance to help any new caller understand the mastery of singing calls and the importance of delivering commands effectively.

Feel free to call me at any time. I would be glad to help!

Shaun Werkele

303-250-4735

 

 

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

Proven Square Dance Calling Confidence Boosters

Proven and Effective Ways to Square Dance Call with More Confidence

Sell Yourself as a Performer First

The best way to exude confidence is to get into the right mental frame of mind before you step up onto the stage. It is important to remember that every audience out there wants to believe in the all-powerful magic of a captivating performance. And even the most experienced or the newest square dancer is present at that dance to believe that someone (yes, you!) can be fantastic in presence and performance. To help those dancers believe, you must first believe that wholeheartedly yourself. You must believe in yourself, otherwise your confidence will be nothing but a half-empty shell. Focus on getting in the right mindset before your square dance.

Think about past things you have done that were a success and focus on the value you bring to every dance that you call at. Check in with the club or group to get some reinforcement. By doing these pensive and proactive things you can turn around any self doubts you may have.

Assume Responsibility

As a square dance caller, you have a role to uphold within the square dance activity as a whole and on a more individual basis with each and every dancer. Even co-star movie actors with the fewest number of lines must see their role as important to the entire production of the film. Callers, indeed, must always assume a helpful and fuduciary role in every square dance class, event, or social gathering, so step up and accept it with pride.

Always thank all dancers for the opportunity and shower them with gratitude. At the same time be confident, be courteous and respectful and be succinct in your choices of words when speaking. Which brings us to the next appropriate point:

Know your Program

Every type of entertainer throughout the history of man surely has had the nightmare of being on stage and forgetting the lines they needed to deliver. To prevent this stressful outcome, every good actor will practice and practice until they have their lines down pat. As a caller, you have flexibility in what you call and choose not to call, and even when, however, don’t use that as an excuse to under-prepare or totally take an extemporaneous attitude to your programming. Even improvisers have to practice. Rehearse until you can effectively deliver smooth choreographic figures. This gives you a better boost in confidence than anything else and it allows you to go “off-script” without panicking. Learn how to memorize and practice material like singing call figures and choreography like a true professional does.

Pick out a square dance call and pretend you are “workshopping” it. Base some of your practice sessions with this scenario in mind. Force yourself to quickly adapt and build a solid program in just a few minutes. Figure out where you would change parts of your program in terms of your square dance choreography to make a better and more effective dance.

Related:  Square Dance Calling Your Own Choreography

Build Your Voice

Take a notable lesson from any professional actor who knows that their voice and energy body transfer is the most important thing to their audience and their performance – more important in many ways than their lines, especially in those first few moments when the curtains are drawn. Performers stay focused on getting prepared and they would never go onto the stage without first warming up, and neither should you.

Doing a few vocal and physical drills beforehand will give you confidence when you’re in front of dancers. There’s an undeniable and powerful connection between body and mind. Channel your energy once you are on stage and use plenty of warm-up exercises just before you call.

Related:  Modern Square Dance Calling: How to Sing Better and More Effectively

Use Good Posture and Great Gestures

Sometimes being one hundred percent physically confident when you start your first few beats of music at a dance can be daunting, despite all of the practicing and positive self talk. Simply standing taller with your shoulders back and your chest out will make for a much more powerful impression. Use hand gestures that show dynamic and visually interesting ways to project and pervade great energy to all sizes of square dance audiences.

Identify within your mind what confident behavior looks like and sounds like for you. Remind yourself to be strong, confident and dynamic. Often opening a dance with a humorous anecdote is an excellent way to break the ice and it will put everyone at ease. I do not recommend a joke, but perhaps something funny and a little awkward that happened at a previous dance, or on the way to this one, that will evoke a smile or a laugh. Establish good eye contact and hold that contact with everyone. Make a warm smile and push ahead even if things are a little awkward. Apply these confident behaviors as you’re practicing (I sometimes practice in front of a mirror. It is very effective). Push through even when it feels uncomfortably awkward and forced.

Related:  Entertainment Pointers For Callers

Maintain all of these confident behaviors in your presentation of yourself. And you will also want to keep filler words such as “OK,” “um,” “so,” and “all right” to a minimum. Good enunciation is an important part of good stage performance in any area of public presentation, so practice good language skills to further boost your confidence.

You can show and feel more confident at all of your dances that you call if you take the time to incorporate some of these great ideas that have been proven to work and ensure that you are both prepared with a good musical program and you have great square dance choreography in your arsenal.

Be professional and ready and make sure you are confident!

Please do not hesitate to reach me if you are a new square dance caller and you have a question! I would be glad to help!

Have a great day!

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: The 25 Alive Choreographic Challenge!

Ruts in Square Dance ChoreographyCaught in a routine of square dance calling the same old sequences of calls or combinations of calls in your program for your dances? Being stuck in a rut is hard to overcome. If you think about it, a rut is a deep crevice that has been worn by overuse. It can be very difficult to jump out of a rut and make it back onto a more productive path for yourself as a square dance caller and this can apply to the dancers, as well!

The best way to break out of it and reach a better place where it will be possible to make progress – in providing more variety and interest – is to take a good look at what you call all the time. There are choreographic sequences that many DANCERS know what is going to be called next, and some dancers anticipate to the point that they stop listening to your calls because they have your modern western square dance calling boring routine down stone dead cold.

Now that is a deep rut indeed!

Overused combinations of calls will always lead the square dance activity down the same old path with the same old rut! Anticipation! Uninteresting and worn out sequences and combinations of calls. Dancer boredom!

Bring it to an end now.

This is the proposed challenge that I present to you as the entertaining caller that you strive to be: the five minute choreographic challenge!

Below are 25 square dance calls that have always turned into a broken record when followed up with the most anticipated sequences that have shown to be…RUTS! Although it may be a little difficult to change all calls, you can change some of the classic and highly anticipated combinations of square dance choreography. But you will have to do a couple of things to allow for dancer success on the floor.

One thing for sure is you will have to allow for a little recovery time if some of the dancers have anticipated the normal expected calls or newer dancers who never were taught very many choreographic possibilities for the calls. Another thing is you may have to occasionally use some key words to prompt the square dancers to get through any new combinations of calls than what they are used to doing. A little known secret that I will share with you is when you use directional key words between unusual combinations of calls this will both give the dancers directional help in addition to supplying the dance floor a little more time to execute the dance moves you present.

I highly recommend that you use your square dance choreographic checkers  on some of the more involved calls. Additionally, spend a minute or two thinking about body flow and what you would follow up the new combinations with. Shoot for five new ideas for every call on this list in twenty five minutes time. Then spend some more time writing out full choreographic module figures that work with your dance program to complete your focus on each call for your challenge. Make this your choreography study project a part of your practice routine.

This is a great booster whether you want to add creative and original sequences to your sets of square dance modules, or add to your arsenal of ideas that you have as a mental image list, or even ideas to incorporate into your sight calling:

  1. Flutterwheel
  2. Veer Left
  3. Walk Around the Left Hand Lady
  4. Tag the Line
  5. Swing Thru
  6. Square Thru
  7. Couples Circulate
  8. Touch a Quarter (from a facing couples box)
  9. Spin the Top
  10. Reverse Flutterwheel
  11. Walk & Dodge
  12. Wheel & Deal
  13. Pass Thru (from facing lines)
  14. Pass Thru (from a facing couples box)
  15. Lead Right
  16. Spin Chain Thru
  17. Scoot Back
  18. Double Pass Thru
  19. Ferris Wheel
  20. Half Tag the Line
  21. Pass the Ocean
  22. (Put) Centers In
  23. Recycle
  24. Touch a Quarter (from facing lines)
  25. Right and Left Grand

This will be an effective mental challenge for you and you will get some new choreography that will break your own bad habits of the “same old same old”…and some dancers can break their habits of anticipating and everyone will enjoy the dancing a lot more!

Related:  One Hour Singing Call Challenge

Write these on recipe cards or store them on your computer for easy use. Let the challenge begin! And good luck!

Call if you are interested in attending my three hour training session for beginning square dance callers in Westminster, CO on May 21. See the flyer on this link for more information:

https://shaunwerkelesquaredancecalleraugustrecords.wordpress.com/2017/03/29/basics-how-to-teach-square-dancing/

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.

Modern Western Square Dance Caller Teaching Guidelines

A great deal of square dancers who are interested in square dance choreography become callers or consider becoming callers because they are fascinated and intrigued by choreography. This is a good platform to build off of. However, not many modern western square dance callers are trained to teach choreography to persons in classes learning to dance. Teaching is an important part of actual calling, but the approaches of teaching square dance is often neglected. One reason is the focus is on actually learning to call a dance as opposed to working on a complete overall program of square dance calling.

So the objective standpoint of a person learning to call is to understand the framework of teaching and why great square dance teachers are so vital to the square dance activity. The first thing to take a look at to understand teaching is to understand learning. There are several learning styles, but the four basic types are:

  • Visual (spatial): You prefer using pictures, images, and spatial understanding.
  • Aural (auditory-musical): You prefer using sound and music.
  • Verbal (linguistic): You prefer using words, both in speech and writing.
  • Physical (kinesthetic): You prefer using your body, hands and sense of touch.

As a square dance caller, you will need to first determine your learning style preference and then examine how you actually teach. If you learn well aurally, then you will be a better fit for teaching square dancing to students in classes and to dancers at dance functions. The reason for this is square dance is a listening experience first, and a dancing experience second. Most teaching for square dance works in this manner.

Verbal communication is the most effective way to present choreography and its definitions and corresponding formations and descriptions. To be a good teacher you need to refine your communication skills and know the calls well – the mechanics, starting and ending positions, explain the changes in positions and formations, and be great at combining the calls together well in choreographic sequences that flow.

Further, visual learning is another huge part of the process in a square dance class. The dancers can see the formations and how to perform some calls when they are simply watching the active persons in their square perform the new calls. After a teaching tip is completed, many students in a class will ask questions about how to execute some call that they have just been exposed to. The best approach in this situation is to ask a few experienced dancers to demonstrate the call and allow visual learning to occur along with reviewing the definition and mechanics involved. This is a strong and robust visualization for many beginners and it is extremely effective.

Another effective tool for teaching dancers is supplying the dancers with a modern square dance instruction booklet. These will be a great help in understanding descriptions and the pictures of dancers performing the calls provide a great visual reference. By using visual methods in addition to aural learning, new dancers will succeed a lot more and have a much better understanding of the choreography. Reinforcement of the calls on a list is a great way to show the dancers their progress and measure their comprehension of the calls and formations, figures and basic mechanics of square dance.

Always present new calls in a class with a complete description of the mechanics of the call along with a detailed and complete definition. As a new caller teacher, you will need to make a list of many choreographic possibilities to teach your square dance students. Start with the basic formations from which to dance the call and build upon that with different variations and beginning and ending positions. Formations are the same. Introduce with the most simple formations and expand into more involved ones. For example, the Static Square is the first one taught. One of the last formations taught at Mainstream level dancing is the Tidal Wave and Tidal 2-Faced Line.

Put some thought into figures and arrangements that you will teach so that the dancers learn optimally. One approach is to teach and present the calls in a way that the students will hear the calls being used by other callers once they graduate from class. Build upon that and then add variations as the dancers progress in understanding the choreography.

Aside from the above pointers, newer callers can also listen to teaching presentations by attending an ongoing square dance class with an established caller. Weekly. The learning opportunities are great when you are able to study the teaching approaches that an experienced caller can show you. Just be particular about who you learn from and how their approach to teaching works. Observe and take notes if you feel the need to. A good caller teacher can give you good teaching habits. Here is some great information on  Creating Square Dance Choreography to give you some ideas on understanding choreography creation.

Most people teach in the same manner that they have a propensity to learn. Whatever learning style they prefer is how they will convey their perception of an idea. Teaching students and expanding their potential by drawing from all of the learning styles is your best bet, and you need to be analytical in studying the mannerisms and habits and methods that your mentor caller uses during the class sessions. By observing, you will see why calls are taught in a particular order, the struggles the dancers have in learning certain moves, and how to effectively reach the students in the class with proper wording and strong teaching skills.

Ask questions of established callers who teach and look for good advice. The best way to learn how to teach is to be offered the chance to teach a specific call on several sessions at an ongoing class and then receive critical feedback from the caller-teacher. This is necessary to travel down the road to improvement. Check into this article on creating choreography:

https://shaunwerkelesquaredancecalleraugustrecords.wordpress.com/2016/02/12/best-guide-for-creating-a-unique-square-dance-choreography-sequence/

Analyze the methods that you observe and apply those approaches to what you want to be as a teacher. Practice ways to teach a particular call when you arrive at a good understanding of what is involved in both learning for the dancers and teaching for you, as a caller. Record yourself teaching a call. Analyze your teaching method and verbal approach. Did you give a clear description and instruction for the call you were teaching? Teach a call or two at a class with an experienced caller so that you get experience and advice on how to improve. Ask the more experienced caller if he can allow you to do this.

Keep in mind that every student in a square dance class will learn differently than you did. Everyone learns differently and you will need to accommodate for those differences. Understand the definitions and mechanics and different possibilities for the various calls that you teach or eventually may teach. Analyze your teaching methods. Use different teaching perspectives and approaches as mentioned above to allow for many learning styles for your classes that you will teach. Great teaching is vital and essential to dancer’s success and enjoyment in the activity!

Lastly, attend a square dance caller school to get more help in all areas of the art of square dance calling! I am offering a free class on May 21,2017 for a beginner’s ground level 3 hour session. Call for more details.

Please feel free to contact me if you are learning to square dance call and you have a question or need some help!

Have a great day!

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.

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.

Rhythm

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!

Thanks,

Shaun Werkele

303-250-4735

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.

 

 

Square Dance Calling: Advanced (A-1 & A-2) Singing Call Figures

There really is no better way to find out how fun and enjoyable Advanced level square dancing is until you give it a try and see for yourself! As a group, everyone will become stronger dancers, new dance moves are learned, you will have lots of laughs, and there are SO many different square dance choreography ideas that you will learn. On day one, so much is taught that opens new doors in challenging and highly technical dance moves that will make for lots of fun. If you dance already, check into a class for Advanced level, you will enjoy it immensely!

If you are a modern square dance caller, it also is important to use some singing calls in your program if you are actively calling and/or teaching the Advanced level. Keep in mind that square dancing is about music first, and the enjoyment of dancing is and will always be centered around this basis. Below are four Advanced modern square dance singing call figures that will fill the bill and make singing call dancing at the A-1 and A-2 levels fun, interesting, and of course, a little more demanding:

CALLING TIP! Once you change your overall choreographic approach and use many good choreographic figures, the dancer’s abilities will increase dramatically!

Heads (Sides) Square Thru Four Hands
Touch a Quarter
Split Circulate and Cross
Wheel Around Once and a Half
Turn & Deal
Touch a Quarter
Split Circulate
Split Circulate and Cross
Swing Corner & Promenade

Heads (Sides) Touch a Quarter
Those Boys Run
Circle Four Halfway
Touch a Quarter
Split Circulate and Cross
Step & Slide
Peel Off
Square Thru 3 Hands
Swing Corner & Promenade

Heads (Sides) Pass the Ocean
Chain Reaction – Turn the Star 1 /2
Boys Run
Pass the Ocean
All Eight Circulate
Linear Cycle
Swing Corner & Promenade

Heads (Sides) Square Thru Four Hands
Touch a Quarter
Split Circulate
Scoot & Dodge
Chase Right
Quarter Thru
Explode the Wave
Girls Fold
Swing Corner & Promenade

Anything and Cross comes in handy for singing call figures, so add this simple foursome to your calling arsenal of choreography. Educate yourself as a caller first, then apply that learning to teaching the dancers to expand their abilities!

Advanced level is for the dancer that has been dancing Mainstream level and PLUS level square dancing for at least 2 years and they want to advance in difficulty. As a prerequisite, they need to be participating in regular weekly dance with a local group. You must have and be able to execute all choreographic moves already learned proficiently and be able to commit to weekly classes to learn the A-1 and A-2 basics and work well in a team environment. Call for more information!

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.