Seven All-Time Most Important Modern Square Dance Calls

The Most Important Mainstream Square Dance Calls…

…And Why They Are…

Square dancing has a deep history of bringing forth choreographic ideas that, through years of use by callers and dancers, has allowed for growth in the complexity and diversity of many basic and fundamental calls. With these roots established originally in traditional square dance, post-World War II saw an explosion in square dance that led to the development of hundreds of square dance calls that evolved and progressed over years of use.

During this period is when square dance reached it’s golden years and everything was in place to allow the development of choreography on a more intricate and complex plateau than had been seen before. Additionally, this is when new square dance formations were established and a transformation in choreography brought the activity to the place it is today.

Following is a list of the most important calls that have been the choreographic backbone of modern western square dancing for the past fifty plus years. This collection of calls is the pillar of this style of dance and, as such, they are the backbone to creating modern square dance choreography for all callers.  These are the most important, but in many ways, some are the most popular for the Mainstream level of square dance as well. A few are very simple, yet most expanded into concepts as years passed in the square dance activity.

Here are my reasons for these important calls and each is supported with examples of other different calls that were written and conceived from these original choreographic icons of square dance:

Run

Run provides a few great possibilities that take dancing further for a couple of reasons. Run does two things: it changes facing direction of the Runner (Centers, Ends, Boys, Girls) and requires the person being “Ran around” to side step into the Runner’s original position without changing facing direction. The Running dancers are more active in executing this move.  Run introduces a fast way to change formations such as from Ocean Waves to Two-Faced Lines. A simple call that transforms the square and positioning quite a lot, and it offers variations in fractional and Cross Runs that change positioning more and enabled the concept of “crossing” at higher dance levels. Run is a basic call with a very basic rule, and many fundamental possibilities can grow out of this call.

Scoot Back

Scoot Back is the one call that moves dancers around quickly and yet brings them back to the exact same set of dancers every time. The call involves using the same hands that are held at the beginning of the call, using the same exact hand for the dancers moving in, and joining the same hand with the same person in the same set-up as initially started. Whether left or right hand formations or Mini-Waves or Standard Ocean Waves, Scoot Back is an enjoyable call that is short and simple and the figure not only has has been the lead-off for many other more involved square dance calls at the Advanced and Challenge levels of choreography for square dance: Scoot and Plenty, Scoot Chain Thru, Scoot and Dodge, Scoot and Weave.

Swing Thru

Swing Thru is a call that is very specific in execution and because of this can pose a challenge to dancers at the Mainstream level. The call is one of the more graceful moves in square dance, however, the initiation of the call with the right hand (Right Hand Rule) can pose some difficulty for many dancers to become fully adept at getting through Swing Thru successfully. Since it can be executed in positions of Facing Couples and both Right and Left Hand Ocean Waves, following the basic rule is slightly more involved. Swing Thru is an antecedent to the “Swing” concept (Centers and Ends Turn Half) which leads to the innovation of many calls that are either compound or complex at the Advanced (A-1 & A-2) and Challenge (C-1, C-2, C-3, C-4) levels. Some examples of this concept include: Swing and Circle, Swing About, Swing and Mix, Swing the Fractions.

Tag The Line/Fractional Tags

Tag the Line is a splendid call that tests dancer’s ability to recognize the center of a Line and execute the passing of dancers and then to take the next direction (literally) whether that direction is an individual turning a quarter (Right, Left, In, Out) or all dancers taking another call after the passing completion. This call requires positional awareness to begin the move, and potentially it can provide a great deal of variety for all involved. Since the dancers pass through several positions on the way through then it becomes possible to establish Tag Positions – Quarter Tag, Half Tag, Three Quarter Tag -and the framework for establishing the call Extend the Tag. Once again, Tag the Line has become a lead-off call that has been combined with other more complex calls, creating quite a few hybrid calls used at higher levels of dance. Some of these include: Tag Back to an Ocean Wave, Vertical Tag, Extend the Tag, Variations of Tags (Half Tag, etc).

Spin Chain Thru

The Spin Chain Thru call is the longest Ocean  Wave Formation call on the Mainstream list and it is comprised of a compound set of Cast Three Quarters and Ends and Centers turn half  that creates a formation change – a connected temporary Ocean Wave in a Facing Diamond formation before it ends with Parallel Ocean Waves. It cleverly combines two concepts – “Spin” and “Chain,” two concepts that had expanded modern square dance in it’s heyday and have been the heart of conceptual definition for many other “Spin” and “Chain” calls. Numerous other compound calls on higher level dance lists owe a tip of the hat to the time withstanding parent figure Spin Chain Thru such as: Spin Chain the Gears, Relay the Deucey, Spin Chain & Circulate the Gears, Relay the Top, Spin Chain the Line.

Square Thru

Square Thru brings a lot to square dancing for several reasons. This fundamental call breaks down to the variations of Normal, Left, Fractions (how many hands are used) and it offers a lot of versatility in choreography. Perhaps used by square dance callers more than any other call ever (singing call figures exploit this call to excess) this move, too, is a parent figure for many other variations of the “Square” concept that have been danced for years at higher levels of square dance – Square Chain Thru, Square the Bases, Square Chain the Top – all were devised from the parent call Square Thru as their foundation.

Circulate

Circulate is one of the primary calls that takes dancers quickly from one area of the square to another without changing the formation. This is huge, the simple “follow the leader” application of the rule for circulate which works from many formations and all dancers advancing is an independent move that does not involve other dancers. Or does it?  Although each dancer moves independently to the next position on the floor, without total harmony of the whole square in execution, a breakdown can come about quite quickly. Further, there is the most widespread possibilities with Circulate from a simple Column to Parallel Ocean Waves and moving beyond Mainstream to higher levels the creative possibilities are vast. This call is simple, yet many dancers never master all the possible combinations that can be called. Even the basic Circulates at the Mainstream level such as All Eight, Single File, Box , Split and Couples, or specifically, Boys, Girls, Centers, Ends, and when combined with Half fractions ( Once and a Half, etc.) can instill tons of new ideas that make Circulate the most versatile of all square dance calls ever!

All of these fundamental square dance calls have withstood the test of time, they are fun choreography to implement and execute, and they provide unlimited variety. The understanding of the mechanical basics of these calls creates an important step for both callers and dancers to advance from Mainstream up to and through the Advanced to Challenge levels. Improvement and advancement for some dancers requires learning in a more robust manner, and similarly, callers need to be quite proficient at choreography to master teaching on a progressive level.

Feel free to call me at anytime if you have a square dance calling question! I will be teaching a one-shot calling class on September 10, 1-4 pm at the Ranch Office Building at 11859 Pecos Street in Westminster, CO. Hope to see you there!

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.

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Modern Western Square Dance: The One Hour Singing Call Challenge!

Modern Western square dance calling evolved from the basic roots of  the original style of traditional square dance . The levels of dancing were established in a need to standardize the calls used and to provide an established amount of choreography for callers to use in an evening of dancing.

So using the lists that were established years ago, take the square dance singing call one hour challenge! Set an alarm or timer for an hour’s time and get a couple of pieces of paper and get ready to write. Get out your lists of standardized square dance calls and use your choreography checkers for this exercise.

Now write as many ORIGINAL square dance singing call figures you can in that set hour.

Now this is the caveat. You have to try hard to come up with original ideas, not ones that you have learned from other sources and callers.

This will take some concentration and some creative ideas to land upon some good figures. Having a passion for the choreography side of dancing that goes back to when I was quite young and new in my education in square dance calling, I developed this singing call challenge idea while I was watching television with my parents and the program was not holding my attention.

So I started writing singing call figures in my head during the show and jotted them down on sticky notes. I came up with eighteen new sequences in just an hour’s time. And these were good solid figures that were original and unique in one way or another.

So see how you do. If you would like to share any of your ideas from your challenge session, send them to me and I will publish them here for everyone to use.

The following is a nice pair of simple and basic Mainstream square dance calls that incorporate Boys Circulate Girls Trade from 2-faced lines. Both sequences move all the dancers around the square quite a lot. The first figure is an unpredictable break I have set to lead to a unique “get out” with the Lead Right for the Swing Corner and the second one is a little simpler and is a lot of fun for dancing:

 

CALLING TIP!
Calls that create interaction and allow the dancers to respond back to the caller are a needed part of your dance. Make sure that you get the dance floor to sing with you or say something out loud!

Heads (Sides) Promenade Halfway
Lead Right Veer Left
Boys Circulate Girls Trade
Ferris Wheel
Centers Sweep a Quarter & Back Away
The Others Lead Right
Swing Corner & Promenade Home

 

Heads (Sides) Lead Right
Swing Thru
Boys Run
Boys Circulate  Girls Trade
Bend the Line
Pass Thru
Partner Trade
Boys Walk Girls Dodge
Swing Corner & Promenade Home

 

The Singing Call Challenge is a great booster to add to the list of Methods to Advance Your Square Dance Calling Ability

Good luck to you when you give this a try. It is a good mental workout and nets some great choreography that you can use for always! Put the new singing call breaks on recipe cards and on your computer for future use. And of course, practice and memorize some of these, too!

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 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.

Mainstream Square Dance Calling: Singing Call Figures and What You Need to Know

I had a great opportunity to learn square dance calling from a local popular caller when I was fourteen years old. Dave Kenney, who was the president of the Denver Square Dance Caller’s Association 1975-77, taught me quite a lot about choreography, either directly or indirectly. Dave taught and called for quite a few clubs in the Denver area, and he taught the advanced and challenge levels of square dancing in the Denver Colorado area . I learned a lot about moving dancers around within a square.

Additionally, I learned to develop a great visualization of more than one dancer in the position in the square from a “mental image” that I draw from when I create choreography. By developing this ability, I can write choreography in my head, and I write quite a few figures for singing calls without moving what is referred to as “square dance caller’s checkers,” a tool that can be used to aid in the creation of square dance choreography. What is great about this ability is I usually start calling and I “sight call” the dancers in my head while I practice to a new singing call. This takes a lot of practice, so work on visualizing more than one dancer in a set of four dancers for starters.

Creating choreography with square dance checkers is still the best, and I recommend that you check anything you write in your head if you try this mental image method to create singing call figures. Once in a while, your written figure might be wrong, and it definitely is better to find that out yourself than when you are actually calling the dance!

Here is a great basic modern square dance singing call choreography figure incorporating two nice elements that provide a little more variety for the dance floor. The square dance figure progresses the ladies around the square just as normal, but the sequence uses a Pass the Ocean and an Extend (the Tag) to start things out. Changing things up by using figures like the one below breaks the monotony and predictability of starting singing call figures with “Heads Square Thru 4.”

Keep in mind that square dance calls in a singing call figure other than starting with a Square Thru Four make for a much more interesting square dance ! If you are a caller and you need help with something, or you have a question, please feel free to contact me as a resource for learning to square dance call, whether you have a question, or you need an opinion of a qualified calling coach!

CALLING TIP! Consider the abilities and the dance level of the local area club and adjust the choreography accordingly.

Heads (Sides) Pass the Ocean
Ladies Trade
Extend (the Tag)
Swing Thru
Boys Run
Boys Circulate
Bend The Line
Square Thru Three Hands
Swing Corner & Promenade Home

Feel free to contact Shaun Werkele square dance caller for your club or group. Shaun is booking for both national and local square dance events in 2016,2017, 2018, and 2019. Call to find out about a specific time that you are considering to fill with a unique caller who calls to your local square dance club in Denver Colorado or any other areas across the nation that matches the style and level of dancing that your group is most comfortable with.

Square dancing at your group event can add a personal touch that is unique and fun. Feel free to call to make sure you schedule a modern western square dance caller who will provide a ton of fun and high energy entertainment that you will enjoy!

The best way to make reservations or book for a club dance is to call

Shaun Werkele at (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 information provided here serves as a source for square dance calling 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.