Panoramic Aspects of Calling Square Dances

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  Related:  How to Teach Square Dancing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Best Regards,

Shaun Werkele

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 calling education training and perspectives on dance. Future articles will be developed to improve the programs of square dancing and how those learning to square dance call can help contribute to the preservation of both modern western square dancing and traditional square dancing and to aid in the growth of the square dance activity

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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.

 

The Sticky Tricky Singing Call In Modern Square Dance

Singing calls are an obvious and straightforward way for a beginning square dance caller to start calling. The approach is to learn some of the lyrics of the popular song you choose to use – and it is easy—the idea is to practice the supplied figure which comes with the singing call record and then simply learn the melody using the words of the choreography rather than the words of the song. Sounds simple… not so much!

I can remember back when I first started learning to call (I was young and my voice had not even changed yet), mimicking the caller on the instrumental side of the 45 rpm record. It took me a year or so before I started to actually understand the basic mechanics of square dance choreography and the relationship of how the figure supplied with the record actually worked with the amount of beats and the melody of the popular song.

There are elements that make for a great singing call. The most crucial – does the combined choreography figure fit the timing of the 64 beat phrasing that has been the mainstay of singing calls, tracing it’s beginning to the traditional heyday of square dance?  Timed out figures are quite important to ensure that the dance is smooth and enjoyable.

And another method that has evolved over time is the interchangeability of choreography in a singing call. Using figures that square dance callers change throughout the song is an extremely effective way to provide both variety and appropriateness, that being square dance calls that match the level of the group for which you are calling.

Changing dance choreography within a singing call is not a required agenda, but this allows freedom to be both creative and more diverse and it will allow a caller to use figures of their own choice rather than to be restricted by any original sequence of calls that were provided with the singing call initially. Sometimes changing choreography for a singing call is necessary if a square dance caller wants to use the music, but the original supplied figure on the vocal version is for the mainstream level and the dancers at the group dance the PLUS level. This definitely would warrant the need for changing up the choreography for the group’s ability.

For the beginner, a new caller needs to have been practicing and spending some time with several singing call figures for every learned singing call for a minimum of several months. The end goal is to reach a plateau of comfort in presenting new replacement figures that are timed well with the singing call and learn how to place the commands in relation to the allotted time space of a 64 beat musical set of musical phrases so then the caller is not reading the calls off a sheet and begins to progress. By learning the melody, understanding the musical phrasing of the song and the timing structure, then the student caller will know the singing call thoroughly and then they can experiment with altering the choreographic figures within the song. This can take time.

This progression of learning will feel quite uncomfortable and rather strange in the beginning. A square dance mentor can help a new caller with guidance and suggestions about where to place the calls in relation to the music and how to add directional words to fit. The guidance of a square dance coach can help with learning to practice many different figures within singing calls and to find which sequences are better suited for the program and the style of song that is used.

New callers can research choreography written for singing calls from books and use other figures from other singing call records. This is a good start on learning to use and change out figures for other more useful ones. All callers need to work on writing their own sequences for a couple of different reasons. One reason is to ensure that your choreography works in terms of timing and resolution. The figures must end with Swinging the Corner on the end of the figure for the corner progression to work out.

I also recommend that you check the figures available with any square dance music you have purchased. Anything that has been written may not have choreography that works out. One call left out of a sequence will make it not physically possible to execute for the dancers. Or another thing that can happen is the figure does not resolve to “Swing the Corner” at the end.  Always check through the figures with square dance checkers before practicing those sequences with the singing call, and certainly before the choreography is used in a performance.

Recording your practice sessions is a requirement to ensure that singing call performance is smooth and to test different choreography patterns. Dance the practice parts that incorporate new calls to find out how well the timing is and how the different sequences feel to the dancer.

Square dance callers that teach square dance classes will find that new dancers do not have great reaction time in executing calls and succeed in dancing a correctly timed standard singing call figure. The solution to getting dancer success is to assemble figures that allow for more time in dancer execution, in other words, simply write figures that take less than 64 beats to dance and give the floor more time to move through the choreography. This is a better approach than pushing correct timing on calls that can create stress for newer dancers and encourage breaking down.

When calling a dance party a caller does not have to use singing call choreography that changes partners with a “Swing Corner” if the dancers are not ready to handle rotating partners around on a singing call. Easy is the key to calling square dance parties. Just use simple figures that work well  for beginners and have the dancers swing their partner instead of their corner each time. This simplified method of calling less should only be used until the dancers are ready and comfortable for a standard correctly timed figure. Then apply 64 beat figures to all singing calls to pull new dancers forward and keep them interested and comfortably challenged.

Singing calls are easier than hoedown calling. They are more fun in some ways. But they can be tricky. And sticky. And it takes a lot of work and preparation to be able to perform a singing call well!

Have a great day!

Shaun Werkele

303-250-4735

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

 
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.