Palooza Effect: Selecting Square Dance Music

The Importance and Methods of Selecting the Best Music for Modern Square Dance Calling

The selection of music for a square dance is a really big deal and all modern square dance callers should be spending a lot of time making strong decisions in choosing the best music and songs for a night’s dancing, whether it is a festival, dance weekend, or even a square dance party. Think about how the music emotionally charges people, elevates their moods and it can change their overall feelings. It is the energy of the music that brought everyone to the square dance in the first place!

Turn the Beat Around:

In selecting music for a square dance, the type of event and the people in attendance will be paramount in your final choices for music. Younger crowds put out a lot of energy, and so consequently, up-tempo and faster back-beat songs are in order. The older set will enjoy songs from their past and will heap appreciation upon you for using music they can identify with and enjoy.

Related: Musical Variety: Advice For Square Dance Callers

Find Your Inspiration!

Your source for musical inspiration is a well that you can draw from in daily life. Think about how and where you hear music and how that psychologically affects your experiences on an emotional level. Use these opportunities to culminate some musical material for yourself for your own program of square dances that you call:

  • A song you danced to recently
  • A song you heard On Youtube
  • Music you noticed in a movie
  • A song you heard on a square dance music website
  • A song you heard at a restaurant
  • Perusing through a collection of old vinyl records

Finding the music is only half of the game. Next, you need to figure out if the song is right for you. Intently listen only to the instrumental version that you would be calling to at a dance. This is important. When you are selecting and purchasing square dance music make a determination whether the song rendition is worthy of your performing style and vocal capabilities. Also understand that you can change the choreography – and probably should – to suit your dancer’s needs. The recording artist’s choreography or vocal performance for a piece of music should not be the deciding factor in your decision to purchase a particular square dance song.

Related:  Guidelines For Practicing Square Dance Calling

(Hey You!) Comfortably Sung

Music that is comfortable for you to sing to is vital. If you have ever taken voice lessons (I recommend that you do), you might be familiar with the classification of singers as in a vocal range such as a soprano, mezzo-soprano, or contralto (alto) if you are a female caller, and a countertenor, tenor, baritone, or bass if you are a male caller. Test your voice according to the following specifications on this video:

 

 

Music that you can handle comfortably in your singing performance will allow you to call longer, with less energy, and without strain. You will sound much better and everyone wants that situation. After all, the people attending a square dance expect a good time and you will want to sound your best.

The Crescendo:

The release of dopamine when people listen to and enjoy music makes it an extremely rewarding and fulfilling activity. It relaxes and stimulates people and they are able to emotionally respond to it. Whether you use traditional square dance music, hip-hop, electropop, or the oldies genre, you have the responsibility to let people’s spirits soar and connect with them on a level that allows for them to have so much fun that they remember the get-together for the rest of their lives!

 

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 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 Calling: Focus in Mind

For a square dance caller, a deadline can be a remarkable tool for productivity. When the upcoming dance date is around the corner and the program must be fully prepared and practiced, the deadline is a stressful but effective motivator. (sometimes there are some upsides to stress). Even the most clever procrastinator can be made to respect the looming presence of a deadline date on the calendar.

As powerful as a deadline can be, it’s not always the right tool for the job. While everyone in the real world has successfully submitted to them in the past, it can be tempting to apply the old “do or die” to everything we want to accomplish. But there are times where an arbitrary deadline can actually foul a process, limit ideas, and prevent us from attaining results.

Deadlines are fantastic for tasks with known outcomes and relatively clear paths to completion. Even if those paths are occasionally diverted by obstacles and unforeseen challenges, the deadline is perfect when we know what we have to achieve.

Being on task and on schedule go hand in hand.

But when it comes to creative processes such as those used by entertainers and artists, focus and discipline can be quite different. Without clearly defined outcomes, a deadline is less meaningful. The value is not in the finishing of a thing by a certain date, but the iterative ongoing process in satiating personal productive curiosity, giving attention and making efforts in improving and honing your craft.

“Increase your business” or “Create a better style of square dance calling” can both fit into this category, especially when the specific qualities of the final outcome are not all so clear for all to see.

Keep in mind that advancing involves more than just having a goal and focusing on the deadline. Here is a highly effective method for ensuring that you’re putting in the time and effort required to develop these process-based projects.  It is the concept of the time log.

Related:  MY TIME LOG: How To Use It!

By using a study and practice regimen like MY TIME LOG (it is free, check it out), you can both track the amount of dedicated time you spend working on your overall improvement goals and you will follow a more effective program. By noting everything in your practice routine you can keep a running total of your completed efforts. Read more about it in the link above.

Track your time spent on choreography and what those goals are.

Set practice sessions with an improvement log.

Create a notebook to access when you are calling WHAT YOUR PROGRAM WILL BE and what you need to focus on.

Related:  How To Practice Efficiently

Creating Modern Square Dance Choreography

If you need to sit down and write some choreography, get serious about it and sit down and write something. Don’t login and check your email. Keep every distraction away from you that you can! Resist the temptation to read internet news articles and check in on distracting topics that are not helping you improve. Get out your square dance checkers and take an idea and see what you can come up with.

Start by taking a look at your overall choreographic program and spend a little time daily writing some ideas that work well together. Here are two ideas that you can try in a square dance workshop.

You could try springboarding off of this fresh and novel idea of using Spin the Top in some unconventional ways starting with this simple zero module. The Square Thru sets up the flow of motion for the dancer’s hands to start the Spin the Top with the right hand. Since Spin the Top is almost always called after a Swing Thru in Parallel Ocean Waves this is a bit of a curve ball for most dancers. Similarly, the Wheel & Deal takes the dancers out to a Facing Line of Four from a Tidal 2-Faced Line and this might take some good directionalization on your behalf:

Heads Square Thru
Box 1-4 (Zero or Corner Box)
Spin the Top
Boys Run
Wheel & Deal
Slide Thru

The next choreographic snippet you might consider is using Half Tag the Line with a different twist in having the Boys leading the march by facing in and starting the move. This example puts everything back to normal quickly and resolves to a Zero Box:

Box 1-4 (Zero or Corner Box)
Star Thru
Pass the Ocean
Girls Trade
Girls Run
Half Tag (the Line)
Boys Run
Right & Left Thru
Slide Thru

Related: Hey, Flo! It’s Square Dance Perfect Zero Module Madness!

Make Practice Time Effective

Using MY TIME LOG is effective in multiple ways. First, it holds you accountable to improvement. By keeping a simple record, you can visualize how much time you’re really spending in pursuit of making noticeable improvement. Second, by programming and planning your practice time, this method can give you the motivation and discipline to keep going when your motivation has lulled. Third, it keeps you focused. Fourth, it will foster enthusiasm by starting a program that can reset your  improvement over time.

The second part of the practice regimen for MY TIME LOG is to log your vocal practice time in three ways:

  1. Rotate your song repertoire – thereby expanding your catalog
  2. Add the “One Thing” – one new idea into your practice daily
  3. Review and practice songs only twice and record and aim for improvement

Think about this: The simple act of  getting realigned and focusing on stopping the unproductive time you have spent not working on improving is enough to get you going again. Another thing that tracking and logging can help you with is actually seeing more objectively how to adjust your expectations. Understanding how much time it’s taken you to get as far as you’ve gotten can be recorded, tracked and noticeable improvement can then be realized. Finally, the log of hours can manifest within you a true sense of discipline and pride in that discipline. You have evidence of your improvement journey and you can always reflect upon and be proud of that.

Related: Square Dance Calling Performance Boosters!

If you’ve got any ideas or suggestions on how square dance callers can be more productive please let me know in the comments. I will cover it in an article or two. I’m always looking for better ways to get more done. The process never really stops.

Have a great week!

Shaun Werkele

303-250-4735

 

 

 

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

 

 

Square Dance Calling: Entertainment Presence Pointers

As a modern western square dance caller, there are many elements that have to be considered in terms of performance. One highly effective practice technique that I recommend is putting some time in front of a mirror while you are practicing. Working on standing in front of the mirror and practicing your calling routine is an entertaining technique as old as reflection itself. This kind of self study has existed since man has been able to speak, since you can see yourself reflected and this allows you to view clearly what you say, how you move. It is a tried and true practice approach that goes back a long, long time.

The practice approach is incredibly simple, yet the real hang-up is actually putting in the effort every day. Nevertheless, there are many things that you can improve upon by doing this consistently.

You will want to focus on your standing posture, your tone of voice, accent, pauses between sentences when you are speaking and your facial expressions. Above everything else, always talk clearly and slowly and loudly enough to be understood clearly. This is something that must be practiced to show any significant improvement.

The actual calling part is similar to the above. You need to know what movements to make with your hands and when to use hand gestures while you are practicing your delivery of choreography and dance figures. First, watch yourself moving your hands before you make any changes. Then see where you move in a jittery and erratic way. Are you moving too fast or standing in place without moving your feet at all? Standing still is not good. You will not be very dynamic in your presence. Do you have a tendency to get a little nervous and then shuffle your feet back and forth and sway? Knowing what to do with your stance and how to stand and move with confidence is a great start to improving your stage presence.

Related:  For The Square Dance Caller: Sparkle Your Entertainment!

Not knowing what to do with your hands can lead to you making fast gestural movements. This is not a desirable approach. Slow down your movements until they are relaxed and calm in projection. Conversely, you do not want to be afraid to use your arms and hands when calling. Good strong gestures will only make you appear confident and strong. Study the hand movements of performers singing on television and take notes. Move your hands in similar ways as the big stars do. They have spent many hours practicing their presence in terms of gestures, moving on stage, and even their facial expressions and smile.

Try to take a slower and elegant stance with calculated and deliberate slow walking steps. Moving around is OK and taking up some space with confidence is the end goal. You want your movements to seem powerful, yet effortless as you square dance call. Eye contact with dancers is a must.

With the advent of laptops to provide music for callers, this has led to many callers constantly staring at their laptop screens to read choreography. This is an absolutely horrible way to entertain a crowd of dancers. There is no engagement. There is no eye contact with the dancers.

You look as if you are reading off of your laptop, because, well, you are!

Think about the dancer’s viewpoint when you are doing this. You can be more entertaining if you break away from this bad habit.

Related:  Square Dancers’ Expectations of Callers

The best way to do this is to spend a lot more time practicing with minimal glances at your computer screen. Memorize more square dance modules if you must. Work on mental image calling. Watch yourself closely in front of a mirror. If you have this habit of relying on your computer screen, break away from it by moving your hands, working on your stance, and make sure you see in the mirror a person who is captivating and engaging, thereby making your calling time on stage appealing and attractive to watch and enjoyable for all at the event that you call, whether you are performing at a beginner hoedown or a major regional or national convention!

So take a look at your practice time…in a mirror!

One element that I work on with callers is becoming more engaging. I am available for consultation, private training, and I even offer free modern square dance caller school sessions from time to time.

Feel free to contact me at any time!

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.

Three Ways to Trick Yourself into Square Dance Calling Better

Sometimes tricking someone can be a really good thing. Particularly if the person you are tricking is yourself and the thing is about focusing on becoming a better square dance caller. And sometimes getting motivated to improve can be a little frustrating. The thing about motivation and improvement is if you are feeling unfocused you cannot move forward optimally. You can read more about achieving mastery in square dance calling  to help you out, but there has to be a starting point.

Aiming for improvement in something requires two things. Setting goals and then honing in on stimulating your focus to press ahead and gain ground on those areas that you want to excel in.

And this is where the trick comes into the picture…

In order to see progress and improvement in square dance calling, try this set of methods to become as focused as you can:

1. “Worst Should Always Be First”

Dreaded parts of your square dance calling need to be tackled first. Then that dreaded part will not be looming over your head.

Plus you will have a great initial sense of accomplishment that will enable you to crush the rest of your practice session. For example, working on timing in a hoedown opening sequence so that the phrasing and delivery of commands is succinct and tight is very important. Although generally more enjoyable to practice, singing calls should take a lesser concentration of your time than hoedown calling so that you can improve in this crucial part of square dance calling that will improve your overall style and delivery.

2. Use an Effective Listing Method

Instead of making a list of things that you only want to work on, try organizing tasks by a hierarchy of priority instead.
Create lists prioritized and labeled by:
1.  “have to get done”
2.  “should get done”
3.  “want to get done”

Obviously the one area that you do not enjoy working on will be your “have to get done.” Everything trickles down in priority from there.

Then break up your “to-do” list into smaller more manageable pieces. Then you will make progress a step at a time and in a more focused and organized fashion. Apply “worse should always be first” and you will see much faster improvement in your square dance calling. This will take some time and thought to set great and really workable lists, but in the end, they will save you time, frustration, and allow you to achieve your goals.

Related: Modern Square Dance Calling: How to Practice Efficiently

Set up two sets of lists, a daily practice schedule list and a more long term list with set goals. Prioritize these by choreography, ways that you want to be more entertaining, improvement in your singing voice, whatever areas that are needed to be on the lists. Just make sure that they are in the proper order of importance following the schedule above.

3. Stick to a “Slacking Off” Schedule

Spend your other time focusing on other aspects of your calling that you want to improve on that are lower on the list. Look for a special interest in each subject for which you do not feel motivated. For example, if writing square dance choreography does not thrill you but you are interested in improving your knowledge of interesting and effective sequences, you may be able to set aside some time in your day to listen to an instructional CD to learn new ideas that you can incorporate into your dance program. Use your square dance checkers and force yourself to write a few interesting but simple ideas that will engage the dancers without spinning their heads off!

Related: 5 Methods You Probably Are Not Using With Your Choreographic Checkers

Make a progress chart for yourself and assess your progress. Modify your list if you have to. Additionally, make yourself a reward for working so hard in your practice. It can be a material item or simply a reward that you will enjoy in your life. Always reward yourself with a goof-off break that you can kick back on and relax with.

Hope this helps you in staying focused and on a faster and more direct path to calling improvement, whether you are just learning to square dance call, or you are an experienced square dance caller looking for a boost in stimulating some new personal calling tricks of your own!

Remember, it is OK to be a slacker, as long as you have earned the “slack off” time!

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 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.