Square Dance Calling: Traditional Ideas In Modern Western Square Dance!

When you want to spice up your square dance calling approach, I recommend that you take a look at what has been done in the past and put a new twist on it. Just think about how many modern artists, musicians and creative persons in the everyday walk of life throughout our history have piggybacked off of ideas that were previously created. Many have used ideas, concepts and inventions that had influenced them in creating directly from their own past. Very often, before they even became successful, they took that idea, incorporated it into their catalog of ideas, perhaps changing it a bit, and voila! A new and influential idea becomes popular and is used in the mainstream of life.

ONE THING!: Try replacing and inserting this simple two call combination at least twice in an evening’s dance with a traditionally based call like a very simple Circle Up Four Halfway:
Right & Left Thru   Veer Left
Replace with:
Circle 4 Halfway   Veer Left

Square dance callers can use this device to launch new ideas through creativity.  Combining traditional and modern square dance ideas is a great way to do this kind of thing. You can really spice up a program by putting a new and exciting presentation of traditional ideas within your choreography in a night’s dance.

Related:  Modern Western Square Dance: What Really is Traditional?

 

Old traditional square dance choreography figures and even the rhyming “filler” language that was used in the dances of yesteryear can be incorporated in between any type of  modern square dance figures and in the delivery of square dance calls everywhere, at any dancing level. Here is an example. Try replacing and inserting this traditionally based timing/filler word phrase and memorizing it. Then you can use this when the square dancers are executing a Right & Left Grand in an evening’s dance and inject some “old style” into the night:

Right & Left Grand- a Grando Right and a Left go round a hand and hand and a meet your Partner- Promenade ago round

Replace with:

Right & Left Grand- a Grand Right and a go and a high and low and a meet your Beau- Promenade ago round

This kind of change-up can be a “ONE THING” idea you can use in your practice regimen. Building a large arsenal of both choreography ideas and fun filler words in your performances can strengthen your calling program and lead you to improvement, raise dancer’s abilities and help out the entire square dance activity by leaps and bounds!

Related:  Traditional Square Dancing Choreography “Pop Goes the Weasel”

In the end, make it a tradition to use traditional square dance calls from the past and inject some strong, interesting and seemingly “new” and fresh ideas into your game of entertaining in the modern arena!

Related:  The Traditional List of Square Dance Songs!

 

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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Square Dance Calling Made Easier: Six Tricks You Should Know!

Strong Focus with a Square Dance Educator and a Smart Practice Regimen Can Propel Your Square Dance Calling to New Heights

1.  Start With a Strong Mindset and a Song or Two…

A strong focus is necessary to achieving anything in life. For square dance calling a strong will to improve will carry you far. With the right frame of mind, you can corral together your mental strengths and work on removing your weaknesses.  Performance of square dance calling takes a lot of focus to become proficient. Only then can you succeed on a higher scale than you are currently at. Take your enthusiasm and energy and launch things off with the purchase of a couple of good, solid songs with a simple melody and a strong and driving back beat. As a new caller, you will have a tendency to buy more square dance music than you initially need.

Remember your repertoire needs to only be what you can physically call in an evening. For a start, music you use right now is a path to reaching a higher plateau in your abilities, so pick that enthusiasm and make some goals!

2.  Goal Setting…

Start your improvement with goals. Make time in your daily schedule that you can get focused on calling and use that practice to boost your knowledge and vocal improvement and really make it rewarding. There’s no absolutely right manner to approach many things in life, but with set goals at least you are on track  – starting with learning the proper way to deliver calls in time, writing strong choreography that the dancers will like, strengthening your vocal performance, selecting powerful songs in your program, all of these areas need to have goals in place and a schedule focused on how to reach the plateau that you are striving for.

In other words, use a structure that aims your practice with your end goal – to basically improve your calling on an attainable and effective scale. So make reasonable goals. Goals will drive your improvement.

Related:  My Time Log Calling Practice Sheets

3.  Analyze and Improve

After you have goals, you need to analyze your current abilities and your weaknesses and objectively learn how to improve from that analysis. If you can commit to a daily practice session take time to analyze your regimen and the details of what you practice.

You should make notes about what to work on to improve and strengthen your ability. Study square dance choreography and make it something that you take an analysis on in terms of dancing – good flow and mental difficulty – and spend time studying regularly. Just taking the effort to step into analyzing the things you do will provide you the stepping stones to improve and it will at the same time prevent you from making the habitual mistakes you most likely are continually falling into doing far too often (the rut trap).

Related:  Master Square Dance Calling

Analyze what you want to accomplish, practice it. Practice your program and then analyze it.  It’s one of the very best ways to reach that place of being professional and experienced and relaxed and ready!

4.  Practice Schedule

Being fluent in anything takes hard work and practice. Your performance of square dance songs on a highly proficient level will take some time. Set aside a regular time slot to work on your practice sessions. Decide on how much time you can realistically afford to invest in improvement. It is absolutely essential that you do this to reach the goals that you have set. Even without the consideration of setting goals, you need to always strive to find a new way to provide interest and pump up the energy in your performance. With goals, all that is needed is discipline to become proficient. If you falter in maintaining your practice schedule, you will sacrifice reaching any plateau that you want to accomplish. Long term gains depend upon being consistent.

For instance, if you want to become a better traditional style square dance caller, study some old choreography figures and then add those ideas to your well of your square dance calling ideas yourself. Historic and traditional square dancing makes for a strong background for all of square dancing and you can draw from that heritage for ideas that you can always use in innovative ways. Call with devotion and reap the rewards. When you’re focused on your practice and improvement the whole learning routine becomes easy and exciting on a personal level.

5.  Study the Art of Calling a Square Dance

Callers in the past have created a legacy and a creative library to draw from for new ideas. It is important to realize that you can take ideas and apply them to your style that you are working to develop. From the traditional square dance masters in the beginning of square dance to modern day square dance artists in the art of square dance calling, learn and then use those ideas to advance. In order to improve yourself as a caller you must never stop being committed. Follow through with your plan and this is how you can improve by adding new ideas and variations on the original called ideas from yesteryear and you will come closer to moving forward.

Look at other callers and what they do. Both good and bad things. You can learn from their strengths and weaknesses in their technique, program and developed abilities. Analyze them and then take a look at yourself and fill in the wholes that will make you a stronger and more effective caller.

6.  Education in Square Dance Resources

Weaknesses are usually based upon lack of skill and knowledge. Valid and reliable opinions about how to improve can be applied to how you approach your square dance calling improvement situation. Any feedback you receive needs to be smart and honestly supportive and helpful.

Opinions on this scale are constructive, and sometimes a bad opinion can adversely put down a newer caller. Getting any feedback on your calling should come from a caller coach who can direct you in the most effective areas of improving in many areas such as selecting music, writing choreography, learning to entertain, or even overcoming obstacles such as weak teaching habits with new dancers. This is when you can get focused on improvement approaches.

Keep in mind that everyone’s approach is going to be a little different, and so is their motivation. But the discipline of working in a disciplined practice regimen with the guidance of a square dance caller coach can elevate your improvement on a much higher scale! Stay focused and be committed to learning in areas that you want to advance in.

Related:  Square Dance Calling School

This article is not a “one size fits all” guideline. Every caller will need to practice in tune with their individual set of goals, and many will need to practice in vastly different ways to achieve their ultimate end-goal: mastery of calling.

Contact me for any help in square dance caller training. Smart habits, directed goals and doing the right things to get you what you want to learn will only lead to better square dance calling for the entire activity to enjoy!

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 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: How to Engage

Create a Festive and Positive Environment at the Square Dances that You Call

If you want to be well remembered and really get the square dancers at your event engaged, you need to make your square dance calling presentation fun and enjoyable. Without coming off as old-fashioned, corny and, even worse, not projecting a sense of trying too hard and appearing overly eager to please your group of dancers., being dynamic and engaging could take a little work on your behalf. And if you follow some simple guidelines, then you will do a lot better!

A good performance at a dance or event lacks getting stressed out. This leads to an end result of failing to perform all that well. Luckily, calling a great square dance is something that can be practiced and perfected. Focusing on being interesting is a great start, but let’s look at the most important aspects of giving a memorable and fun night to your square dance crowd.

Start Off Right

At the beginning of the night, you are new to the entire square dance club. There is little rapport, no trust in your ability as you have not called yet, and the atmosphere is fairly neutral. Even if some of the dancers that have come know you personally, the style of your calling will be a little foreign to them. The best way to encourage a warm and friendly atmosphere is to get some kind of emotional response out of the dance floor right at the beginning. The first tip is all about connecting and feeling the dancers out on their abilities and strengths in terms of choreography. You want to engage, it doesn’t matter what you particularly do, you just need to connect with everyone on a warm and personal level. Laughter, calling a fun little quip on a Flutterwheel, whatever you can do to get all of the dancers out of that initial feeling of indifference with you. There are different kinds of effective ice-breakers to start a night’s dance, but generally speaking, the most successful callers utilize one of these tactics:

  • Surprise the entire dance floor
  • Provide a few simple yet unexpected square dance get outs
  • Drop a bombastic statement after squaring up the dancers
  • Say an interesting and fun anecdote
  • Tell a short joke
  • Open up with a short childhood story that has a humorous ending
  • Quote a famous person and elaborate on it from some personal experience
  • Use an interesting or inspirational bit of nostalgia
  • Mention something significant about a recent sports team or recent social event

Just remember if you use an engaging tactic that you need to keep whatever you do short and move on once you’ve gotten a reaction. Strive to keep things light and consistent. Famous speakers throughout all of history have known the importance of keeping their words short and simple and in projecting well thought out sentences packed with focused meaning. To be effective, you must not meander or carry on for too long and lose the attention of the dancers. They came to dance! Allow them to do so, and on a grand scale!

Build a Choreographic Program

Ease the dancers into more involved square dance choreography by focusing on building upon modules that you can combine and then make those more involved. Important choreographic ideas need to be presented with a constant and smooth presentation throughout the night’s program. Once you’re done warming up the crowd with the initial first tip, you can ease them into important choreographic ideas that you will be presenting. This begins with tip number two. Keep the same consistent presentation style in your calling all night. You need to have a specific structure that you won’t deviate from too much at any given point. Everything will go easier if you just keep things interesting and engaging and efficiently creating an enjoyable atmosphere for everyone present is key.

Focus On Excitement

From an entertaining viewpoint, if you’ve started off a bit ironic, using dry wit, you can’t just jump into a boring monologue. If you’ve started off with a bang, telling a couple of great little jokes and getting the crowd riled up, you have to keep them happy by throwing in little jokes here and there throughout the entire evening. A good game plan consists of several important singing calls that need to be performed well. This means working up a few singing calls that you are able to engage well with and perform well in terms of singing and entertaining.

Avoid Lengthy Announcements

With the club announcements there is a strong tendency to lose the audience fairly quickly, and after 3-4 minutes it certainly can become a test of endurance for the few bravest listeners. Not only will people’s attention start to drop rapidly after sitting or standing and listening to lengthy talk, some of the items will become watered down and the core details will leave the dancers in the audience with little information to take away from the whole announcement time. To avoid rambling, direct all dancers to the flyers displayed on the tables nearby for more complete details on upcoming dance events and let everyone get back to dancing. Truth is, if your flyer is good, then they will see it and want to attend your future dance.

Create a strong structure for your program. Start with the ice breaker, introduce basic and simple choreography concepts at the beginning, elaborate on lesser used various choreographic ideas (like some ideas from the Circulate and Tag the Line families of calls) add interesting and fresh combinations of those ideas, use those ideas in singing call choreographic figures, and leave your dancers at the end of the night with a positive and “good feeling” takeaway message. Ideally, everything you call needs to flow naturally from one part to the next like you are reading an exciting novel chapter by chapter.

Related:  Singing Call Choreography

Use Short and Effective Square Dance Modules

Sometimes you will lose the dancers somewhat in more involved choreography, calls that are used less, and more creative and different abstract ideas. At that point it is important to reel everyone back in by calling some good, old-fashioned and simple, basic choreography. Incorporate a sing-along singing call that engages everyone and eases any tension that might have crept into the air from too much difficult choreography.

Make short choreographic sequences that are easier to resolve to the corner and most people are more than familiar with. By making choreography look simpler, not only will you help your dancers get a better understanding of the dance calls by enabling them to visualize the figures more clearly, you will also draw a connection between you and them.

Related:  Square Dance Choreography Methods with Dancers

As you can see, there is quite a bit to learn when it comes to giving a good presentation of square dance calling, one that is both memorable and fun. It takes a lot of work and practice. And dedication.

Be sure to work on your square dance calling skills daily and feel free to call me at any time. I will 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.

Modern Western Square Dance Calling: How to Sing Better & More Effectively

How to Sing and Call Square Dance in a More Modern and Lively Fashion

One huge dynamic of striving to be an entertaining and uplifting modern western square dance caller is to be, well, more modern! Vocal sound is an effective way to convey many things with your calling instrument, your voice. Vocal efficiency is paramount to developing a style and presence as an entertainer and there are things that you can do to learn how to capitalize on this that will  add to your overall promotional “package” as a square dance caller. Singing more effectively is an important element in the calling pool that callers must draw from to sound more lively and sound more modern. Following is a set of pointers to aid in becoming better at displaying your craft. Take some time to experiment with this set of directions and you can improve your vocal abilities faster and with less stress.

Start Your Practice Session With Proper Warmup Exercises

Practicing is much more effective if you use some plan of how to warmup your voice and setting goals or even specific material you want to work through. Vocal approaches can be different, but some techniques are useful only as exercises and some can be incorporated into your songs that you use and they can enhance your performance of those songs vocally. By using different dynamics you can transfer more of the feel of the song in terms of better relating to the idea behind the lyrics. And you can better intensify , strengthen, and elevate your singing calls to a higher place than otherwise might have been conveyed. A slow song typically will need a softer approach and there are several techniques you can use to improve your performance. Check out this article that I presented a while back for tips on singing square dance calling. Use some of these ideas listed below and see how they improve your vocal approach song by song. I have listed below some of the best ways to further improve the quality and the best types of square dance songs to apply these techniques:

 

Think of Your Practice Time As a Workout – BECAUSE IT IS!

You should warm up your voice with some sigh-hums and then work on counting to a metronome or drum machine. You are stretching and warming your vocal chords and tightening up your timing and you should think of this as warming up as if you were about to do physical exercise. Work on some simple phrases that you might use when you call and put these to some patter music. Next, work on some memorized material that you know well. After you work through some of these pieces, both hoedowns and singing calls, you are ready to move on to  improvising and working on new ideas. Finish with your newest ideas and this will round things out.

Use Vocal Expression

This is a way to convey feeling in your vocal performance. Expression is the most important element of vocal singing outside of singing notes on pitch and in time to the music. This is where singing takes a powerful effect upon the audience, even square dancers, because in the end, they are listeners first. Try to ‘project’ your voice forwards and outwards by visualizing the note reaching the back of the square dance hall.

When you sing the lyrics of a song, do they animate a story for you? Can you visualize the theme and is there a lyrical storyline? Use a normal speaking voice and say the lyrics aloud and work on seeing yourself as if you are talking to someone else. If they were your lover or friend how would your inflection and tone of voice contrast to someone you might not know very well?  If it is a love song or ballad, imagine how you would like to express those emotions to that person. Singing with feeling will always make a noticeable difference in your efforts to entertain on a grander scale.

Here is a very powerful and fun exercise that enables you to improve your vocal expression. The melody or notes you select are not important when you try this, but focusing on emotional feel is how you can reach a more expressive way of singing all the time! So that is the object here, being more emotionally expressive:

Pick an emotion you want to relate to the dancers in your singing call. Now think about what the opposite is of that original emotion. Without any music, speak the lyrics in the song, first, for example, in a very sad tone of voice. Then in an elated and joyous manner repeat the same lyrics and really focus on the opposite feelings that you sound when you speak during the exercise.

Once you have tried this method, you should be able to recognize the physical differences that happen in order to project sadness and happiness in the shape and opening of your mouth and how tone will color singing. See if you can determine the tonal color that you sonically create with your tongue that helps to create emotion. This is how you can sing with more emotion than you probably ever have before! This is a sound effect that you can apply to any syllable in a word or entire musical phrases that you can sing in any song. The aim is to push your ability to sing with more feeling in a manner that feels comfortable, is pleasing and emotional, and, by the way, it enables your vocal chords to operate at an optimal efficiency. Another goal of this exercise is to find the most relaxed ways for your voice to sing and remain relaxed, without stress and potential damage to your vocal chords. Additionally, keep yourself relaxed and in a good posture and you will sing better and more naturally.

Practice Vocal Dynamics

Using exercises that emphasize differences in vocal dynamics can be used once in a while, but care needs to be used in experimenting with different volumes of the voice when singing. Vocal damage can occur, so this is not a technique that should be consistently used as a vocal exercise, just helpful ideas aimed at exploring singing mouth shapes and tonal sounds and how they are affected by volume.

Begin by singing a short set of lyrics normally. Then soften your voice to a low and expressive whispering quality. Try adding an airy and breathy style and feel how this affects the song and how that is conveyed. Now change the dynamic by singing much more loudly, almost to a yelling and dynamic and exxagerated stylish projection of voice. Pay attention to how the vocal chords in your larynx respond to this difference. Try moving your tongue in different places within your mouth. Try opening your mouth as wide as you can while you sing the lyrics. Take the other road and keep your mouth as closed as you can and still be able to sing the lyrics. Try this at both  a loud and soft volume spectrum and then take this technique one step further: sing as sexily as you can and as sweet and naive as you can.

Be careful not to strain your vocal chords. If you are straining, stop the exercise and drink some luke warm water and sigh hum until your voice feels smooth and light. You might have to quit singing for a few hours, and maybe rest your voice for a day.

This post will give you the best tips on using a microphone properly. You will want to record your vocal dynamics to see what you find to be most effective and pleasing to the ear when you perform. Some things to pay attention to are your expression, dynamics and your diction.

Diction really is a fancy way of saying pronounciation. Your mouth, throat and tongue all come into play to allow for you to enunciate clearly and create different sounds. Key in on how all of this works for you. Feel and hear how your voice works and how you can drive your voice with authority or with very little expression.

Keep in mind that the art of square dance calling involves a combination of both talking or speaking voice and actual singing. Sing lyrics and speak them. Try to match the compelling strength and energy in both of these very different dynamics, as well, yet strive to keep your phrasing relaxed and natural, just as you would in a normal conversation. Almost all great songs that have been recorded have this quality about them.

Record Your Vocal Session and Analyze It

The idea behind recording yourself as you practice is simple: it allows for you to critique yourself, find the areas you need to improve on, and what specific approaches you can make to maximize your potential. It is very necessary that you use a quiet and private area to practice and to record yourself. Set up a practice space that does not disrupt others yet it allows you to be most effective in your practice time. Follow the warm up schedule and then work on singing using some of the above ideas. Training your voice and assembling a great performance takes time and lots of positive energy that you combine with emotion and great vocal dynamics that fit the songs you select for your dance program. Have patience and gradually improvement will come. Review your recordings of your songs after you practice each one and look for areas to improve on.

Remind Yourself About What You Need To Work On Next Time

After you review your recording, make a list of things that you will want to work on the next time. If you have a song that you are having trouble with, try to figure out exactly which part is giving you problems and work on that part only, first with music, then without music, then with music and you will work through improving that trouble spot for yourself. The next time you practice, the song should be much easier to express emotion, with a natural vocal delivery and a smoother and tighter performance. For a little more information on this try:

https://shaunwerkelesquaredancecalleraugustrecords.wordpress.com/2015/11/28/modern-square-dance-calling-how-to-practice-efficiently/

Always Set Yourself Goals For Improvement

Do write down your vocal goals, at least one long term overall vocal improvement you want to make and one short term vocal approach you want to use in a specific song and then decide what you need to do to truly improve and tackle those goals. It is important to do this – you certainly will not want to practice the songs the same way every time without a plan for improving upon your performance. This is how you can create a more modern, exciting, and entertaining approach to perform your songs and at the same time maximize your practice time!

Shaun Werkele

303-250-4735

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

Have a great day!
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: What Really is Traditional?

In the midst of the proliferation of modern western square dancing starting in the late 1940’s there became a point at which everything changed dramatically. Many call this change the Chicken Plucker revolution and the growth in the activity was phenomenally huge. At one point there were at least 6 million square dancers in the activity and many countless persons who were exposed to square dance at parties or viewing square dance on television or in the media back in the heyday.

Square dance callers realized nationally that choreographic sequences which were used at square dance parties (one-night stands) could and should be expanded to include variations and creative and different approaches. Over time, it became apparent that major changes in choreography, musical content, and calling styles were progressing with new groups that bred a more sophisticated way of enjoying this popular dance form.

Even the need for square dance caller training became quite apparent by this time. Square dancing needed to become more stabilized and standardized, and so it did. Dancing levels were established and variations in formations and traffic patterns and methods of calling a square dance came to light.

Because of this period of extreme growth, callers began to exchange ideas and improvise new figures and spontaneity was intermingled with memorized sets of commands that ultimately led to more intermingling. Sophistication. Dancers moved more simultaneously. Square dance had made tremendous strides in less than 30 year’s time!

Musically, all of the songs evolved right along with all other forms of music as everything in our society progressed and grew. This was a much simpler time when the days seemed to be much more carefree and endless. Square dancing was a great fit for this period in the American culture, where people, honestly, just got together to enjoy one another in company in a friendly social setting without discussing political viewpoints.

At the end of the day, more than anything else, square dancing has always been about people dancing and socializing in an atmosphere of music and experiencing fun together. Within America developed a unique social dance from the root of centuries-old European folk and formal dance and evolved into an international activity that is enjoyed in many parts of the world. Square Dance has grown and developed over time in order to fit the needs of the dancers. The changes within this changing dance art form tell a fascinating story with a rich heritage which also directs the light to a bright future.

All based upon people enjoying the company of others.

To learn about the advantages that the square dance activity has to offer, check into attending a square dance class in your area. There are traditional square dance and modern western square dance groups in your neck of the woods and you can indulge into something that is socially gratifying and musically delightful!

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 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.

Mental Game: Components of a Successful Square Dance

Calling a great square dance requires a few components that will make the path to that successful outcome easier to achieve. You may have called many dances in the past. You might be a new caller and you want your first dance to be a very positive and exciting event. Putting it all together takes a lot of work and you need to combine both detailed and extensive preparation and psychological strategies to help you reach the plateau of success in entertaining your square dancers at your event.

First, try to plan and prepare as much as possible before putting your sound equipment in the car and driving out to that dance you are going to call. By preparing your choreography as much as you can for every tip and selecting and practicing your music selections for the night, you will gain more self-confidence, and by planning and preparing you definitely will have a lot more control of things in terms of your program for the night. This is a way of controlling the factors that you can to allow for the outcome that you intend – a fun night for all.

Being effective in square dance calling

By preparing, you have instilled confidence into your dancers and yourself. I would like to point out, however, that you don’t always have everything in control. For instance, if you are going to meet with someone, you cannot plan every possible subject of the conversation in advance – nor is it feasible to attempt to do that. There are just way too many things that you might discuss. Similarly, you cannot control how the dancers will dance. As square dance callers, we might not have any knowledge of what the various dancers’ abilities and strength levels are when it comes to dancing modern western square dance choreography.

As you might already realize, as a square dance caller, the entirety of your program will be affected by the overall level and capabilities of the dancers and your performance of musical selections. If the floor is weak and sluggish, then everything is a little tougher and the choreography will have to be compromised for the dancers to succeed. Work at being prepared for that with some great opening sequences that are interesting and fun and present easier memorized modules or written sequences throughout the rest of the night. Encourage the dancers to interact with you and with each other and focus on fun and keeping the atmosphere light and pleasurable.

If you are a newer square dance caller, then preparing for your dance will be much more involved and time-consuming than subsequent times will be. If you are inexperienced, the first few dances that you call you are just going to be learning a lot anyway – and hopefully getting better in the process as you improve.

Further, it is useless to strive for perfection when you do anything for the first time. It is no different in learning to square dance call. You are setting the bar a little too high if you are aiming for perfection and you will just feel bad when you are not able to meet the too high level you have set for yourself.

Mental preparation is one of the most important aspects of preparing yourself for your night of calling. Your mental state is where you can optimize peak performance when you are under pressure. In all walks of life, high pressure situations place many demands on us. When we’re in a challenged situation is when we can meet those demands. The key is to increase your level of self-confidence, be fully prepared, and then you can focus on success!

Some mental approaches are to either one thing or combining things, listening to music, getting enough sleep, drinking some coffee, and then raise yourself in a psyched up state of mind for the big event you are going to perform. Establishing this type of routine can help to stay in control of your mental state and drive you to the goal you have: to call a great square dance that people will talk about and you can feel good inside about your overall performance.

You will want to call the whole dance perfectly, but perfection is unattainable. Remember striving for absolute perfection is just another way to procrastinate, so try to pursue excellence instead. If you have spent time preparing for the dance and you have worked hard, the end result will be excellent!

In mental preparation, the conversations you have with yourself leading up to and during the night’s program will influence how you behave. If you spend time before you go on stage thinking, “I’m going to fail,” and “Dancers are going to see how nervous I am,” then that is what the dancers will perceive. Your anxiety will be high and your body will react accordingly. Instead create a strong and powerful mental image of the dance that you will call. This highly powerful imagery should be made as realistic as possibly by including sights, sounds, feelings, and even smells. Visualize yourself performing well in an upcoming dance and it will be just what you want it to be – a great one!

For more inspiration on calling an outstanding dance check out this article: https://shaunwerkelesquaredancecalleraugustrecords.wordpress.com/2015/08/13/elements-of-a-high-energy-dance/

Shaun Werkele

303-250-4735

Feel free to call me if you have a square dance caller training question or any other question regarding square dance!

Have a great day!

 

 

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 Singing Calls: Practicing Basics

Square Dance Callers: Singing Call Performance Pointers

Calling a square dance is a really fun and exciting experience, and preparing for a dance on a thorough level of readiness only makes it better. If you have ever had problems preparing for a dance, rest assured there are plenty of methods that can help you get organized and feel more prepared for your dance when it arrives. Getting the most out of your evening’s dance can be easier if you just know how to get ready for it. Singing Calls are half of the dance, so you need to know the lyrics and the choreography that works with the song thoroughly.

Lyrics in Songs for Square Dance

Remembering the  lyrics in a singing call is not hard work, and each caller responds to learning differently, so it really depends on what works for you. Start by reading the lyrics out loud to yourself and then consider them both by themselves and with the music. I always find a few of the original popular versions of the songs that I plan on performing and I listen to these at least a few times in order to make the words stick. Then I recommend that you make your own detailed analysis of what the words mean. And how they time out in the context of the song. Work on the words a little at a time. Avoid trying to memorize too much in one session. Concentrate on learning the words one block of verse at a time. Fortunately, you do not have to learn every word of the songs that you use as singing calls, only the words that work around the choreography.

When you know the lyrics a bit better, a good idea is to walk around singing them without any music.  Do this in a quick fashion and press yourself with little time to think, so they become an automatic action. The music clips along at a pretty fast pace in square dance, and that aspect won’t allow you much time to stop and think about what you are singing. Or the choreography you are calling. And there will be a whole lot of other things happening on the dance floor that can distract you and make you forget what you’re doing. So repeat the lyrics while doing something else, such as driving to the store, walking round the local park, cooking or doing yard work.

If you find that you’re forgetting certain parts of a song, work out which lines you tend to forget and write them down several times. Write them down on a card or type them in a Word document or in Notepad. Find a key word and perhaps a pattern of ideas, such as the lyrics telling a story or similar wording that create rhythmic drive in the song that is memorable for you.

When people forget lyrics, the problem is nearly always that they haven’t been clear in their mind about the story the lyrics tell. By making sure you know exactly what story you want to get across, you can reduce the difficulty of this problem. I like to use singing call songs that I already know most of the lyrics in the normal popular song version. Half of the fight is behind you when you are already super comfortable with the lyrics.

Choreography in Singing Calls

Choreography cards for singing calls work very well in learning sequences and finding figures that work best with certain songs. Some square dance callers are sometimes worried of overpreparing because they think the material will NOT come across as fresh and exciting. But that shouldn’t be an issue – to keep the performance grand – every time you perform, dynamics change: the atmosphere in the hall is different, the dancers usually are not the same. By preparing as much as you possibly can, you’ll have the ability to soar through the night’s program and you will have more stage performing confidence and you certainly will enjoy the dance more. Square dance calling can be an exhilarating experience but it’s also a huge task to undertake. Display confidence and instill reliance that you can sing well and call even better.

On the other hand, avoid overpracticing just before you are to call. This is not the same as overpreparing. This is about vocal practice. Do not sing the one note you might be worried about 20 times before you go on stage. You will only tire yourself out. Instead, you should just slide through your range once, with that note included, to reassure yourself that you can do it. Follow this set of warmup-practice exercises for square dance callers to ready yourself for your dance.

Mental & Physical Preparation

You, as a square dance caller, can practice mentally, both with music and without music. Review your square dance choreography and presentation in your head and you can improve and strengthen your overall program for all of your dances. Do this both for the hoedown patter portions and singing calls to make everything flow better. Mental practice can be very effective in getting you ready for a dance.

What To Do Just Before The Dance

Set aside time to warm-up your body and your voice an hour before the dance starts. This is a little difficult to do because you will have to load in and set up your equipment just before the dance starts. But just plan to have a few minutes before you have to do that.

Drink a lot of fluids while you are calling and always keep it fun! Being a square dance caller is hard work, but if you are prepared and well practiced then you can relax and have fun!

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.

Singing Calls: Making Minor Changes…

Modern western square dance callers will all make mistakes at their dances!….and dancers will make them too! Both calling and dancing can be challenging and amazingly hard at times due to the unexpected choreography of the caller. Throw in a collection of square dancers that have a varied range of abilities and everything can become jumbled… difficult for the dancers to complete all of the choreography and even harder for the caller to keep everyone moving, but the great thing about square dancing is recovering from those occasional mistakes is often part of the fun. In fact, making mistakes is proof that everyone is trying and learning!

When calling, a discrete judgment needs to be made about various square dance movements and how much the dance floor can handle as far as difficulty is concerned. Mistakes are OK, but if the dancers falter too much, the “dancing lesson” becomes almost miserable, and you have become the “funinator” and respect for you as a caller will become diminished. Since we are all very human in nature, we, as dancers, might simply blame the caller in our mistakes. And momentum and energy can be lost due to squares breaking down on the dance floor.

This is a very thin line to walk for a caller, providing great overall interest in the choreography that is presented while at the same time keeping everyone smiling and happy and dancing.

Singing calls, however, do not always permit the dancers much time to recover from involved choreography. Generally, basic and more simplistic choreography in singing call figures are the better ones to use in your square dance calling program. As a caller, you can encourage proficient dancing by offering different twists in your patter part of the hoedown and then follow that up with a themed quad of sequences in the singing call figures. What I am saying is you can improve your program with a stronger formula for calling and dancing success by working on new ideas first, in the hoedown part of the tip, and then following that up with those same choreographic ideas, or perhaps similar ones that are on the simpler side of things in the singing call figures.

Here are four figures that provide minor changes on the overused and cliched “Heads Promenade Halfway…Square Thru Four Hands” that will offer both strengthening dancer ability and some good variety in choreography at the same time:

 

CALLING TIP! Focus on using many different square dance calls throughout the entire night. This will make the interest high so that the dancers cannot anticipate what is next!

Heads (Sides) Promenade Halfway
Walk in Square Thru 4 Hands
Swing Thru
Boys Run
Ferris Wheel
Square Thru 3 Hands
Swing Corner & Promenade

 

Heads (Sides) Promenade Halfway
Walk in Square Thru 4 Hands
Swing Thru & Girls Turn Around
Wheel & Deal
DoSaDo
Pass Thru
Trade By
Swing Corner & Promenade

 

Heads (Sides) Promenade Halfway
Walk in Square Thru 4 Hands
Swing Thru
Boys Run
Ferris Wheel
Centers Touch a Quarter
Box Circulate
Box Circulate
Swing Corner & Promenade Home

 

Heads (Sides) Promenade Halfway
Walk in Square Thru 3 Hands
Separate & Walk Around 2
Eight & Back
Bend the Line
Touch a Quarter
Boys Run Right
Swing Corner & Promenade

 

The last sequence poses the most difficulty and it has a Bend the Line with Facing Lines that are Half Sashayed. This could be a little more difficult as this is not called very often in this choreographic position.

Give these a try in your evening’s dance and let the dancers learn a little and enjoy a lot!

Best Wishes,

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.

Square Dance Callers: Mainstream Singing Call Figures

As a modern western square dance caller there is absolutely no excuse for you not to expand your knowledge, master a new skill, or focus on boosting the entertaining value of your dance program. Remember that improving your skills that you have is one of the best ways to make yourself both marketable from a monetary standpoint and your square dancing content strong from a creative standpoint. If you learn one new piece of choreography every day, you will overcome by 99% over your square dance calling competition who will most likely not do the same.

Here are three new singing call figures in the Mainstream level:

CALLING TIP! Always be prepared to change or adapt your dance program. Choreography and music should be something you can alter or change for the needs of the dancers.

Heads (Sides) Lead Right Circle to a Line
Pass Thru
Wheel & Deal
Double Pass Thru
First Couple Go Left Next Couple Go Right
Square Thru 4 Hands
Swing Corner & Promenade

Heads (Sides) Promenade Halfway
Lead Right Veer Left
Bend the Line
Touch a Quarter
Circulate Once
Boys Run
Swing Thru
Boys Trade
Swing Corner & Promenade

Head (Side) Ladies Chain
Sides (Heads} Lead Right
Circle To A Line
Pass Thru
Wheel & Deal
Zoom
Double Pass Thru
Leaders Trade
Swing Corner & Promenade Home

Change things up in your evening’s dance and let everyone enjoy!

Best,

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 instruction 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.

Stupid Easy Modern Western Square Dance Singing Call Breaks

Square dance callers are always looking for easier ways to call a dance, and my advice would be to use square dance choreography that has been written by others as often as you can to offer variety in your program. You should target easy songs to sing and along with that keep the choreography simple and progress the dancer’s ability up to more difficult figures throughout the dance. You can accomplish this progression in choreographic material through the hoedown patter portions of each tip. Then highlight the combinations that you called in the patter in your singing calls.

Here are a few easy square dance singing call figures that will make Mainstream level dancing interesting and fun. Easy is important, however, by changing the choreography you can offer great variety throughout your program. Make sure you practice these with several different singing call songs so you can help yourself build great structure and timing in your presentation of the calls:

 

CALLING TIP! Why not start your dance off with a classic all-time great piece of square dance music!  This will set up great momentum that carries the energy throughout the night.

Heads (Sides) Square Thru
DoSaDo
Swing Thru
Boys Run
Ferris Wheel
Centers Right & Left Thru
Centers Wheel Around
Swing Corner & Promenade

 

Heads (Sides) Promenade Halfway
Walk in Square Thru
Right & Left Thru
Veer Left
Couples Circulate
Girls Trade
Bend The Line
Square Thru 3 Hands
Swing Corner & Promenade

 

Heads (Sides) Square Thru
Circle Four Halfway
Swing Thru
Boys Run
Girls Trade
Bend the Line
Square Thru Three Hands
Swing Corner & Promenade

 

This last figure you can hear on my homepage where I am performing live at the Foot and Fiddle in Fort Collins, Colorado using “Dance With Me One More Time.” This is a classic song in tempo and melody, it is easy to call to, and is always a crowd pleaser. Consider using it in your square dance calling program. I use it often.

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.