Modern Western Square Dance: Building Choreography On Singing Call Figures

Building a Night of Square Dancing Around the Basic Choreography of Singing Call Figures

If modern square dance callers want to expand their program with more effective ways of creating an original and super dynamic night of square dancing, a very simple way to succeed in doing this is to use more original singing call figures as a basis for delivering innovative and different choreography.

Further, the use of this singing call figure approach would be that all square dance callers will now have a fair chance of covering more choreography that is on the Mainstream or PLUS level lists because they all have the same springboard from which to work off of. That’s something that you could count on in your program positively for variety. But the biggest obstacle for callers to overcome HAS ALWAYS BEEN to simply provide interest that the square dancers can truly comfortably handle – is this plateau where you only have an hour or so of actual calling time in a night’s dance to present all this nicely arranged square dance choreography – and you don’t really get much into really deep creative ideas.

I think that not providing lots of good fresh ideas in dance combinations of calls has harmed square dancing immensely. Every caller puts out the same “stuff” with the exact same approaches to all dancers everywhere – nationally, internationally, locally…worldwide it is the same…maybe I am not considering enough of the overall square dance calling population, but for me, from a subjective point of view, I think it’s not a good thing.

Related:  25 Alive Choreographic Challenge

Traditional square dance ideas can be recombined and reworked to produce lots of new and innovative ideas. These can involve elements of each original choreographic idea. As a modern western square dance caller, you have the ability and responsibility to present a simple square dance call that is interesting and build those unique ideas up with insightful choreographic variations of the original basic call as the dance progresses. This will push the dancer’s capabilities up as the night unravels. You can present both modern and traditionally based choreography and build a great progression in choreographic material with the hoedown patter portions of each tip in your program. This is the best manner for making singing call choreography the most interesting and your overall dancing program the most entertaining.

Below are a few singing call figures and two corresponding modules that will help in making modern western square dance calling a Mainstream level dance more interesting and engaging. And consequently allowing for great dancer success. Using strong ideas beforehand will encourage much higher success and will strengthen dancer’s abilities. Changing the choreography as you call a singing call by slightly altering the same choreography figures is a great easy way to offer some variety throughout your program without getting super complicated. Here is a great post that changes singing call choreography by making slight variations of the parent figure.

Related:  Square Dance Singing Call Figures With Minor Changes

The primary idea is to strengthen dancer’s abilities by introducing a call or a position/formation that is not used enough throughout the typical dance programs and slot that choreographic idea a few times in singing call choreography. Next, take those ideas and program them right into your hoedown/patter portion of the tip and then immediately reinforce some of those ideas again within the singing call sequence. Each singing call break below has a corresponding choreographic idea that can be used as an appealing and unique “warm-up” used in the hoedown or patter portion of the tip.

Try this combination for overall dancing success:

 

CALLING TIP!   Listen to the music only when selecting and purchasing square dance music and make a determination whether the song rendition is worthy of your 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 should not be a factor in your decision to purchase a particular square dance song.

Heads (Sides) Promenade Halfway
Sides (Heads) Right & Left Thru
Flutterwheel
Sweep a Quarter
Pass Thru
Spin Chain Thru
Girls Circulate Once
Swing Corner & Promenade

 

Heads (Sides) Lead Right
Swing Thru
Spin the Top
Right & Left Thru
Pass the Ocean
Boys Circulate
Girls Trade
Single Hinge
Scoot Back
Swing Corner & Promenade

 

Heads (Sides) Right and Left Thru
Lead Left
Touch a Quarter
Split Circulate
Boys Run
Reverse Flutterwheel
Sweep a Quarter
Pass Thru
Trade By
Allemande Left
Come Back & Promenade Home

 

Heads (Sides) Touch a Quarter
Walk & Dodge
Swing Thru
Boys Run
Half Tag  Walk & Dodge
Partner Trade
Pass the Ocean
Boys Circulate
Swing Thru
Boys Trade
Girls Turn Back & Promenade

 

If you do call a workshop tip within your night’s program, working in a couple of singing call figures that apply the choreographic ideas that were taught and then the reinforcement of that is a superb approach to rounding off the workshop!

Best Regards,
Shaun Werkele
303-250-4735

 

 

 

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

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For the Square Dance Caller: Build Compelling Choreography

The process of creating square dance singing call figures begins in finding within yourself a new recipe, and sometimes that entails taking the same old figures that have been the basis for square dancing for the past several decades and expanding that foundation into something new, fresh, and innovative. Writing creative square dance choreography that is of an effective quality in terms of both dancing interest and being memorable really rests on a bit of control.

What? It seems a bit odd, doesn’t it? Artistry in a systematic way. But the truth is, if you use some organization and good time management, you can be creative in many aspects of square dance calling just as many people who create in other arenas of the world and in life in general. You can plug into your creative potential by focusing on these optimized methods of writing square dance figures that can be powerful and then watch what happens on the dance floor as you present your efficacious combinations.

To create singing call choreography start things out with this simple method:

Generate as Many Great Choreographic Ideas as You Can

Start with a particular call or combination of a few calls you want to promote as a new dancing idea that you want to focus on and build up the figure from there. If you cannot think of an idea then think about something that you might have danced that was called by another caller lately. Or attend a class that a local caller is teaching and see if something that is being taught might spawn an idea or two for you that will work in creating something new and different. Get your hands on some old vinyl square dance records and look over the written choreography for each song for a choreographic nugget that you can mine into something great.

Make Something Out of Your Choreographic Ideas

The key thing here is callers need to envision a choreographic idea and then carry that idea through to fit in the big picture of what they are aiming to create. For individual dance programs and more. Only then can they create something that the dancers find interesting and is relevant in the big picture of square dancing overall. Shoot for creating as you are inspired and take from that inspiration to make something out of your ideas that will make anticipation a minimal thing in your program while the dancers are moving through the figures.

Choose Your Best Choreographic Ideas

The best ideas are really what you decide to choose from your list of square dance calls that you have created. Choose by looking for choreographic ideas that are astoundingly simple at first and focus on finding a powerful combination of square dance calls that will triumph over your group as you call. Use fractions of calls or variations of the most basic calls and leverage some creativity from those ideas.

Explore Uncharted Ideas

This is where you have to change your mental thinking patterns. Writing choreography, like many creative processes, takes a focus period and a rest period before you realize great ideas. And then they will come to you. For instance try fractions of calls or variations of just about any call that can be executed and you are on your way to putting something together that will keep interest high and anticipation low among the dancers.

Write Singing Call Figure Cards and Keep Ideas in a Notebook

Chronically consumed by ideas? Sometimes… Sometimes not. Usually new ideas come in spurts and so this is the time you use a caller notebook to manage your choreography. Being organized requires that you document and manage your choreography so that it is accessible for both practice time and at dances. Make your notes readable at a glance so that you can remember your ideas and command the calling of the dance comfortably. Larger lettering is good. Generally, any sequence that you write should not exceed the space of a card, and that is skipping spaces. This seems to be the ideal length of time that a sequence of calls should be before resolution of the square to the Corner Lady and Promenading in sequence to the Home Position.

Apply the Rules of Good Body Flow and Timing

The most important elements of a great singing call figure definitely counts on smooth mechanics in the execution of the moves and being able to dance those figures in time to the music. Generally, the dancers need more beats of music to perform the calls as opposed to less. The timing of the calls needs to be danceable – another aspect that you need to consider when you direct the dancers through your calls is the timing on the delivery of the calls. Your calling (delivery of the commands) must be given before the dancers are finished completing the call that they are dancing through at that moment. By doing so you will eliminate “stop and go” dancing and encourage nice smooth dancing to the music for the dancers. Body flow and delivering the calls in spot on timing combined with interesting choreography is the cornerstone of great square dance calling!

Related:  Write Your Own Square Dance Choreography

Manage your time by setting aside creative sessions. Schedule them so that they happen. Time to reach inside of yourself and find your square dance caller creative choreography water well and draw from that spring!

As someone who cares deeply about the state of square dancing, I give you the highest regards and wish you the best in your square dance calling endeavors!

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 Caller Goals For 2018

Most people are always competing with others. They continuously are checking in to see what others in their sphere of connection are doing. As a result, many people mimic and copy what’s “working” to make the competition game a little easier.

So what is the approach to this strategy? And how can you best propel yourself and your calling abilities forward in 2018?

On thing that you should do is find patterns in other caller’s performances and innovate the key things you need to move yourself forward. Over time, your practice methods and goals will exceed the patterns of the callers that you admire. With focus and hard work, your end result can exceed even their original programs for calling and you will land on top.

Starting out, as a square dance caller, when studying the process of those you seek to emulate, don’t try to do it all. Keep in mind that you need to have your own strategy in improvement. Even those at the top of the square dance field have imperfect strategies.

Simply ask yourself, “What must I master to be great at this?” Work on mastering some of those things.

Related:  MY TIME LOG for optimal square dance calling

Work From Micro to Macro…

Start with small sets of information, then expand from there. By over-learning a particular piece of choreography, you’ll be able to better understand how it relates to an entire dance that you call. You’ll also quickly be able to apply what you have learned to live situations with dancers. You’ll quickly see the parts of the sequences that others probably will miss. As your cognition expands and your vocabulary of calls expands with it, it will become a part of your base knowledge, style and overall approach to calling everyday.

Check That Box!

Make sure that you use the “One Thing” in MY TIME LOG and you check the box. Accomplish that, look back on it, and say, “AAH I DID IT!” And you are on your way.

Ignore Other Callers…

Once you have a pattern down. To be original and have a style of your own, you need to do this. So look at the patterns and then work on innovating beyond those patterns once you are ready, so your calling comes to exceed the abilities of those you admire. Then pretty much ignore other callers and work on yourself. Eventually, your results will exceed theirs and you will be a better caller in your own right.

Practice Effectively on a Daily Basis

Practicing in an effective manner is not too difficult. Record yourself and get some immediate feedback. This has been found to be a time after time tested flow trigger. It heightens performance skills. Especially when the feedback is real-world, on tape and there are real nuances that can be improved upon for success. To not do this one thing will put you in a faulty place.

Quantity is the Most Likely Path to Quality

The more choreographic ideas that you produce, the more ideas you will have —some of which will be highly innovative and original. And sometimes you never know which ones will click with the dancers. And sometimes you know the choreographic or musical idea you have birthed is brilliant. You just keep creating!

Shoot For Honest Improvement

If you want to improve at anything, you need to quantify it. If you don’t quantify it, you don’t really know the complete possibilities that may unfold. When your calling performance is measured, your performance will improve. Document your practice and see how much your performance rate of improvement accelerates.

Set Goals and Track Them…

Set yourself some realistic square dance calling goals and get ready to measure this principle. When you start measuring a few metrics, such as changing choreography in each singing call that you practice daily, the time you spend in “flow” while working will dramatically improve in these areas.

Related:  Practicing Guidelines For Square Dance Callers

The reason is simple: tracking your practice will aid you in becoming aware and objective about your weaknesses. By doing this, you will systematically KNOW exactly where you should focus on your weaknesses and then you can eliminate or at the very least minimize them.

Set Aside Time For Square Dance Choreography

Different angles on a standard choreographic square dance call combination or different variances of a definition can vastly change what you can create in terms of new choreography. There are limitless possibilities in improving your abilities as a square dance caller and you owe it to yourself to pursue them!

Related:  Writing Square Dance Choreography

One thing you can consider is working with a square dance caller coach to get you focused, keep you on an effective practice schedule and on the whole take you to a higher place with your calling. Create a strategy (try MY TIME LOG, it’s free!) and follow it throughout the entire year and you will see 2018 as a banner year for yourself and improving your calling for both the benefit of the dancers and yourself!

And feel free to call me at anytime if you need help or have a question!

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.

Modern Western Square Dance Singing Calls: Recycling the Zero Module

The singing call figures and corresponding modules that I put together in the previous article  Modern Western Square Dance: Expanding on Singing Call Choreography (Revisited) which was about increasing not only choreographic variety but also strengthening dancer’s abilities in your evening program by using singing call figures with similar combinations of calls netted me the nuts and bolts to very easily write EVEN MORE singing call figures based from the ZERO modules that I wrote that were in the article.

Overall, any level square dance set of calls that you program can be more engaging if you come up with some great ideas and actually USE them in the program. That really is what you should focus on when you are practicing and using MY TIME LOG. This practice regimen is designed to push you into learning and using different choreography ideas and be well prepared to deliver the calls in a night’s dance.

Related:  Modern Square Dancing: Building Variety In Singing Call Choreography

Old modules can provide new choreographic ideas, singing call figures, workshop ideas, they can even be recycled into newer modules that you can get even more mileage out of at dances. Or they can be changed to work at different levels of square dancing with some study and homework!

By using calls and combinations of calls that are new or thought provoking for the dancers, you are promoting stronger dancing through these different choreographic ideas. As a square dance caller, your evening dance program needs to be loaded with sequences that give interest and make anticipation of calls almost non-existent.

 

CALLING TIP! 
Always approach choreography writing with the newest dancer’s capabilities in mind. By making the weakest dancers on the floor your focus and using some imaginative choreographic ideas, your program will then become a learning desk for all!

Heads (Sides) Touch a Quarter
Those Boys Run
Swing Thru
Spin the Top
Recycle
Sweep a Quarter
Touch a Quarter
Scoot Back
Boys Run
Slide Thru
Swing Corner & Promenade Home

Heads (Sides) Touch a Quarter
Those Boys Run
Touch a Quarter
Split Circulate
Boys Run
Reverse Flutterwheel
Sweep a Quarter
Swing Thru
Swing Corner & Promenade Home

Heads (Sides) Lead Right
Touch a Quarter
Walk & Dodge
Bend the Line
Touch a Quarter
Everybody Circulate
Boys Run
Swing Thru
Boys Trade
Swing the Corner & Promenade Home

Heads (Sides) Touch a Quarter
Those Boys Run
Right & Left Thru
Swing Thru
Boys Run
Half Tag (the Line)
Walk & Dodge
Partner Trade
Boys Walk – Girls Dodge
Swing the Corner & Promenade Home

 

Look into taking some of your old singing call figures and rewriting them into something unpredictable. Or if you have any modules take look at them and see if you can rewrite them and come up with some new figures that you then can inject into your program and reinforce better and stronger understanding of the calls for the dancers.

Workshop tips within your night’s program should provide some new or needed choreographic ideas that can be taught quickly.

All in all, if you work on changing choreography and present new ideas that foster stronger dancing, you will have done something both powerful and beneficial to the square dance activity!

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.

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.

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.

Modern Western Square Dance: Building Variety In Singing Call Figures

Square dancing has a long heritage and legacy that is still evolving to this day, much like all music and dance. Since both of these elemental traditions are combined to call a dance, using square dance choreography that is in the “classic square dance” meme will always be a home run when incorporated within  your program.

Further,  two different ideas can recombine to produce a new and innovative idea involving elements of each choreographic parent idea. As a modern western square dance caller, you can present simple square dance singing call music and along with that build the choreography up in difficulty as the dance progresses and push the dancer’s ability up as the night unfolds. You can present both new and old music and new and old choreography and build a great progression in choreographic material with the hoedown patter portions of each tip. This  is the best manner for making singing calls the most interesting and your overall program the most entertaining.

Below are a few singing call figures that will help in making modern western square dance calling a Mainstream level dancing interesting and engaging. Changing the choreography as you do a singing call by slightly altering the same choreography figure is a great way to offer great variety throughout your program without getting super complicated. Another great aside is the dancers will have to listen more carefully and they will not be able to anticipate each calling sequence.

Make sure you practice these with a couple of different singing call songs so you can help yourself build an appealing and potent presentation of the calls. Three of the four figures start out the same but they all end differently. These make for some nice dancing and gives special practice time to the dance floor by offering Half Sashay and Circle Four Halfway as choreography options. Both calls Half Sashay and Circle Four (to a Line) are Basic calls that have strong and deep roots in the traditional square dance arena:

 

CALLING TIP! Change the choreography in your singing calls to strengthen dancing ability and provide high interest in the overall program that you present!

Heads (Sides) Right and Left Thru
Half Sashay
Star Thru
Circle Four Halfway
Swing Thru
Spin the Top
Square Thru Three Hands
Swing Corner & Promenade

 

Heads (Sides) Touch a Quarter
Those Boys Run
Circle Four Halfway
Touch a Quarter
Walk & Dodge
Wheel & Deal
Zoom
Centers Pass Thru
Star Thru
Pass Thru
Swing Corner & Promenade

 

Heads (Sides) Right and Left Thru
Half Sashay
Star Thru
Circle Four Halfway
Veer Left
Bend the Line
Reverse Flutterwheel
Sweep a Quarter
Veer Right & Promenade

 

Heads (Sides) Right and Left Thru
Half Sashay
Star Thru
Circle Four Halfway
Star Thru
Half Sashay
Pass Thru
Girls Fold
Swing Corner & Promenade

 

I personally like to use Circle Four Halfway and Circle Four Three Quarters as a nice change from the traditionally based Circle Four to a Line and verily, it adds a little spice to the night choreographically.

If you do call a workshop tip within your night’s program, working in a couple of singing call figures that apply the choreographic ideas that were taught and then the reinforcement of that is a superb approach to rounding off the workshop!

Best Regards,
Shaun Werkele
303-250-4735

 

 

 

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

Teaching Square Dance Classes With Music Appreciation

Teaching Music Appreciation in Square Dance Classes

If you are a modern western square dance caller, I promise you take for granted the full power of teaching square dance classes. This is why you do. So much is accomplished in the set of classes that a person attends, classes not only teach the student new calls, the classes allow all to practice previously learned calls from earlier sessions. Other dancers can show students the choreography and simple dance steps that are questioned during rest breaks at class sessions in addition to calling instruction.  

The foundation of learning square dance: some basic steps based upon mechanical movements such as forearm turns, stars, and hand-shake pull-bys and formations such as Lines, Ocean Waves, and Circles of dancers – these are the basics to approach to teaching square dance for every caller. In order for the square dance caller to be optimal in his teaching some preparation needs to be put into what should be taught, when those figures will be taught, and what order is best in effectively accomplishing the instruction of the lists of calls required for a dancer to graduate.

But there are other things that need to be discussed in square dance classes other than choreography…

Teaching square dancing should also entail some music appreciation. If you think about it, square dance is about music and dancing first, everything else is second place to that. So building upon music appreciation is a superb approach to teaching square dance. And by adding the teaching of music appreciation along with learning some basic steps and formations works very well together. Set aside time in classes to teach about the history of square dance and provide a beginning foundation about square dance music and that is danced to.

The modern square dance “tip” is mostly composed of a two part combination of hoedown patter calls and singing calls to popular music. This gives you as a caller two opportunities to provide the history of a particular traditional song, or perhaps you select a song that is classically influenced. Yes, indeed, there are songs that harmonically and historically draw from musical periods in our past, or have a background in different genres of music, such as the jazz age, classic rock and roll, or even today’s techno-pop dance music.

As a caller and teacher, you need to enlighten your students and give them some brief history of square dancing and it’s evolution and growth.  It is your responsibility to expose your dancers to some old fashioned “pickers.” Fiddle, guitar, banjo and mandolin are all grass roots of the square dance sound and you can point out details in the music when you teach. Before you call a song, give a little information about the instrumentation that is featured on the record. Most people will not know the difference between a guitar and a mandolin, but if you point out what they are going to hear, then they can grow in their understanding of music.

By doing two things, first provide music that the dancers can appreciate, and second, teach them to develop their ear to better identify instruments, styles of music, and even song pieces by their musical period, then they are learning more than just square dance choreography.

Students will grow in their understanding of music as they listen to what you program. As students become dancers, they will develop their ear to identify instruments, musical pieces, and musical periods by their sound. If you use music terminology then everyone will also learn music terminology and they might even start to use a musical language  to accurately discuss square dance music.

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 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.

Call Square Dancers Through Involved Mainstream/PLUS Choreography Formations

Succeed in Getting Square Dancers Through Mainstream and PLUS Level Choreography Formations

Short History of  Traditional Square Dance Calling

In order to get a clear visual of the history of square dance calling in America, you have to take a look at the important role of the dancing masters. From the early times of the first settlers until well into the nineteenth century, English dancing masters would travel from place to place: staying in an area for only a short amount of time before continuing to the next town or village. These itenerant dancing masters traveled from town to town in New England and they would approach the heads of the townspeople, and depending upon the attitude and acceptance of the ones in charge, the dancing masters would arrange to conduct a short set of lessons and put on a dance for the local townspeople to enjoy. The dances taught were English Minuets, Cotillions, and the newest Contra dances and the choreography sequences had to be memorized by the dancers.

This was a huge undertaking, teaching dance movements in a relatively short period of time, and this traveling lesson/dance helped spread the popularity of country dance all across the Eastern coast, and it fostered the very beginnings of American square dance.

As decades passed, the Cotillion, a dance done in a square formation with eight dancers became quite popular on a national level in the mid-eighteen fifties, and this style of dance spread and evolved across the country. The choreography was usually called by the fiddler in the band, who would spontaneously shout out combined dance moves and directions to the dancers. Cotillions were danced to traditional square dance music that was based upon Irish jigs and Scottish reels in regional locales that joined music with choreography.

So historically, the square dance caller has a long legacy tracing back from the formal approach of the local dance master with his teaching of dance to everyday people to sequences delivered by the fiddler/callers who had to prompt the dancers through the choreography at dances. As modern western square dance continues to progress post-world war two, square dance has further matured and developed into many geometric formations and movements that work within this same old traditional framework.

Modern Western Square Dance

Indeed, today’s square dance has evolved to become more complex, and over time, calling has become more involved. along with this change there is a monumental challenge for callers to render and provide highly interesting choreography that the dancers are able to execute with success. By creating variations using Mainstream or PLUS choreography and formations and then combining a few elements to “direct” the dancers through and resolve the set back to the home position or to the corner dancer in sequence can achieve just that.

One key to success in square dance calling comes from the following steps that will lead to calling fun dances with interesting choreography:

Write a Creative Choreography Sequence

First, start with a choreographic idea that you want to expand upon and work on creating five creative choreography sequences from start to finish that you will call during your dance in a “tip.” The third tip (or other later tips depending upon how much interesting ideas you want to render) of the dance is usually the best time to use your expanded choreographic ideas on the dancers. Come up with a couple of ideas that will be quite interesting and will more than likely put everyone on the dance floor on the same level of learning – some new variation or combination of an uncommon dance move. You will want the sequences to progress and become a little more challenging for the dancers to build the interest of the floor.

Personally, I like to use Folds and Cross Folds and Tag the Lines on Mainstream dance and at the PLUS level I might use Diamond Formations that are different or variations of Linear Cycle or Crossfire because these are good for strengthening dancer’s abilities. Spin Chain Thru’s are good too, because generally, dancers are a little weak on these moves. Callers need to focus on presenting these calls more often in their dance choreography programs and the general population of dancers will be better at dancing through these calls/moves.

Spend Some Time Writing Out Directional Key Words

Now here is the part that will lead to success in dancing on the floor, and thereby allow you to succeed as a caller. Take the five written sequences of calls for the tip and type the calls out in Microsoft Word then print the pages and put them in a notebook. Notebooks work best for square dance choreography for a lot of reasons. A notebook is portable. You can write in notes next to the choreography if you want to add a new idea or you have a note that you want to address later to make a change on a second edit.

Next, close your eyes and think about where you are moving to in the intricate parts of the calls, the ideas that you know will be a struggle for some of the dancers. Focus on words that will make it easier to prompt and create directions for all dancers to where they need to move to. Write the key words out on another piece of paper. Think about what words will help the dancers the most, for example, “work with the farthest person,” or “person facing in move here, person facing out move there” and write these down as well. Additionally, refer to the prescribed definition of the written description of the square dance calls to help you with key words to use.

Now you can use this page to add to your use of the choreography. These key words are AS IMPORTANT as the choreography itself in ensuring dancer success.

Practice Calling With Directional Key Words

The key words are the KEY to making the combinations of figures work well. The directionalization process needs to be delivered immediately after the call and it will take some practice to deliver this combination seamlessly with all important words and choreography married together.

As Always, It Is In The Timing!

Delivering the choreography and the key words together in a smooth and tight manner is great, but having your prompting work together with the music in great phrasing is really when this works most effectively. All of the dancing will be smoother and your presentation will encourage a relaxed and more executable set of directions that will lead to instilling more confidence within the dancers, particularly when some are not certain where they are moving upon dancing a particular call or set of calls.

Use a metronome or drum machine and practice with the choreography this way. Then try clapping your hands and practice the delivery of the calls without any accompaniment. It is combining the delivered square dance call with the directional key words into a timed musical phrase that makes the sequences within the tip more danceable. Since the dancers feel the beat of the music and the “in time” phrasing, they will more easily succeed in their dancing efforts.

Callers should not have to directly teach the moves for the dancers to execute, however, by directionalizing the choreography variations with key words you have taught the dancers without “workshopping” the moves.

And you will look like a modern dancing master of the twenty-first century!

Good fortune to you in all of your endeavors!

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.