Understanding FASR in Square Dance
FASR? Everyone knows what a FASR is. Oh, wait a minute. That’s PHASER, the coolest futuristic weapon wielded by Captain Kirk and company on the iconic Star Trek series. Not the same thing in square dance. FASR is an acronym used by square dance callers in modern western square dancing and to fully understand this involved and complicated concept – it can be a bit confusing and complicated – will take some good solid explanation and a breakdown of its parts.
FASR refers to the complete square in terms of it’s state or condition from an objective viewpoint – Formation – Arrangement – Sequence – Relationship.
As the square dance calls delivered change the particular position that someone is in at a specific time within the square, everything else concerning these four descriptive principles and fundamentals changes also.
Basically, FASR defines the organization of the dancers in a more technical and analytical manner. It also is a kind of mapping tool to determine where dancers are in a particular set-up, and by using FASR, modern western square dance callers are able to build choreographic ideas understanding FASR. They are able to write choreography. Understand the perfect geometry of square dance formations. And even apply FASR to sight calling in square dancing. Each area of FASR groups and defines positioning and complexities of choreography and answers many questions that clarify understanding about how all square dance calls work either independently or in arrangement with other calls in a square dance sequence.
Formations really are shapes first. The dancers each occupy a specific area of the dance floor and this is a blueprint formed by the standing position of the dancers at that particular moment. Four elements determine defining a particular formation:
- Dancer Location
- Sex/Position Grouping
- Facing Directions of Dancers
There are quite a few formations in square dancing, the four most common being Parallel Ocean Waves, Right Handed Single File Columns, Boxes of Four Dancers (ZERO BOX or Eight Chain Thru)and Facing Lines. Other formation calls that use geometric shapes such as a square, a circle, or even a diamond or triangle (Advanced level) are part of higher level dancing, too. Additionally, formations that comprise the nuts and bolts of square dance such as Facing Lines, 2-Faced Lines, and Right Handed Single File Columns share the commonality of being shaped similar to a rectangle.
Dancer location is the one element that specifies the make-up of the square and the specific formation that is identified. Along with this is the dancer’s facing direction with regard to the formation. Formations can have variants and multiple formations within a basic formation when particular dancers are in a specific dancer positioning relationship with each other.
For example, in a Twin Diamond Formation, the Men can form a Large Box of Four while the Girls are holding the formation of an Ocean Wave. In this particular set-up, there are three formations present.
- The Twin Diamond Formation.
- The Wave Formation.
- Large Box of Four Formation.
The differentiating features for the three formations is the facing direction of the dancers with respect to the three formations. If the Ocean Wave were a 2-Faced Line, then the relationship in activity and the formation would change. There would be some dancers facing directly (Facing Diamond Formation) and some not, and the total square relationship would group them in a Funny Diamond Formation. The Block of Four would still be present, the 2-Faced Line would still be present, and the Diamond would still be present. This would be a variant of the Twin Diamond Formation family, a Funny Diamond Formation, and is used at Advanced and Challenge square dance levels.
The geometric shape dictates the formation name, usually by shape, and the positioning and facing direction of the dancers determines the type of formation or variant of a square dance formation that the eight dancers represent on the dance floor. Further, the sex grouping in a formation or couples grouping or even the specific grouping of persons (Centers, Ends, Heads, Sides, Couples, Boys, Girls) is a segregated part, or sub-formation of the larger formation map.
Arrangement designates the dancing relationship any two dancers have at a particular moment on the dance floor. The arrangement is defined by the originally squared set positional sex (dancers as BOYS, GIRLS at Home Position) and their positioning and grouping in a formation. Most of the time, arrangement changes within a formation when a call is executed. It does not change when Facing Normal Couples execute a Right & Left Thru. The couples remain Facing Normal Couples, although they have exchanged places. Arrangement does change, however, when, for example, a Box 1-4 Ocean Wave with Boys on the end and the dancers perform a Swing Thru, the relationship changes immensely. Now the Girls are positioned on the end of the Ocean Wave and the Boys have become the Centers of the Ocean Wave.
Some calls change the formation but they do not specifically change the arrangement of the dancers. For example, if there are Normal Facing Lines and the Girls are instructed to make a U-Turn Back, the formation has changed to Parallel Ocean Waves, however, the arrangement relationship has not changed. The Waves are Boy-Girl, Boy-Girl, just as the Lines had an arrangement of Boy-Girl, Boy-Girl.
Boys paired together and Girls paired together (called Boy-Boy Girl-Girl Set-ups) are one of six possible arrangements by positional gender within various formations and most calls that involve all eight dancers can change the arrangement and possibly the formation, as well.
Sequence relates to geometry of the square and the order of the dancers within that geometry. In a perfect world, in sequence dancers can return to the home position without running into one another. The order of the home position numbers of the dancers works in a counter-clockwise direction, numbering couples in that order, 1,2,3,4.
Every Boy has a partner on their left and they comprise one couple of four in a square. This squared set formation is an in sequence set-up and the goal of all callers is to move the dancers through square dance choreography that is interesting for the dancers and then to move out of the specialized sequence by concluding the calls within a specific formation and arrangements and then resolve the dancers by grouping the couples together and in sequence. All dancers can return to their Home Position and revel in the completion of the sequence that they have completed.
There are different degrees of being “in sequence.” The Boys can be “in sequence” (1,2,3,4) and either Head Girls or Side Girls or all Four Girls are “out of sequence.” Or ALL of the Girls are “out of sequence.” The Boys can be “out of sequence” (either Head Boys or Side Boys or all Four) and the Girls are “in sequence” (1,2,3,4). All Four Couples are entirely “out of sequence.” All Four Couples are “in sequence” (1,2,3,4).
All square dance calling relies upon the successful regrouping and arranging the dancers “in sequence” at the end of a set of calls for the choreography to have a successful resolution for the dancers.
The relationship of dancers refers to describing one specific dancer and what the positioning is for that person and the other surrounding dancers. This is mapped by location within the square. For example, in a set-up of Facing Lines, whichever Girl is paired with the number one Man in the square, this makes a location description of which Girl is the partner of that Boy. There are four Girls in the square, any of the four can be with that particular man – it may be with his Partner, his Right-Hand Lady, his Opposite Lady, or with his Corner Lady.
Relationship is specific in an Arrangement in a Formation and the Relationship must be identified for the dancers to be resolved In Sequence.
FASR requires identifying all four of these interrelated components that comprise the working parts of square dance choreography and square dance calling in general. Both the creation of square dance modules and sight resolution depend entirely on FASR!
To conclude this, FASR’s are all working, Spock. Beam us up Scottie!
Please do not hesitate to reach me if you need a square dance caller coach and you have a question! I would be glad to help!
Mission Statement: The purpose of this post is to create a greater visibility of the square dance activity for future dance population growth on a national and local level. The coaching information provided here serves as a source for square dance caller education, training, and perspectives on dance. Future articles will be developed to improve the programs of square dancing and how those learning to square dance call can help contribute to the preservation of both modern western square dancing and traditional square dancing and to aid in the growth of the square dance activity.