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.

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Improving Vocal Technique When Square Dance Calling

Great Tips For Improving Square Dance Calling Performance By Strengthening Your Voice

Square dance callers have a different way of using their voice to execute a night’s dance. Although there is singing involved, the hoedown or patter portion of the dance involves a great deal of enunciation and semi-gutteral words that can wreak havoc on a caller’s voice. Below are some ways to not only strengthen your voice and increase your “vocal endurance” but, over time, these exercises will improve your singing range, the quality of your voice, and your vocal performance.

Warm Up

Warming your voice is essential for both practice and live performance. The length of time it will take you to become fully warmed up will depend on several variables, ranging from the room temperature and the humidity in the air to how active you’ve been during the day. Generally, the more regularly you practice with your voice, the better your voice will be prepared for more intense singing. Along with this comes the improvement of tonal warmth and vocal range. Getting your vocal chords warm is key to sounding your best whenever you deliver the square dance calls. I recommend these vocal warm-ups to get you ready to call both in practice and just before your dance:

The Fry Tone

The fry tone is a great way to warm up your voice and get your breathing control involved in the process. This is a low, crackling, gutteral sound that you make using very little air and it sounds like a bullfrog croaking. You can use any vowel to practice this technique and once you become comfortable with the fry tone sound you can use it to break your voice into a singing tone to sing actual notes. Try a fry tone at a low level of volume and hold the tone for as long as you can. This helps with controlling how little air you need to sing a note and how long you can sustain a single note. Then start a fry tone, roll it over to a singing tone and hold the note for as long as you can, riding that single breath for as long as you can.

The Lip Trill (Spaceship Trill)

This technique will open your vocal range up by keeping your laranx in a relaxed state. By making a sound like a small child imitating the sound of motorboat or a spaceship, the idea is a tongue roll like the Spanish “rrrrrrr.” Combine with this the flapping of your lips as you smile wide. Keep your voice register on the low end of your vocal range and increase the height of the notes that you babble with your lips flapping in a loose manner until you reach the high end of your vocal range. Keep the edge of the lips turned up in a smile throughout. Bring the trill back down to the note where you started the trill. This will keep your voice from getting tight and over time and practice, your singing voice will improve. Practicing this will improve your vocal range and encourage a loose throat while singing.

The “Ten” Bounce

Use a keyboard and play one note (starting with a comfortable low note) and while you do this, grin as wide as you can. Now say the word “ten” with a bouncing and stacatto style that is NOT singing the word, but still matching the “tens” with the tone of the keyboard note. Do this with five consecutive “tens” bouncing the notes as you work a note at a time chromatically up the keyboard. That is five “tens” at a time.

This technique forces you to keep your voice in good forward placement and make sure that you use your stomach muscles to help provide the air that you will need to make these notes “bounce.” This forces “diaphram” breathing and support and good placement in the facial “masque” that is used to make singing notes resonate. Project but do not overdrive your voice when doing this. Work your way up to a comfortable higher end on your natural singing range and then work your way back down. The results will astound you once you practice this technique.

Pitch and Timing

The Sigh-Hum

Humming is a great way to practice singing and improving your ability to sing a melody in pitch. Start things off with a soft and gentle yawn. This relaxes the laranx muscles and the tongue muscles and will set you up for the Sigh-hum. Now play a comfortable note for you to sing on the piano. Sigh and then gently hum the note that you play in unison with the played note. There are two things accomplished with this technique. First, you will be practicing singing in pitch with the note. Second, you are focusing on keeping your throat loose and relaxed so that you can sing higher, longer, and without straining.

Sigh-hum at least twice on each note that you play as you climb up the piano to the upper notes in your vocal range and work your way back down to where you started.

Pitch Improvement

Singing is a skill that can always use a little improvement no matter how much anyone has been singing throughout their lives. One way to improve is working on pitch accuracy with a piano or keyboard. In other words, the notes that you sing must land directly on the target pitch of tones in a melody. First, you never “hit” a note. You “sing” a note. Sing all notes and sing them in pitch by approaching them softly at first and with more authority after a few times. Authority means with more drive and energy and a little more volume and the vibrato in your voice will naturally develop over time. Always project your voice but never overdrive your voice and cause it to strain. Avoid straining your voice at all cost. Straining can lead to long-term and sometimes permanent damage to your vocal chords. Once the tightness in your throat starts, it is very hard to cycle of tightness to correct.

Play a simple and short melody of only three or four notes on a piano or keyboard and sing with the tones using the sigh-hum, ten bounces and then sing the words to the simple melody of the song you choose. Do this slowly and evenly and you will see improvement over time.

Using classic songs like Amazing Grace can offer some more applicable exercises to help get your ears and vocal chords in sync and this will add to your development of the melodic singing nature of your human voice. Use a piano or electronic keyboard and play the notes and “bounce tens” to the notes in the melody. Then sigh-hum the notes individually and hold the hummed tone for as long as you can and progress through the entire melody one note at a time. Then work on slowly singing the notes using the lyrics and begin slowly, then work your way into singing the phrase “Amazing Grace how sweet the sound” at different tempos and with as much feeling as you can inflect with your voice:

Amazing Grace For Square Dance Caller Vocal Practice

 

Practice With a Drum Machine or Metronome

Use a drum machine to practice some short choreography sequences that you use often and you will improve your timing. For more information on practicing with a metronome or drum machine check out additional instruction at https://shaunwerkelesquaredancecalleraugustrecords.wordpress.com/2015/04/20/modern-western-square-dance-calling-timing-is-everything/

By practicing timing it will elevate your ability to be inside of the square dance music, to be an integral part of what is happening around you with the dancers, to be able to call even the simplest square dance movements with an on spot, lazer-sharp groove that needs no musical accompaniment to make people want to get up and square dance. This only comes with practice.

Practice With Confidence

There is nothing more real and important than believing in what you do and what you can convey musically to the dancers over all else.

Regardless of opinions, spouting uneducated critics, and any insecurity and doubts you may have, you have to believe that your abilities are strong and that the square dance world is fortunate to have you,  a master of calling, of which you have shared your best choreographic ideas along with light humor and interesting and engaging talk and unique and entertaining music. Make sure that your voice sounds confident, warm, sincere and friendly whenever you are square dance calling.

Maintain this belief and it will will drive you to improve and to perform with a command that other square dance callers might lack. It is that simple. You have the ability to constantly develop ideas and take risks in practice and experiment with artistic freedom largely because you will have the strength of belief and with that unshakeable belief you will need little else.

Practice!

This is perhaps the most helpful training article I have presented so far. Feel free to call me at any time if you have a square dance caller question!

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.

Styling of Square Dance Movements

Incorporating Style When Square Dancing

Dancing is about a lot of things if you think about it. It is about everyone’s fulfillment of the basic human need to have fun and this is accomplished in many ways. Moving to the music. Enjoying the cooperation of other dancers and succeeding in getting through the choreography. Exhibiting beauty, style and grace. Enjoying the social aspects of getting together. As a square dancer, you need to know the calls (choreography) but you also want to look good while you are doing the movements to the music. As a caller, you need to know what to teach that involves good styling and timing and how to present that to your group.

But what exactly are the basic elements that determine style in square dancing? The most prominent and the least thought of is the enjoyment that dancers derive from dancing and the extent to which this enjoyment is reflected not only in their facial expressions, but in their body movements that display the relaxed and emotional feelings that can be seen while they dance.

All dancing requires proper posture, a gliding smooth step, and a gentle grasp with other dancers, or occasionally a more firm grasp, when necessary. Square dance is a simple dance in terms of mechanical difficulty, and it is a joy to perform the movements on the dance floor when the calls are executed in a rhythmic, graceful manner and with body control.

Learning the steps of a square dance call or figure is only part of the dance. Learning the mechanics of the choreography is the bare minimum achievement to succeeding in being accomplished and dancing with confidence. Add to that some graceful styling moves and anyone’s self-confidence will become inspiring.

I have listed some highly important styling considerations that are used in both modern square dancing and traditional square dancing, and these are outlined below. Keep these in mind whenever you are teaching a square dance class so that you can foster strong and beautiful dancing for persons new to the activity:

  • The square dance step should be an easy, smooth gliding shuffle step that is kept short. It is a soft sliding movement that advances the dancer forward in a walking manner and at the end of each forward slide, the heel drops gently to the floor.
  • Standing erect and with good posture is at the essence of style and applies to all dance movements. When circling around in a square, avoid twisting the torso from one side to another. Some women who wear the classic dress (square dance costume)  with lush petticoats underneath their colorful and ornate skirts will twist as they circle to display the beauty of the skirts, and this is quite acceptable, however, doing this is a more advanced move and it takes practice to do well.
  • In honoring the partner, the man bows slightly from the waist as his partner, the woman curtsies by pointing the left foot, toe first, touching the floor right leg slightly bent in an elegant manner. The lady’s right arm is extended and often the right hand will hold her skirt.
  • When a man swings a lady, the swing finishes with the lady unfolding to the right side of the man, so that both dancers stand side-by-side in couple position, facing in the same direction.
  • When swinging a lady, the man supports her firmly with his right arm around her waist and when turning around each other, the move is smooth and relatively quick, but without pushing her around with undue roughness.
  • When standing in couple position, the inside hands should be joined, with the man’s palm facing up and the lady’s palm down. In certain cases and when some more advanced calls and figures require it, where the couple consists of two people of the same sex, the left-hand dancer turns the palm up and the right-hand dancer turns the palm down. Arms should be bent, with the hands held slightly higher than the elbow.
  • When a call such as Box the Gnat or California Twirl is used, the lady will be turning under the man’s extended arm held high. Hands are held loosely, with the fingers pointing up for the man and down for the lady. Only slight pressure is used as the hands revolve around each other. This firm yet gentle move takes practice and some dancers will twirl at the end of a swing.
  • When using forearm turns, each dancer holds the inside of the other dancer’s forearm in a loose style that requires the two to be almost at the same angle that is in line with their shoulders lining up. The thumb is kept close to the entire hand that is used for this.

Nationally, it has become accepted to dance with the handshake and the arm turn with the forearm for almost all figures used in a square dance. Some local areas have their own customs that they have developed when using styling. In traditional square dancing these general rules are followed, but there are some exceptions in Contra style dancing and specialty figures that have to be taught at that particular moment. For older dancers in age some styling is altered to accommodate their limited ability to move as freely as they once did.

As a square dance caller, it is your responsibility to teach dancers to be as good of a dancer as they can be. Take time to demonstrate with an experienced “angel dancer” the correct ways to incorporate style into every student’s dancing as they progress through the set of lessons. Style is not hard. It should be taught as the best way for dancers to demonstrate their pleasure in celebrating together as they fulfill a basic need to have social fun and fellowship with others and to exhibit the beauty of dance.

Even something as simple as square dancing.

 

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: How To Practice Choreography Figures For Singing Calls

Honing the skills of a square dance caller takes practice! When calling a dance, one element that needs to be constantly monitored by the caller is the amount  of beats of music that each figure takes and the caller must have a lot of knowledge about how to make the timing of the calls be delivered in a smooth and relaxed style. Note, there are two different things going on when the music is playing.

The first is the delivery of the square dance call by the caller. Almost immediately following the call is the execution of the choreography by the dancers. The square dancers perform the movement in rhythm with the musical beats as they are dancing.

Furthermore, the object of delivering the calls in good and sufficient time is to allow the dancers to dance to that music in time. Record yourself and analyze your execution of the calls and within the phrasing of the music, first by listening to your vocal delivery of the calls and then get up and actually dance to the called excerpt. Feel how the dancers would move to the calls with the beat of the music.This will improve your timing and delivery of the calls as if you were actually at a square dance.

Take a few minutes and apply this technique to these three brand new original choreography break singing call figures that work really well for practicing square dance callers:

CALLING TIP! Integrate the more difficult  choreography for PLUS level singing call breaks in the hoedown portion before you actually call the singing call to the dancers!

Heads (Sides) Half Sashay
Sides Lead Right
Swing Thru
Boys Run
Load the Boat
Pass Thru
Swing Corner & Promenade Home

Heads (Sides) Pass the Ocean
Extend
Linear Cycle
Reverse Flutterwheel
Sweep a Quarter
Pass Thru
Trade By
Swing Corner & Promenade Home

Heads (Sides) Lead Right
Swing Thru
Boys Run Right
Three Quarter Tag the Line
Girls Face Right and Circulate
Diamond Circulate
Cut the Diamond
Girls Fold
Touch a Quarter and Roll
Swing Corner & Promenade Home

Feel free to call me if you need any help in learning to square dance call, I would be glad to help.

I will be running a free square dance caller school with several free short clinics in April 2016 for anyone interested in learning or improving their square dance calling in the Colorado Region. Details will be forthcoming soon.

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.

Modern Western Square Dancing is Hot and Ferris Wheels are Sizzling!

View of Ferris WheelI think most individuals within our modern society can see how our world has  changed so very much in the past fifty years or so. We have went from HEE HAW to the Kardashians reality drama series (yes, drama, drama, drama!) and the changes that occur over time truly are a mish mosh of everything in our world manifesting through media, celebrities, politicians, technology, social activities, and this all combines and morphs into a new and very different, always evolving culture.

There have been many changes in the square dance activity, just like many other areas of interest in our lives. Square dance attire has become more casual and varied in appearance. I think back to when I was a teenager in the 1970’s wearing silk shirts, bell bottom pants, and patent leather shoes. Or in the eighties wearing exotic leather boots and Jordache jeans. The women wore dresses with lush petticoats underneath their colorfully ornate skirts. It was quite beautiful and unique.

Anyway, getting to the title of this post, modern western square dance is hot for lots of reasons. It allows for people to gather in their community and meet at square dance locales that they can get together and dance at. This allows for something that is an integral part of our society, the very word that comes from society, “social.”

The word social actually has three meanings. The first is the use of social as an adjective, “of or relating to a society or organization.” Square dancing is a social activity. The second definition also uses the word social as an adjective, “relating to or designed for activities in which people meet each other for pleasure.” Anyone who square dances has a social life. And the third definition of the word social when it is used as a noun is, “an informal social gathering, especially one organized by the members of a particular club or group.” A social can be an event that has dance, food and fellowship. In other words, a square dance!

So if you think about it, traditional and modern western square dance both are activities that need to be a consideration for anyone clamoring for social interacting activities that help fulfill a basic human need. And that is the need for fellowship. Friendship. Laughter. Music. Food. Exercise. By participating in square dancing, you will be blessed with the reward of self satisfaction in being involved and dancing with others and you can return this fantastic feeling you get from that to others. And they can do the same. Feel rewarded and reward others. It’s an infectious behavior that really is rooted deep within every one of us.

You can participate on several different levels within the activity. You can join a square dance club. You can join a state or regional organization to help support the square dance activity. You can attend big festivals such as state dances sponsored by local associations in support of the square dance activity and this can be great fun. On the highest level, dancing, or if you are a caller, calling at the National Square Dance Convention is a great experience to add to your accomplishments in life that allows you to contribute to the activity on a very grand scale.

If you do not square dance, I hope that reading this article will inspire you to check into the rewards that square dancing offers and you can partake a little “social” into your life. Who knows what you will be rewarded for doing this. And the Ferris Wheels (for those who do not know Feerris Wheel is a call) all sizzle, ask the dancers!

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.

Modern Western Square Dance Singing Call Figure DBD

While the standard formation for a square dance singing call figure is a “normal” set-up, this sequence starts with a Box the Gnat. This leads to a half-sashayed Square Thru and a Touch a Quarter with the same sex. The Walk and Dodge has a man and a lady “walking” and a man and a lady “dodging”. This kind of position dancing is calling Dancing By Definition, or DBD for short. For those who are not familiar with the concept, the idea is to dance strictly by the defined description of the square dance call and apply the “rules” of the figure accordingly. All DBD dancing is more challenging than standard square dancing.

Both of the following singing call figures created here are a little tricky to dance to, so be careful in calling this and give plenty  of cuing directions as to where the dancers go with each specific dance movement. Try using these figures as zero modules once the dancers are in the zero box (box 1-4) and you should be able to easily incorporate the choreography into your patter call beforehand. The first one is harder, definitely a DBD sequence and the second one is not as difficult but it uses different combinations that will keep the dancers on their toes :

CALLING TIP! To learn a singing call properly, first play the record 4 or 5 times and become familiar with the melody, tempo and musical phrasing!

Heads (Sides) Box the Gnat and Square Thru 4
Same Sex – Touch 1/4
Walk & Dodge
Ladies Fold
Star Thru
Wheel & Deal
Pass Thru and Left Allemande come back
Swing Corner & Promenade Home

 

Heads (Sides) Square Thru 4
Swing Thru
Girls Circulate Boys Trade
Spin the Top
Recycle
Pass the Ocean
Girls Circulate
Boys Run & Promenade Home

Square dance clubs offer classes that are available for you, and they would love to have you join them. In the Denver Colorado areas there are many friendly groups that would love to welcome you into the world of square dancing!
Ask at your local community center or check the your local square dance websites online for information on square dancing lessons and events in your neighborhood. Or call me if you have any questions regarding square dancing and learning to dance or call!

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

Master Your Master of Ceremonies at a Square Dance Event!

Square dance callers have to wear many hats at different times. The master of ceremonies at a square dance event is a very important role and quite an undertaking for anyone to tackle. Handling this responsibility effectively takes both practice and preparation. Great introductions with fun energy and impressive positive reactions from the dance floor are at the heart of achieving great engagement with the crowd. The following should help anyone looking to be an “MC” at any dance event they might be called upon to provide the role of master of ceremonies.

For starters, look the part of a modern western square dance caller. Looking as professional as you can is foremost in representing the position of master of ceremonies at your event.

Remember that timing is essential.  This is keeping everything running on schedule and that is the first and most important task you have. Keeping everything flowing smoothly goes along with this. The ways that you can accomplish this is by following a few simple guidelines, or think of it as a roadmap to success, in your appointment as a master of ceremonies at a square dance event, particularly if you are calling at the National Square Dance Convention in the near future.

First, get a quick interview from the callers once they check in to call before they perform and ask them what their background and experience is, as well as the correct pronunciation  of their name and hometown if you need to. Ask the caller if they have a spouse that they would like to be recognized to the dancers in addition to themselves? What songs are they going to perform? Ask them what they would like to have said about them and work that into an introduction. Practice on making your introductions sound unrehearsed, relaxed and natural and deliver them with lots of zing and energy. Develop a structure of giving the name and what the caller is about, and what they are going to do.

Compliment on the called performance once the caller finishes their tip and thank the callers for their great effort.

Here is a sample of combining both thanking the previous caller, and giving a compelling introduction for the next caller, as you would at the National Square Dance Convention:

Everyone please give Tom Portix from San Diego another hand for calling here today. (Applause)

Alright, everyone, how many of you have been to Des Moines, Iowa, before? (Applause) Well, that’s quite a few. If you have been to Iowa before, you have seen the state flag. The state flag has three vertical red, white and blue stripes and a on the center white stripe is a flying bald eagle and it is carrying a blue streamer in its beak. The state motto ” Our Liberties We Prize, and Our Rights We Will Maintain” is written on the streamer. How powerful and patriotic is that? (Applause) Our next caller on the program is Ken Tussant from Omaha, Nebraska, and he is going to bring to you a highly expressive rendition of “GOD BLESS THE USA.” Ken has a wife, Marge, and they have been together for 23 years. Bring him to the stage with a warm round of applause!

Try to pay close attention to what all of the callers have called on the dance program in the past hour.  If you have a repeat performance on the schedule, let the second caller know, they may wish to change their musical selection on a singing call spot. Typically, calling at a national square dance convention there is a Master of Ceremonies, a Program Aide and a Hall Host present to coordinate everything smoothly. At many state square dance festivals there is only you, so you will have a lot more responsibilities than at a national convention.

Keep things short when you are transitioning between callers. You need to be practical in using the scheduled time and dancers will become annoyed if you are too long winded. The above example is the longest you would want to be. Always remember your primary role is to keep everything running on time and in a smooth manner. Short humor is great, but make sure it is appropriate and that you are not saying something that is embarrassing to either the square dance caller on board or the dancers out on the floor. Memorizing a few short jokes or one liners is a good way to have humor that can be adapted into your situation. Keep your enthusiasm on a bright and high level.

Be prepared to call an extra tip because if you have a caller that does not show for their programmed time. You will need to cover that spot in the square dance program. “No shows” can happen and you will have to handle that as well.

Make the dancers feel welcome. Help the callers feel appreciated. Engage your dancing audience. Talk fast and smart and be humorous and charismatic.

Keep the energy high.

Call if you have any questions.

I’m in Denver most of the time and I would be glad to help in any way that I can!

Good luck.

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.

Methods to Advance Your Square Dance Calling Ability

Since it is National Square Dance Month, I thought it seemed like a great idea to make a list of ideas that might inspire you and would improve your calling skills and allow you to sharpen your axe and head for the square dancing woodshed. The following square dance caller education tips are some great ways to implement various methods and practice habits to make your square dance calling more proficient. As with most things that require practice, a “little at a time a lot of the time” is the best recommended approach:

  • Create a schedule for practice time
  • Create a structured dance program that you can call anywhere
  • Follow that program in practice sessions daily
  • Practice in front of a mirror
  • Practice without any music
  • Practice with music
  • Practice with a metronome or drum machine
  • Practice with another caller
  • Read caller articles and ideas and choreography from local and national resources
  • Take an oral “recitation test” of your memorized choreography as quickly as you can and record it
  • Meet with a local state and national square dance caller’s association
  • Take a voice lesson or two with a vocal coach
  • Learn to play a musical instrument
  • Participate in local state, regional and national square dance conventions for callers
  • Set a few minutes a day for moving checkers
  • Practice square dancing in your head
  • Go to a square dance
  • Take lessons from another square dance caller to advance yourself a dance level
  • Learn a new singing call each week and tape record it
  • Practice one patter tip 3 times with 3 different hoedowns that vary musically
  • Practice sight calling “mental image”
  • Combine memorized modules and then force yourself to change the setups and get outs 3 different times
  • Attend a caller’s school or seminar
  • Have a dancer evaluate your calling
  • Try calling a tip without any music, record it and critique it (without any music)
  • Record a practice tip and critique it
  • Have a square dance caller evaluate your calling
  • Purchase a few new square dance calling releases
  • Attend a class for beginners in music at your local community college
  • Enlist a “mentor” or square dance caller coach to help you who is experienced and knowledgeable
  • Listen to other callers and take 2 important ideas/approaches and apply that to your calling
  • Recruit a square of friendly and enthusiastic dancers to allow you to practice your calling upon from time to time

I believe that anyone can learn to square dance call if they work at it. There are so many different niches in the activity, whether you are looking to call square dance parties locally, the Advanced and Challenge square dance levels, or perform on a national scale.

Call Shaun Werkele at 303-250-4735 if you have any questions, or if you need any suggestions on how to get started in learning to square dance call!

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 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.

6 Original Choreography Get Outs For Mainstream Square Dance Callers

If you are like me, whenever I hear a unique square dance choreography get out that resolves the square to the corner with an Allemande Left  or to the partner for a Right and Left Grand or a Promenade or one that simply resolves everyone in the square at the home position, I get excited about it! When all of the dancers get through a challenging set of calls, the best way to top that whole thing off is with a cool get out.

The best get outs usually are not hard but are either different and/or have a surprise ending that the dancers may not see coming. I kept that in mind when I wrote these Mainstream choreographic get outs for you to use with your square dancers:

Box 1-4:
Veer to the Left
Girls Trade
Boys Fold
Pass Thru
Right and Left Grand

Box 1-4:
Touch a Quarter
Girls Run
Pass Thru
Tag the Line
Leads Turn Back
All Pass Thru
Right and Left Grand

1p-2p Lines:
Right and Left Thru
Flutterwheel
Pass Thru
Tag the Line Face In
Center 4 Only Right and Left Thru
Center 4 Only Flutterwheel
Everybody Allemande Left

1p-2p Lines:
Pass Thru
Wheel and Deal
Centers Veer to the Left
Centers Tag the Line &
Lady go Left Boy go Right
Left Allemande

Box 1-4:
Star Thru
Pass Thru
Tag the Line Face In
Center 4 Only Right Hand Star
Left Allemande

Box 1-4:
Star Thru
Pass Thru
Tag the Line Face In
Left Touch a Quarter
Girls U Turn Back
Left Square Thru 3 Hands
Right and Left Grand

I did not realize when I first wrote these that the last four sequences all use “Tag the Line.” The last two are neat and different. They both start the same, and the Right Hand Star get out was inspired by some of the old traditional square dance figures from yesteryear. The last sequence definitely is the hardest, with the Left Touch a Quarter and the Left Square Thru Three Quarters.

Call me at anytime you might have a question, I will be glad to help in any way that I can!

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 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 at a State Festival or National Convention!

Square Dancing at National ConventionSquare dance calling at a state festival or a national convention is a different experience for everyone, and there are all sorts of different styles of callers that perform at these functions. Your personal style should definitely come through, but you should at the same time be entertaining and interesting for the square dancers in attendance. After all, that is why they came, to have a great time. So make sure that you provide fun first – everything else will come naturally – if you are in good preparation in terms of choreography and musical material.

If you have registered for a weekend state festival or calling at the National Square Dance Convention, then you will receive a program schedule for yourself and this will lay out a time, hall location, and level for you to prepare by. This is the best time for you to take a good look at the your weaknesses and strengths in your calling ability and plan from your personal assessment. Decide what you may call as your primary choice for music, and then choose a second set of patter and singing call songs to use in case the caller before you on the program calls your primary choices for music. You cannot call the same music twice in a row for the dancing crowd, that would not be good for obvious reasons.

Further, keep in mind that the dancers may be tired or not warmed up for you if you are thinking about calling fast square dancing first thing in the morning (if you have scheduled morning slots). Work on calling according to what the dancers need most at that moment rand not to what you necessarily want to do. Take everything into perspective and you will do much better this way. Call for the dance floor and not for your own ego.

Make your choreography your most interesting and least complicated in terms of moving dancers around and the dancing length of the sequences. Use memorized sequences on your patter calling that resolve on a relatively quick get out because if something you call for some reason loses the majority of the dancers you need to get everyone moving again quickly. You will do better with the goal of having fun and letting the dancers have fun than trying to impress everyone with complicated modern square dance choreography.

Of course, you will want to take some time to listen to other national square dance callers and other top local callers that attend. You can learn from any  and ALL other callers there, and take note what they call, how they present themselves, and whether they succeeded in making their slot memorable and entertaining for the dancers. You can learn a lot from their successes and shortcomings in that short calling segment that they perform.

If you are going to call with a live band, then keep in mind that square dance calling with a band is a very different world from calling with recorded music. If you can, try to find out what styles of songs the band performs for patter calling and get a song list of singing calls that they perform live. This type of situation can make you look great or it can make your weaknesses blare out for all to see. By having a good idea of the band’s capabilities, you can better prepare yourself.

Working on your timing and knowing your choreographic material and practicing to many different styles of square dance music will help you most in being ready in working with a live band.

Overall, stay relaxed and keep it fun and you WILL get tired.

I have never called at a national convention or festival that did not wear me out by the end of it all!

Good Luck to You!

Shaun Werkele

 

 

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 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.