Tips for better square dancing
Shuffle your feet. Put your weight on the ball of your foot, lift your heel off the floor and take short, smooth gliding steps. Lifting your entire foot tires you more rapidly and breaks the dance rhythm.
Be a dancer, not a walker! Listen to the music, pick out the beat and take a shuffle step with each beat of music. Walking a call instead of dancing a call does not look good, throws your timing off, affects the timing of the entire square, and results in an uncomfortable dance feeling.
Be a proud dancer. Keep a loose relaxed feeling and enjoy the music and calls.
Don't worry if you make a mistake. We all make mistakes!
Keep your squares tight, do not spread out. When dancers form large squares they will be slow in executing the calls. The reason is, they are forcing themselves to cover much more ground. When the squares are small, you have ample time to do the calls.
No matter what the Caller calls, DO IT!!! Often dancers will stop if the Caller tells them to do something and they do not know why he told them to do it. This results in a needless breakdown of the square. Don’t worry about the ‘why’ - do as the Caller says. It is the Caller’s responsibility to guide you through a call.
Step on the beat of the music .... Calls have a specific "timing". That means there is "x" number of beats/steps to complete a call. If you take one step per beat you will find that you will have an easier time in accomplishing each call.
If a club member seems to be doing a call differently from the way you were taught, ignore them! Sometimes we old dancers are so used to doing frills during calls that we forget and do them with class members. You'll have plenty of time to learn the frills and stylings. For now, just concentrate on learning the calls.
Don’t rush through the calls! Sometimes dancers seem worried they will not make it through a call and they rush, push and jerk. This disturbs others, can hurt a person and many times causes the square to break down. Just relax, move to the beat of the music and enjoy the call.
Join Hands - At the completion of any call, you should immediately join hands with the dancer or dancers standing next to you. This helps you to see the formation you are in (e.g., Lines, Waves, etc.) and aids you in doing the next call.
Get into lines - If your square breaks down, get into facing lines. The approved way to get into lines is to square up and then the heads slide to the right to form a line with the sides. The caller will usually have you moving again within four or five calls.
Don't leave early. By leaving early you are tell the other dancers and the caller that you didn't have a good time. The 'wind up' tips is just as important as the first or the middle tips.
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What is a Square Dancer?
A Square Dancer is a person who knows his left from his right, but occasionally forgets it.
A Square Dancer is someone who has learned to do as he is told (by the caller), but doesn't always do it.
He is fanatical in his search for a good time, traveling miles in all kinds of weather, going places he would never go otherwise, spending all night on his feet which were killing him at work, and smiling happily all the time.
A Square Dancer speaks a language all his own. He calls his partner his taw, his honey, his date, darling or pretty little thing, and he promenades, sashays, weaves, circulates, dances, circles around the ring, circle or set.
He learns his dancing thru and thru: right and left thru, pass thru, turn thru, step thru, barge thru - and he must be agile enough to do such unlikely things as box the gnat, shoot the star, slip the clutch, pickup up a girl or shuck the corn.
If this description fits you, don't worry. Although it is practically incurable, this disease is not at all harmful, and most square dancers have a strong desire to infect other members of the community.
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Square Dance Attire
Dancers are expected to wear Traditional square dance attire at nearly all Special evening dances. Most summer dances, many afternoon workshops and campout dances and a few clubs are casual but you should confirm the dress with the leader ahead of time. Men are always encouraged to wear long sleeve shirts, even at summer dances.
At the Grand Squares our workshops are casual but at regular dances the dancers should wear square dance attire except in the summer months when announced by the caller and posted on the club web site.
LADIES should wear a full-skirted dress or skirt and blouse. Knee length full circle skirts should be worn with a crinoline and pettipants. Mid-calf length prairie skirts should be full enough to use in skirt work but need only a petticoat beneath unless very full (test by twirling in front of a mirror).
GENTLEMEN should wear long pants and a long-sleeved shirt accompanied by a neck decoration. Western Style is preferred but blue jeans are sometimes frowned upon. Towels are useful in hot halls but are not required.
SHOES should be comfortable and offer reasonable support. Consider the dance surface and choose shoes that will be slippery enough to shuffle and swing but not slick enough to cause a fall. Also avoid dark soles that cause black marks on floors.
JEWELERY should be able to withstand the rigors of close body contact and vigorous swings. Avoid charm bracelets, fancy rings, delicate necklaces and belt buckles that might catch on or stab another dancer.
CALLERLAB has approved three classes of dress:
- "Traditional" - as described above.
- "Proper" - Traditional with the addition of short-sleeved shirts and dress slacks and jeans for men and women.
- "Casual" - undefined but generally understood as tasteful and comfortable.
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What's Contra Dancing
Contra is danced to Celtic, Quebecois, Old Time, New England, Southern Appalachian, Jazz, Blues, and all sorts of other music, often played by live bands. In a contra dance, parallel lines of dancers stand opposite -- or "contra to" -- their partners. A dancer and his/her partner form a couple.
Over the course of the dance, in response to the Caller's instructions, each couple interacts with the couple next to them to form a four person "set" and each set interacts with the sets on either side of them. Over the course of a dance each couple moves up and down the hall, interacting with every other couple in their multi-set "line."
There is no fancy footwork involved (that is the other sort of line dancing) but the instructions given by the Caller do form a series of repeating figures that dancers memorize over the course of a dance. As this happens, the Caller provides fewer and fewer prompts until s/he drops out entirely; leaving you, your partner, and the others in your line to finish the dance, accompanyed only by the exciting, lilting, haunting, and/or pulse pounding music.
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How to promote Square Dancing
1. Spread the word that Square dancing is fun
- We need to let people know that Square Dancing is fun.
- The word of mouth (friends, acquaintances etc.) is what has worked the best.
- Tell everyone you see: hairdresser, store clerk, people at church or at clubs you belong to.
- Hand out flyers.
- Use the free advertising on Radio, TV and Newspapers.
- Talk it up, talk it up!
- Provide entertainment at County Fairs, festivals.
- Do demos and Parades.
- Have a TV/Radio event where you dance and a reporter interviews the Caller and Dancers during the program.
- Sell Square Dancing, not Square Dance Lessons.
- Have Community Dances that are advertised as a "fun dance" for the whole family. Do some square dancing, round dancing and line dancing without calling it that. Make it a fun night. Have some club members (dressed in regular clothes) as support group. Teach some simple calls and teach a dance. Make it fun, keep it simple and have a social night. After they get a taste of the square dancing and like it, they can continue and go to a club for further lessons. Have flyers ready to give out if people are interested.
- Auction Square Dance Parties.
- Offer 10 weeks of free lessons as a drawing prize at an auctioned fun night.
- Go to different organizations (Rotary, Lions, also Campers) and give out Gift Certificates for Square Dance Lessons.
- Target empty nesters (late 40's early 50's).
- Accept singles in classes. They may hook up with another single, and indeed many have.
- Talk square dancing EVERY ONE you see outside your home in a day and give them a flyer. Tell the dancing is FUN. Then INVITE them as a friend to a dance.
- Square Dancing needs a new image.
- Ease up on the Dress Code.
- The Caller should try to project a different image and use modern music (not twangy western material).
- Try to use younger people for demo’s thus demonstrating it is not an old person’s activity.
- With out YOUR help, dancing is in trouble.
- Teaching should keep things Simple, should stay Flexible and take its Time.
- Teaching may take more than a year
- Teaching may need to start lessons more that once a year. Teaching could be started at any time, instead of waiting for the next class to begin.
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