[Callers] See Saw (was Re: Code's Compiling)

James Saxe jim.saxe at gmail.com
Tue Sep 10 12:15:26 PDT 2013

On Sep 10, 2013, at 9:44 AM, Sam Whited wrote:

> On 09/10/2013 11:38 AM, Aahz Maruch wrote:
>> Left shoulder dosido or left shoulder gypsy?  I'm not sure I've heard
>> "see saw" at a contra dance (with my hearing I usually pay little
>> attention to the verbal instructions, so that doesn't mean much), but
>> it's definitely a left shoulder gypsy in MWSD.
> It's certainly not one of the more common moves, but not uncommon
> either. See saw (as far as I'm aware) _always_ means left shoulder
> Dosido in Contra.

Current CALLERLAB definitions documents for various MWSD programs
are linked from


The current Basic/Mainstream Definitions document (last revised
August 7, 2012) defines the dance action of See Saw as follows:

     Dance action: Facing dancers walk forward and around each other
     keeping left shoulders adjacent. They return to their original
     position, facing away from each other.

and includes (among other things) the following comment:

     Formerly See Saw, when not used after All Around the Corner,
     had the dance action of a Left Dosado. Today callers should
     say Left Dosado.

The definition of "Dosado" includes a similar comment:

     Formerly the phrase See Saw was occasionally used to
     accomplish a Left Dosado. In 2003 the Mainstream Committee
     voted to drop that application of See Saw and requests that
     callers use Left Dosado.

The change log at the beginning of the document includes these
references to "See Saw":

     Changed Definition of "SEE SAW" and Changed name of "ALL
     reference for ARM TURNS from the addendum to call #7 (b) and
     #7 (c).

     Corrected styling statement for SEE SAW.

     New definition for Ladies Chain Family and See Saw

[I have no idea what those last two entries are about.]

So it appears from the above that CALLERLAB has officially
deprecated use of "See Saw" to mean a left shoulder Dosado for
ten years (as of tomorrow).  I don't have a copy of the CALLERLAB
Basic/Mainstream definitions from just before that time, but it
seems clear that the prescribed for "See Saw" would have been
(left) gypsy-like in some cases and (left) dosado-like in others.

Ten years may seem like a long time to younger members of this
list, and to people who first took MWSD lessons within the last
ten years, it may seem like the definitions they learned describe
the way things were from time immemorial.  But by 2003 MWSD had
already substantially diverged from "traditional" SD for forty
years or so.

The definition of "Grand Sashay" found here


clearly uses "See Saw" to mean a left-shoulder dosado.

This 1951 film by Bob Osgood


includes the sequence

     Around your left hand lady
     (Oh, boy! What a baby!)
     See saw your pretty little taw
     (The cutest girl you ever saw)

starting at about 0:30.  The styling the dancers us in the film
is neither gypsy-like nor dosado-like.  Instead, they all face the
center of the square the whole time.

In the book _American Square Dances of the West and Southwest"
by Lee Owens (Pacific Books, Palo Alto, 1949), the calls "All
around your Left Hand Lady" and "See-saw your pretty little Taw"
are explained on pages 58-59.  Owens says that in each of these
figures the women face the center of the square the whole time,
stepping forward, then pausing, then stepping back (note that
he says nothing about the women stepping sideways) while the men
dance around them.  And what do you suppose he says that the men
should do? dance as in a dosado around corner (Left Hand Lady)
and as left dosado around partner ("Taw")? dance as in a gypsy
(right shoulder around corner, left around partner)? face the
center of the square the whole time. like the gents in the Bob
Osgood film?  Wrong!  The gentlemen, Owens says, "keep their
backs to the ladies [whichever one they're dancing around at the
time --js] throughout."

In a booklet entitled "Square Dance Figures and definitions"
compiled and edited by Neil Barden (apparently published by the
editor, Lebanon, NH, 1958), the definition of "See Saw Your
Pretty Little Taw" has women facing the center the whole time
and men keeping left shoulder to their partners.  The booklet,
however, also has a definition of "Grand Sashay" in which it
mentions that a left shoulder do-si-do is sometimes called a

Well that's enough ("Too much!" I imagine some of you saying,
if you've even read this far) with the history lesson.  I think
I've amply illustrated that when you start digging into these
things, the story can can get more complicated than you might
have guessed.

Having said all that, I'll agre with Sam that whenever I've
seen or heard the term "see-saw" used in contra dancing, it has
meant a left shoulder do-si-do, though of course individual
dancers of might apply the same sorts of embellishment as they
do with ordinary do-si-dos, including either adding one or
more solo spins or turning the move into a gypsy.  When I've
encountered the call "see-saw" in the sorts of "traditional"
squares sometimes done in conjunction with contras, it has
also been synonymous to left-shoulder do-si-do, unless perhaps
the caller was specifically teaching about a different historic


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