[Callers] Rotation shifts (was: Another dance-check zig-zag R dance)

Tony Parkes via Callers callers at lists.sharedweight.net
Wed Mar 15 05:14:46 PDT 2017

Ron Blechner wrote (after giving examples of transitions that some might call awkward):

> And maybe the answer someone might give is “these are all bad flow”. Yet people seem to like many dances with them in it. I would be interested to find out why.

The idea that every transition must be ultra-smooth is a fairly recent one, compared to the length of time that contras and squares have been around. It appears to have become prominent in the square dance revival in the late 1950s, and in the contra dance revival in the mid-1970s (I may be off by a few years in both cases). Both contras and squares began evolving into their present forms around 1800 (to use a very round number).

And I think flow can be given too much emphasis. I’ve heard modern square dance callers speak of “overflow,” which happens when there is too much movement in one direction (say clockwise). Those I’ve heard have spoken of it as if it’s a bad thing, but there are people in that network who appear to think flow should take precedence over other criteria for a good sequence of moves. There’s been a trend away from using “forward and back” over the last two or three decades, and I can’t remember the last time I heard a modern caller follow a circle left with a circle right.

In contras, I think it depends on where in the music the transition occurs. I wrote Shadrack’s Delight (1972) in a deliberate mix of traditional and modern style; it ends with a courtesy turn into a do-si-do with the next neighbor. I don’t think I would have put a transition like that in the middle of the dance even then; I’ve avoided it in most of the routines I’ve written since.

Tony Parkes
Billerica, Mass.
New book! Square Dance Calling: An Old Art for a New Century
(to be published Spring 2017)

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